When I first heard about this book, I was sure it wasn’t for me. A teen pregnancy book is just plain scary to the mother of a teenage girl! But when I read Heather’s review over at Book Addiction, I got the impression that there was more here than met the eye and that this could possibly be a very complex and deep book that would ultimately make me think. The book did a lot more than that. It was snarky and funny without being offensive, and the revelations toward the end had me on the edge of my seat with with heartfelt urgency and more than a little astonishment. It was an unexpected book, and one that I enjoyed a lot.
Elly isn’t your average bad teen. It’s obvious that a lot of her behavior is in response to her parents’ disregard for raising their own daughter and choosing to pour their hearts into other children who they assume need them more. When the book opens, Elly reveals that she’s pregnant and that she is set to marry Lam, though she’s not really sure that’s what she wants. Elly is smart and sassy and holds no illusions that Lam will be the perfect father or husband. It’s almost as if her marriage to Lam is the result of a contest of wills that she didn’t really want to win. Lam is a very obnoxious character, and irresponsible is only the tip of the iceberg with this guy. As a reader, I knew Elly was making a mistake hitching her star to him, but it also became clear that her options were limited. As Lam and Elly’s marriage begins, Lam becomes even more irresponsible and obnoxious, and though Elly is forgiving and laid back about his issues, it’s clear that she and Lam will not have an illustrious future.
The camp where Elly and Lam have become counselors was a very interesting place for this drama to unfold. Here are kids who are struggling with their weight and self-image, and as Elly discovers, a lot of these kids have issues similar to her own. The campers run the gamut of snide and snotty to wounded and anxious, and Elly finds a way to deal with them all on her terms, and in ways that are unconventional but get results. Elly’s dealings with one camper begin to turn into a project of sorts to assist her in becoming more sure of herself and to gain the acceptance of the others around her. As Elly finds her niche among the campers, there’s more than a little drama on the Lam front, and a new forerunner for her attentions causes problems as well. This is all intricately arranged into a neat little bundle of intrigue that will manage to ensnare adult readers as well as teens.
The most interesting aspect of this book was the way that different members of both families hoped to take Elly’s baby for themselves. For most of the book Elly waffles about giving up her baby, never really deciding if she wants to or not. What was interesting to me was the way that these people seemed to only care for the life Elly was carrying and not for Elly herself. This is no revelation though, as Elly can see this for herself as clear as day. I found each side to be incredibly manipulative, as did Elly, and her frank assessment of these people delighted but also saddened me. When things come down to the wire, the stakes grow higher and the fighting family members truly revert to type in a downright disgusting display of behavior. It’s impossible not to be moved by what occurs during the last third of the book, and I was alternately shaking with rage and wiping away tears of confusion.
I didn’t expect this book to be as moving and penetrating as it ultimately was, and I ripped through it in one afternoon. Nolan manages to capture the feelings of her characters precisely and to engage her readers in Elly’s plight from the first moment she opens her mouth. Smart, funny and brash, this is a great example of YA that shouldn’t go unnoticed. It had all the moving parts to suggest that Nolan is an author to be taken seriously, and I loved it. A very touching read. Highly recommended.
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.