Tag Archives: pregnancy

The Baby

Lisa Drakeford

Chicken House

9781910002230

July 2015

hardback

The Baby by Lisa Drakeford is one of the best books about the impact of teenage pregnancy I’ve read. The opening is a tour de force, a superbly realistic and well-realised seventeenth birthday party at which things take the normal mildly debauched downhill trajectory culminating, not so normally, in a girl giving birth in the bathroom.

The party is Olivia’s. The girl with the baby is her best friend Nicola.

I don’t normally enjoy books with multiple narrative viewpoints, but this book is masterfully constructed, so that we experience events from one person’s point of view and then move on to another’s. The author doesn’t fall into the trap of switching back and forth, but continues the momentum of the narrative forward in time as she switches from character to character.

Olivia narrates the first section, February. Nicola takes over in March. Then it’s Alice, Olivia’s younger sister’s turn in April. These three sections, forming just over half the length of the novel, are superb.

By the time the two male narrators, Jonty and Ben, take over in May and June, the novel becomes a little less engaging. I think this is partly because they have already been seen through the other narrators’ eyes, partly because the author is less assured in writing in the masculine voice, but mainly because the introduction of an additional ‘issue’ (Ben’s ‘secret’) is an unnecessary loading of concern into a novel which already has Nicola’s teenage pregnancy, Alice’s autism, Jonty’s anger issues and Olivia’s sense of betrayal to contend with.

This is, nevertheless, a book that can be very heartily recommended, and the author’s next novel eagerly awaited.

A Small Madness

Dianne Touchell

Allen & Unwin

9781760110789

May 2015

paperback

I don’t think I’ve read a book with such intense and compelling emotional momentum since Virginia Euwer Wolff’s Make Lemonade (and that’s going back a bit).
If you want to read an authentically Young Adult book about an unwanted and wilfully denied pregnancy, with a vividly harrowing outcome, then this is that book.
Except in the rawness of its engagement with the reader, it is very different from the novel I compared it with above. Touchell writes as an unfashionable ominiscient all-observing narrator. Her writing is flawless and often verbally exciting in the best poetic sense. But the language is always being used for dramatic purpose, not for decoration. It conveys mood, atmosphere and character.
I could ‘see’ every character in this book extremely vividly.
There are three main characters: The lovers, Rose and Michael, and Rose’s very different friend Liv, who is in some ways the most sympathetic character in the book. But the supporting roles are just as important. Michael’s brother, Tim, and the authoritarian, church-going father. Rose’s mother. Liv’s mother.
It is difficult to write much about the story without giving spoilers – suffice to say that everything that happens is horribly real and believable.
It’s a five-star recommendation for sure.

Trouble

Non Pratt

Walker

9781406347692

March 2014

paperback

Finished

What the author does really well in this novel about teenage pregnancy is make the reader care for a very ordinary and (at the start of the book at least) not particularly likeable 15-year-old girl and the predicament she finds herself in. Certainly I had no difficulty in believing in Hannah as a character – in some ways she was all too real. My sympathies for her increased as the book progressed, as well they should.

The leading male role – this is an alternating dual voice narrative – was more difficult to work out and harder to believe in. In a book that could have benefitted from being 25% shorter, reader engagement might have kicked in more quickly had the revelations about Aaron’s past (which explain his previous behaviour) come sooner rather than later.

I am not the biggest fan of dual voice narratives. One voice always tends to be stronger than the other and Pratt, like many authors who use this technique, at times falls into the trap of slipping out of her characters’ vocal registers in order to ‘narrate’ in a more authorial tone.

Having said all that, the last third of this impressively assured debut is entirely riveting. A particularly admirable aspect of the novel is the way in which supporting characters (family members, fellow students) come fully alive via the alternating narrative.

It is also a sobering study of the way in which teenage life, especially in the social network age, is dominated by rumour, gossip and false claim. The fact that Hannah is self-aware enough to know that she is as much a player in these games as the next person makes the book refreshingly (actually a better word might be rancidly) realistic.