Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: A thought-provoking and courageous new novel by National Book Award winner Han Nolan.
Nobody gets away with telling Eleanor Crowe what to do. But as a pregnant sixteenyear-old, her options are limited: move to Kenya with her missionary parents or marry the baby’s father and work at his family’s summer camp for overweight kids. Despite her initial reluctance to help out, Elly is surprised that she actually enjoys working with the campers. But a tragedy on the very day her baby is born starts a series of events that overwhelms Elly with unexpected emotions and difficult choices. Somehow, she must turn her usual obstinance in a direction that can ensure a future for herself—and for the new life she has created.
I've read almost all of Han Nolan's book, but I didn't keep up with them throughout college. When I saw that she had written a new one about a stubborn pregnant teenage girl, I picked it up. Nolan's books remain on the darker, depressing side, but this one seemed slightly lighter than its predecessor.
Han Nolan's Pregnant Pause is about Elly, a stubborn, pregnant sixteen year old that needs to decide what to do with her life. Married to the useless stoner father of her unborn child, the odds aren't looking good for their new family. Her parents want her to give the baby to her sister, while her in-laws want to keep the baby themselves, in order to replace their baby girl that died in infancy. Elly must make a decision for her baby, while working at her in-laws' weight camp. Working with the kids teaches her about who she can be and what she wants for her baby--along with what she definitely doesn't want.
I loved the portrayal of the relationships between Elly and her campers. After lying about her dance/craft experience, Elly assumed that she would be useless with the camp, but she turns out to connect with many of the girls. Nolan demonstrates how Elly draws on her own past experiences and own stubborn attitude to make these connections.
One of the most realistic points in the novel is how disappointing the people in Elly's life turn out to be. Elly doesn't think too much of herself--she ends up marrying Lam and deciding to have the baby out of pure stubbornness. Eventually she realizes that she does have worth, and that the people attempting to convince her of her incompetence are the ones severely lacking. Nolan very realistically shows this realization process. One of Elly's best characteristics is her willingness to admit that she is wrong--to herself, to the reader, even to those around her. She is a flawed character that recognizes her flaws and attempts to make good on them.
I was thrilled that Ziggy, one of Elly's camp friends, does not end up being her knight in shining armor. It made Elly an even stronger character, forcing her to use determination and independence to try to start the life she wants for herself. YA needs more strong female leads. I wasn't expecting Elly to stand out as such, but she certainly did.
Pregnant Pause provided for the realistic portrayal of a pregnant teenage girl and the pressure she is put under from just about everyone in her life. Highly recommended, powerful book.
Rating: 4.5 - very good.