Thursday, September 1, 2011

In Trouble by Ellen Levine

People always talk about the girls who get in trouble - the ones who grow bigger, the ones with the rumours, the ones who disappear. These are fast girls, girls who went all the way. Jamie's world is rocked when her best friend Elaine reveals that she's pregnant. Jamie starts reaching out to anyone who can help, but it quickly becomes clear that Jamie has issues of her own - and Elaine isn't the only one who has decisions to make.

Spoilery talk below.

There is a lot going on in this book. In addition to the multiple pregnancy threads, Jamie was also violated sexually, and her father has just returned from nearly a year in prison as a political prisoner. There are family secrets, too, that Jamie uncovers as she attempts to help Elaine, and a small romance subplot between Jamie and the editor of her school newspaper. While it was necessary for the plot, I did wonder a bit at the way in which Jamie's family talked about Elaine and her 'trouble'; I get that they are shown to be different than other families, but this just seems to be so different than many other depictions of the mid-1900s. I also wondered if maybe Elaine was a figment of Jamie's imagination - that Jamie was the one pregnant the whole time, but because of the forced sex, she had 'invented' Elaine as a way to deal with it. This didn't turn out to be the case, but Jamie and Elaine are definitely linked and contrasted in many ways. I appreciated Levine's words at the end of the book that point out how difficult it was for young girls who were pregnant in the 1950s and 1960s - and how things have and haven't changed since then. Books like this, that talk about abortion and do not demonize it as a choice, need to be written.

Don't miss Ellen Levine's essay When, Along with her Character, an Author Gets in Trouble.

See more at Ellen Levine's website.

I read an advanced copy from NetGalley courtesy of Carolrhoda Lab.

Read it with:
Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine
Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney
The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler
Snow Apples by Mary Razzell
Every Little Thing in the World by Nina de Gramont

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