I think I built this book up in my mind too much. I saw that it was about underage pregnancy and that it was all acclaimed and everything and I thought that it would be raising some really interesting moral questions and shining a light on teen and underage pregnancies, which is a perennially hot topic. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out for me.
Firstly, I thought the writing was good. Very good, actually, and I’d happily look out other books by Non Pratt because possibly I’d enjoy another of her stories better than this one. I really liked the dual narrative and I loved the way each character didn’t always have a complete chapter to themselves, sometimes it would just be like a few paragraphs, so to see them almost bantering backwards and forwards in their viewpoints was very effective.
I liked the way the families were so supportive of their kids. There are so many YA books where kids are cut adfrift either emotionally or physically from their parents that to see multi-generational families being so close and loving was really great. I also liked that Hannah and Aaron’s relationship didn’t develop past friendship. We don’t see enough boy-girl friendships in YA lit and it’s a shame.
Unfortunately I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. The popular crowd that Hannah is so distraught at being dropped from were so unpleasant that I just wanted to chuck a grenade into their midst. They had no redeeming features, as far as I could tell. The boys were a bunch of slut-shamers and the girls were all manipulative and evil.
I didn’t really connect with or like Hannah very much either. The blurb printed on the cover says, ‘Hannah is smart and funny.’
I got about halfway through the book and looked at this blurb again, wondering what I’d missed. Hannah complains and gripes and puts people down and snaps, but no, I really wasn’t seeing the funny. And I certainly didn’t think she was smart. In any sense of the word. Smart people don’t:
- Act like a sheep, following the crowd to make people like them
- Think that pulling out is an acceptable form of contraception (especially when their mum is a family planning worker!)
- Do their homework in the car on the way to school
Now, I know that Hannah’s decisions and reactions are realistic, and that people do stuff like this in real life, but she’s definitely not smart.
Sadly she doesn’t really develop over the course of the book. She stops wearing make up and reconnects with some friends that she used to hang out with (but only because the popular crowd have dumped her) but she doesn’t really develop. She doesn’t gain new insight, which is astonishing seeing as how her entire life has changed. We don’t find out her thoughts on impending motherhood. In fact, the only time her pregnancy is mentioned is when she has physical symptoms, like peeing and horniness.
I did like Aaron and I felt really bad for the terrible things that had happened to him, but he didn’t really seem to develop either. And I didn’t really understand why he offered to pretend to be the father of Hannah’s baby. It is explained, but I still didn’t really buy into it. And I definitely didn’t understand why his parents went along with it!
I was most definitely not a fan of Jay, who is Hannah’s stepbrother and who turns out to be the father of her baby. The age of consent in the UK is sixteen and Hannah was fifteen when they had sex, so technically that makes him a rapist, but this fact was completely skated over. So was the fact that he’s Hannah’s stepbrother. That just sat all wrong for me and I found the sex scene with him and Hannah a bit grim. I was making faces, and not good ones, and the fact that Hannah was completely in love with him made me like her even less.
The plot was okay and I liked the way it was split into Hannah’s three trimesters, but it didn’t really raise or answer any questions about or offer any insights into teen pregnancy and I felt that portraying Hannah as overtly sexy and a bit stupid seemed to be reinforcing the whole Daily-Mail-style ‘Teen pregnancy only happens to stupid, promiscuous people’ myth, which is both inaccurate and unhelpful. In all, the whole feel of the plot was like a soap opera (and I hate soap operas), where the characters are always screaming insults at each other and getting into fights and having to be physically held back by their friends. It just got a bit wearing after a while.
I also found the lack of resolution in the plot a bit jarring. I wanted to know what was going to happen once the baby came home. I wanted to know how or if things were resolved with Jay. I wanted to know what was in the letter he wrote to Hannah. I wanted some resolution for Aaron with the people from his old life.
So yeah, not as great as I hoped it would be, but I wouldn’t completely rule out anything else by this author.