I read this before the class even started, and being so removed from this type of situation (extreme poverty/welfare/incest) I reacted unusually to it. With most fiction in general, I am able to get into the character's head and really relate - even when the book is fantastical or strange. However, with Push, I literally had to "push" myself to even read on to the next page. I hate to admit that I was actually revolted a little by Precious, not least because her name was f*&%ing Precious. She was so undereducated. It was not her fault, certainly, but she comes across as very unappealing to me.
"Precious'" writing style bothered me particularly. In the case of many Irvine Welsh stories, he writes dialog (and sometimes narrates) in a Scottish brogue. This can make it tough to read, but enhances the reality of the stories and characters introduced. This brand of Ebonic-type language that Sapphire uses does help to lend legitimacy to the story, but does not endear me to her characters. I don't like this about myself. It makes me uncomfortable that I would allow myself to stay so disconnected to this story while reading it. Especially once I learned about her HIV positive status - I wanted nothing to do with her emotionally. This is not typical of my attitude about AIDS (in fact - I will be going to see the UHA performance of Angels in America this weekend!) but it was like the last Jenga brick that just finalizes everything. Precious means nothing to me, excepting as a potential example of why I care about education and racial/gender equality.
Even more disturbing than my blatant dislike of most (if not all) of the characters (even Rain!) is the fact that the only time I "really" tuned in to the story was during the sex scenes between Precious and her father. This is not because I have any kind of experience with incest (thank goodness), but because the scenes were described so vividly. I tend to be a bit of a sexual person, and I will most often key in to the sexual aspects of a work of fiction. It is just upsetting to me that the "sexy" aspects of this novel were entirely unsexy. Even then - she describes orgasms (and sexual pleasure in general) in such a cool way, but I cannot even enjoy these images, because I am inexorably brought back to the thought that this is happening with her biological father, and that it's also rape. That's far too much kink for me.