Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pause for This One

Pregnant Pause
When you start a book, you generally get a feel for if you are going to like a character or not. With Elly, from Han Nolan's Pregnant Pause, I thought I knew her for the first 200 pages. And I wasn't so sure I liked her. By the end of the book, I loved this girl. I am pretty sure you will too.

Elly is pregnant. Elly is 16. Elly is a mess. Her boyfriend Lam is a stoner, just like she was before she got pregnant. But now Elly is pregnant, so she doesn't do that stuff anymore. Unfortunately, her missionary parents and Lam's Fat Camp running parents aren't so thrilled with the fact that she wants to have the baby. They decide to make Lam and Elly get married and when her parents return to Kenya, Elly will move in with Lam to the camp his parents run. They have to lie about her age, of course, but at least they'll be together.

The problem is Elly knows nothing about camp, about kids, or about being a wife. She also doesn't like Lam so much now that she's sober. When a counselor gets sick, Elly has to take over her classes and her cabin. She is annoyed by one girl who clearly thinks she is the princess of the group and simply doesn't know what to do with Banner, a girl who seems like everyone's doormat and is too scared of doing something wrong to do anything. Elly gives in to her fears and just tries to get the girls to have some fun. She is constantly under the scrutiny of her in-laws and her husband has been mysteriously absent most nights. Elly knows her life isn't perfect, but there is something about her baby that keeps her going on. But when tragedy strikes the camp and Elly's baby isn't quite what everyone expected, her fight to be a mother to her child consumes her life... even though everyone else tells her she would be the worst mother possible.

Elly started out a bratty, obnoxious kid. In fact, it annoyed me for a long time. I liked the story well enough, but she really ticked me off. Some of her observations and reactions were just so... so... childish! Then it hit me about 2/3 through the book- she was a child. A child having a child. It was terrifying. For me, the book was the perfect reason kids shouldn't have kids. Then I got to the end where her baby was born and no one wanted to help her. Here was this girl, abandoned by everyone and you know what she did? She refused to give in. She wasn't going to run away just because it was going to be tough. She wasn't going to take the easy way out. Elly was going to do what she believed was right. She was stubborn. She was bratty. She was a mother. An amazing mother. By the end of this story I absolutely loved this girl. My heart broke for her.

The tough part about this book, in retrospect, is the parents. Her parents are off doing what they want to do and have completely forgotten they have a child. They treat Elly as an inconvenience that ruined their plans. And Lam's parents are worse. They blame Elly for everything, and by extension, blame her for "putting Lam in this position". They are horrible. And when things get tough after the baby is born, everyone is ready to just forget a baby ever existed. I am not going to lie, I wanted to climb through this book and beat these people. But without their neglect, Elly's decisions wouldn't have been quite as powerful. Because of them, she became one of the strongest characters I have ever read about, even if I originally thought she was a brat!

This book would be appropriate for high school teens. It obviously deals with teen pregnancy and sex and drugs, but none are glorified or glamorized. It is a hard, raw story that doesn't hold anything back. It will leave you questioning your own judgments by the end of the story. I didn't think I was going to like Elly for the majority of this book, but by the end, I was rooting for her all the way.

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