One of the best parts of reading fiction is the ability to put yourself into difficult situations without any of the risks of actually being in a spot. It can be kind of interesting to immerse yourself in a book in which the character is facing a tough decision and wonder what we would do in their place. What would you do if you were pregnant and on your own as a teenager? Or if you faced a fifty-fifty chance of inheriting a terminal disease? Would you get tested? These books are for the readers who want to explore “what if’s” beyond their own experiences.
In Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan, Eleanor Crowe is pregnant. She’s only 16, so her choices are pretty limited. She can go to Kenya with her missionary parents, stay with her snooty sister in California, or marry the baby’s father and live on the grounds of the summer camp his parents run. She chooses marriage as the option that buys her the most time to make her ultimate decision—whether she will keep the baby or put it up for adoption. Eleanor’s obstacles feel huge, but she is determined to face them on her own terms no matter what.
Sara Zarr also takes on teen pregnancy in How to Save a Life, but she addresses it from two different perspectives. Mandy is looking for an escape from her emotionally abusive mother and her mother’s sexually abusive boyfriend. She’s pregnant and not really sure of anything except that she needs to find somewhere safe for her baby. That’s where Jill and her mother come in to the story, as they have agreed to adopt Mandy’s baby. Well, Jill isn’t entirely on board with the adoption. As she tells her side of the story, we learn that her father has died unexpectedly, and readers can see that she is clearly still grieving. The two girls are at odds as each tries to make sure that she doesn’t get hurt again. Zarr’s emotional story follows the girls as they create the futures they want for themselves. (By the way, I liked this book so much that it made by Top 10 of 2011 list.)
In Someone Else’s Life by Katie Dale, Rosie is also grieving. She has lost her mother to Huntington’s Disease, and she faces a fifty percent chance of inheriting the disease herself. As Rosie wrestles with the question of getting tested or not, she receives news that changes everything: she is not her mother’s daughter after all. She was swapped at birth, and her real family is out there somewhere. It’s good news as far as the Huntington’s Disease is concerned, but it opens up a whole new set of decisions to make. Should she track down her real family? What should she do when she finds them? This drama-filled novel will keep teens guessing as more and more secrets are revealed and new decisions have to be made because of them.
I’m still not sure what I would do in any of these characters’ places, but they each had me thinking about the possibilities. I can imagine teen girls who like realistic fiction, in particular, will love these books.
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr. October 2011.
Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan. September 2011.
Someone Else’s Life by Katie Dale. February 2012.