Trouble by Non Pratt
My rating: 4/5 Stars
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (June 2014)
Length: 384 pgs
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, checked out from my local library
Goodreads Synopsis: In this dazzling debut novel, a pregnant teen learns the meaning of friendship—from the boy who pretends to be her baby’s father.
When the entire high school finds out that Hannah Shepard is pregnant via her ex-best friend, she has a full-on meltdown in her backyard. The one witness (besides the rest of the world): Aaron Tyler, a transfer student and the only boy who doesn’t seem to want to get into Hannah’s pants. Confused and scared, Hannah needs someone to be on her side. Wishing to make up for his own past mistakes, Aaron does the unthinkable and offers to pretend to be the father of Hannah’s unborn baby. Even more unbelievable, Hannah hears herself saying “yes.”
Told in alternating perspectives between Hannah and Aaron, Trouble is the story of two teenagers helping each other to move forward in the wake of tragedy and devastating choices. As you read about their year of loss, regret, and hope, you’ll remember your first, real best friend—and how they were like a first love.
Trouble is a novel that has not received the hype and attention that it deserves. It was recommended to me by fellow blogger Becky at Blogs of a Bookaholic, and when I found it at my library, sitting on the new releases shelf, untouched, I eagerly grabbed it, knowing that Becky and I share a lot of similar tastes in books. After reading it in less than 48 hours, I have to say that Trouble was the most candid, honest, and raw contemporary of 2014 that I’ve read, and that Non Pratt is absolutely brilliant in her portrayal of teenagers and their school and family lives.
First off, yes this book features teen pregnancy, yet I’m hesitant to call it a book about teen pregnancy because it’s so much more than that. Pratt manages to write a book about a hot-topic “issue” without making it feel like an ISSUE. This isn’t a morality tale or a soapbox for slut-shaming or preaching the consequences of bad decisions. This is a book centered on two distinct characters with two distinct voices, and how each have their share of hopes, fears, regrets, and joys, and Hannah is NOT defined by her pregnancy, rather it serves as a platform for her to grow into herself and learn to value herself. By no means is Pratt condoning nor shaming teenage pregnancy, rather she is showing how Hannah utilizes a controversial situation to find herself through how she handles (and chooses) her consequences.
I think where Pratt really shines as an author and where Trouble is a really fantastic novel is in the portrayal of flawed characters, and how they are not “perfect” but readers still can’t help but root for them to want to overcome their obstacles and succeed. Neither Hannah nor Aaron is inherently, instantly “likeable,” yet I found myself liking them in spite of their less-than-impressive behavior (at least at the beginning). Take Hannah, for instance. Pratt is pretty uncensored in her portrayal of teenage partying, from sexuality to alcohol abuse to cliques and fighting. Part of me wanted to dislike Hannah because of some of the choices she makes, especially her seeming lack of respect for herself in the way that she presents herself to her male peers and whom she initially befriends. Yet I found myself liking Hannah in spite of her questionable choices, for attributes other than her popularity or her sexuality, which she’s reduced down to in the beginning. Through the narrative Hannah becomes determined, insightful, and resilient, choosing to keep her baby and buck some of her bad habits for the greater good of her pregnancy, her plucky courage and candid narrative blending complimentary to Aaron’s quiet yet haunted narrative, and the both of them feed off each other, exposing each others’ secrets and helping each other heal, all the while showing the importance of having your first, true best friend, who’s importance doesn’t hinge on them becoming a love interest.
What I also really enjoyed about Trouble was that it wasn’t an isolated narrative about Hannah and Aaron, it was a narrative that included their families as well. There’s no absentee parenting here or oblivious siblings, rather both families have fleshed out relationships with their children (for better or for worse) and both families have to deal realistically with the implications of having a pregnant fifteen year old in their care. I found Hannah’s mother to be one of the more interesting adults in the books, as she’s a nurse at a Family Planning Clinic and then has to learn to practice the counseling and tolerance she gives to young mothers she helps at work to her own daughter. Hannah’s grandmother is also an awesome character, who is an advocate of Hannah making her own choices for herself and her baby from the very beginning, rather than being biased from a generational perspective.
Overall: I also would like to point out that Trouble is a British novel, and I think this is partly why it’s a grittier contemporary (just compare the British and US covers!), more so than any YA American contemporary I’ve read, and I really appreciate the realistic portrayal. It’s just so honest, and it’s an honest story about two individuals more than it is anything else, even teen pregnancy. I’m really happy to have read this and seen a contemporary YA that doesn’t shy away from taboo topics or subtly dance around them, but faces them head on, ugliness and all.