by Scott Fried

If I Grow Up is a surprising collection of lectures and stories Scott Fried has amassed in his five-year quest to teach teenagers about AIDS and self-respect. Fried bravely takes the virus into the world of adolescents, where even everyday issues can seem like life-or-death matters.

Adults may not appreciate Fried’s dramatic tone, but any 13-year-old (born the year Rock Hudson died) will find a friend in him. AIDS is as old as they are, so Fried knows not to insult with baby talk or scare them into abstinence. He accepts teens as they are, while helping them to realize that much more awaits them.

Fried has a reputation as an effective speaker, but sometimes that fire goes out in this translation from classroom to book. Consequently, If I Grow Up might best be seen as an introduction to Fried’s techniques for reaching young adults. For even if his dramatic approach to dealing with the epidemic doesn’t grab you, the drama of being a hormone-driven teenager in the age of AIDS should.