The Things We Promise is a young adult novel set in the 1990s when HIV and AIDS were first seen in Australia. Sixteen-year-old Gemma is focussed on her school formal, and the chapters are told in relation to the time until this event.
Her older brother Billy lives in New York with his partner, Saul, where he works as a hair and makeup artist to the stars. He has promised to come home to Australia for the formal and provide his services to Gemma and two of her friends. But Gemma’s world starts crashing down around her she realises what is really important in life, and who sticks by you when things get tough.
The references to the technology, music and tv of that time were relevant for me and hopefully don’t lose the market the book is aimed at – teenagers. The book portrays and challenges the homophobia and the myths surrounding HIV and AIDS, that still persist twenty years later. It also deals sensitively with teenage issues of identity, peer pressure and sex. This is an important book that is still topical today.