September 27, 2011

Sixteen, pregnant, and growing up fast

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When Eleanor Crowe finds herself pregnant at 16, she doesn’t have a lot of good options. She can move to Kenya with her missionary parents or marry her boyfriend and work with him at his parents’ camp for overweight kids. She chooses the marriage, as much to go against her parents’ wishes as because she has any desire to marry her baby’s father, and she enters into a world where her mother-in-law is constantly chastising her, what looks like mashed potatoes is actually pureed cauliflower, and she has to help out with crafts and dance—two things about which she knows very little.

In spite of it all, Eleanor finds herself liking the campers, and she actually seems to have a way with them. She starts to wonder if she might make a decent mother. As she’s struggling to reconcile her new, sober life with what she used to be—a wild child who spent more than a few nights in juvenile detention—she’s also facing pressure from her childless older sister to give her the baby. Her new husband’s parents want to raise the child as their own, too. In the midst of it all, hubby Lam is partying like a rock star and showing no interest in being a husband and father.

As the story draws to an end the camp experiences a tragedy on the very day Eleanor’s baby is born, and the birth brings even more of a surprise. In Pregnant Pause National Book Award winner Han Nolan delivers a fascinating and complex main character and a series of situations teens will read about with interest and concern, with a very satisfying conclusion.

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