Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Lit Report by Sarah N. Harney

Books have the great ability to make an impression the reader. Sometimes they inspire or speak the things you've been unwilling to admit to yourself. Other times, books makes things seem possible or give people ideas of things they can and cannot do. They might make things seem easier than they really are, and that's one thing about this book that has me a little troubled. I personally felt that this book gives the wrong impression about teen pregnancy, even though it does qualify this impression with such a statement as, "I still don't think teenagers should be mothers. I really don't" (193). That doesn't change the fact that this book makes it look easy.

When the narrator, Julia, finds her best friend, Ruth, pregnant after one time of sex during a drunken party in which any number of guys could be the father, she jumps to action. This teen pregnancy has a few problems, such as an ultra religious set of parents that would send their daughter off to some pregnancy camp rather than help her deal with the situation. Knowing that Ruth's parents can't know about the pregnancy, Julia decides to help Ruth hide the pregnancy and then play midwife to help her deliver the baby and then they can drop it off at a church and pretend it never happened. With luck on her side, Julia learns her step-mother is also pregnant and planning a home birth (Convenient, right?) Under the disguise of research for a paper, Julia shadows the midwife and learns the tricks of the trade. When Ruth finally delivers the baby, with no complications, she realizes she won't be able to give it up and decides to keep it. In turn, her super religious parents disown her and Julia comes to her rescue with a place to live and a lifesaving solution for her step-mother who suddenly suffers from postpartum depression. After a minor mental breakdown on the fact that things aren't turning out the way Julia expects, her life still ends up happily ever after, as does Ruth's.

So things just seemed too perfect and that irks me because although it is fiction, there should still be a hint of realism in dealing with such a real topic. Teens get pregnant all the time and I feel like this book gives the wrong impression. It makes it seem like with the right amount of research, teens can have babies in bathroom stalls and everything will work out, when, in reality, it's really risky for both the baby and the mother. The whole thing with her step-mother's pregnancy just made it all seem too convenient and perfect. I mean honestly, what are the odds? And then, once the baby is born, the teen mother suffers no struggles. Sure her parents disown her, but she's not without a roof over her head or struggle to support her newborn. Yes, the novel does present the threat of postpartum depression, but even then, the character is thrown a life preserver and everything ends up great. This novel just leaves the reader so disillusioned about the reality of pregnancy and being a single mother. Another thing that kind of irked me was the fact that each chapter starts with a quote, or rather first line, of some famous novel. The narrator then explained the quote or the relevance in her life and while this is all unique and make the novel more stylistic, I felt like it detracted from the story. I didn't feel like most of the quotes really added anything to the story and it slowed it down a bit. Thumbs up for creativity, thumbs down for relevance.

Believe it or not, this was a relatively enjoyable story to read. I like to see that everything worked out and that characters grew, but it was just a little too perfect for my liking. Yes, I realize it's fiction and not real but when a book comes off as realistic fiction and not fantasy, there needs to be an honest attempt at realism. I think it's a bad move to encourage teens to hide their pregnancy and have it in a cabin without proper medical assistance. Realism aside, the book has it's positives, like the narrator is someone people can relate to, but some things are hard to overlook.

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