In the early days of young adult fiction, there was a sub-genre of novels concerning "young marrieds" -- books that explored the ups-and-downs of teenage marriage; pregnancy sometimes played a role in these stories, though usually not until the latter half of the book when the young wife discovered she was going to have a child and joyfully told her husband the big news. By the time the late sixties and early seventies rolled around, marriage was out -- but pregnancy remained an hot issue in YA fiction, with many novels focusing on teenagers expecting babies outside the bounds of matrimony. Han Nolan's latest, PREGNANT PAUSE, revives the "young married" novel for a new age, focusing on pregnant sixteen-year-old Eleanor Crowe, a drinkin', druggin', near-delinquent who is pushed into marriage by her religious missionary parents. Immediately after her courthouse wedding, Eleanor's parents take off for Kenya, Eleanor and new husband Lamont move into a cabin at Lam's parents' fat camp for overweight children, and the groom takes off to spend their wedding night partying with friends. The marriage seems doomed from the outset, and Eleanor is confused about to do when she gives birth to her baby. Her married, childless older sister desperately wants to adopt the infant, as do Lam's parents, who lost another baby years earlier. Conversely, Elly's summer job as a counselor-in-training at the fat camp proves to be somewhat fulfilling, as she leads a dance class and becomes close to one troubled young camper. Although PREGNANT PAUSE may sound like it contains all the elements of a standard "problem novel," what makes it rise far beyond the genre is the complexity of the characterizations. Even supporting characters, such as Elly's and Lam's parents (not to mention Lam's grandmother, who only appears in a couple scenes) are limned with shades of gray, and Elly herself is particularly fascinating. Here is a character who grows and changes throughout the novel, frustrating the reader with a wide streak of immaturity yet also exhibiting sympathetic moments of self-awareness.
PRINTZ-WORTHY? If the committee is seeking a well-written, character-driven novel, PREGNANT PAUSE definitely deserves consideration.
What do YOU think?