Author: Han Nolan
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Elly has always been headstrong, getting into trouble and defying her missionary parents. Now she has got herself pregnant and is forced to marry the father and live on her in-laws summer camp for fat children. She is a sixteen year old pretending to be twenty and a goody- goody two shoes. As a counselor at the summer camp she learns many things, crafting, dancing and most of all what it is like to feel needed. But as her delivery day approaches, she has decisions to make. The problem is that everyone is trying to make them for her.
Pregnancy. It scares the hell out of me. To have a baby at such a young age! It certainly isn’t easy and this story by Han Nolan proves that.
To be honest, I am in two minds about this book. I like it a lot because it describes how terrible the truth really can be and how risky it is to live in this world as a teenager today. But at the same time I don’t like it, because even though this book focuses on the imperfections of life the raw truth about teenage pregnancy, I think it is slightly overdone with all the horrible events and coincidences. Here are the negatives and positives of this book:
Firstly, I think this book has a lot of potential to become a “famous” book
The biggest thing that surprised me about this book is that Han Nolan has thought very well about the characters. They are extremely well developed throughout the story. Unlike some other books I have read, the characters in this story have no unexplained character “slips”. Every person’s response to a situation is completely characteristic and can be fully explained.
The next good thing about the book is that the author has an uncanny knack for describing emotions realistically. They swept me along and showed me exactly how each person felt.
What I also liked about this book is that it contains no “fairytale” element. The truth about teenage pregnancies is harsh and the circumstances are shown as they are without “beautifying” the cold, hard facts.
Now that I have looked at the positives, let’s take a glass-half-empty view at the book. A few things bothered me but I will only mention three.
The first thing that could have been done better was the relationship between the reader and the main character. In the positives I mentioned that the way in which the author developed each character was very well handled but there is one exception, the main character, Elly. Her emotions, reactions and actions were described well enough but somehow they did not really seem to be part of her. She was, in my opinion, almost distanced from who she was supposed to be.
The second improvement I would like to see has to do with the plot. I mentioned before that the truth about pregnancies is presented here without being rose-tinted. With that in mind, I found the events in the book rather repetitive and dreary, and to make matters worse, Han Nolan seems determined to put Elly in the worst possible position with no-one to turn to.
The last thing I found disappointing is certain prejudices in the book. Elly’s parents are needed by orphans in Kenya and the author describes the reactions from certain characters in the book. I saw those reactions as negative and even derogatory. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I live in Africa or maybe it is meant to provoke a feeling of indignation in the reader. I wouldn’t know but I found it a weak and rather annoying point in the book.