Belly Up

img_20190517_205325-1img_20190517_210037Once upon a time long ago and in a land far away, parents and societies recognized that youth with less-than-fully-formed brains (referenced that way in this book) needed to be protected from premature sexual activity that could sabotage their best chances for happy futures. Rules were instituted! Young people were corraled into obedience! Church attendance and traditional standards were insisted upon!

That fairytale has bit the dust.

In this book 17-year-old Serendipity (aka Sara) is a very smart girl hoping to go to an Ivy League college. She is the product of a Swedish mother and a Spanish father (who disappeared when she was two). Her hard-working mom and she live in an apartment but luckily have support from the grandmother who lives nearby and has financial resources. Sara breaks up with her boyfriend, goes to a kegger, gets drunk for the first time, and has unprotected revenge sex with a stranger, resulting in an unexpected pregnancy. Sara and her mom move in with the grandma while Sara works on finishing out her senior year and preparing to give birth. The grandma is also a woman living alone, so you will soon have four generations of women doing just fine without a man in the house, it seems, though Sara does get a supportive new boyfriend.

The author plots the story well and creates interesting characters. She presents all the viewpoints that probably should come up in such a book: keep the baby, abort the baby, adopt out the baby, don’t have unprotected sex, get tested for STDs if you do, prepare to be harassed at school by classmates, refigure your plans for the future, face the realities of support or non-support from the father, and endure the pain of childbirth.  The author does a thorough job of hitting points to consider for teenagers who find themselves unwed and pregnant, and does this in a reasonably unbiased way.

There are no moral judgements.  Sara doesn’t feel she has lost out by not having a father.  Even though she is dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, it does not temper her interest in initiating sex with her new boyfriend.  In this book you have quite a range of gender categories represented, and Sara makes the point that while she is having a baby whose assigned gender is female, she wants the child to grow up free to pick whichever description she feels suits her best.  There is a lot of sex talk, descriptive sex (including masturbation), bad language (including religious profanity) and just plain old crass talking. I had to stop more than once to remind myself the author was female and not some male who thinks boogers and such are funny.  Why yes, there’s a bit of sexism I’m showing—though I might call it observational experience instead.

If you don’t mind any of the above, you probably will enjoy this rather light-hearted look at teenage pregnancy, but it raises some big red flags for conservative community libraries.

Categories: Controversial YA Topics, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, LGBTQIA, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Social Media

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