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Monday, June 4, 2012

Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan (Review)

Genre:Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Drama
Publication.Date  September 20th 2012
Published By:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 
WebsiteHan Nolan 

Pregnant Pause - Goodreads
My review copy:Purchased by me.
Where to get:

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. (Goodreads)

There are all these books and TV shows that talk about being in the present, and how staying in the present will keep us happy, but I don't think so. I stay in the present because I'm afraid. I hate my past, or at least I hate myself in my past, because I've always been kind of a pain in the butt, and thinking about myself makes me unhappy, and I'm afraid of the future, so yeah, I stay in the present, but it's out of fear, and that fear never goes away. I don't know what's coming along in my life, but if my past is any clue, it won't be pretty -- that's about as much of the future as I can predict. So what fun is that?
Being sober all the time makes me not like Lam so much. I love him still, but I don't like him all the time.
Why is everybody always so good at predicting my future? How do they know I can't handle it? I'm the only one who really knows what's in me.
We just have to accept that life is perfectly imperfect.

     Thematically poignant, emotionally engaging, and entirely compelling, Pregnant Pause is one extraordinary contemporary novel

     In this extremely well-written book, Han Nolan tackles some truly difficult and relevant subjects, including teen pregnancy, substance abuse, infidelity and suicide - just to name a few. If you like books that are real, gritty and moving, you'll love this one. You will quickly become fascinated with the intensely gripping plot and Nolan's graceful and painfully authentic prose. This book is a winner, I couldn't have loved it more. 

OKAY, I'M PREGNANT, and so here's what I'm scared about. What if my kid turns out to be a mass murderer? You know, one of those kids who shoots half the school, then shoots himself? Or maybe a drug dealer, or really, just -- just what if my kid lies to me, or sneaks out a window to go see her boyfriend, or gets pregnant at sixteen like me? I'd hate to have me for a kid.

     Eleanor Crowe is sixteen and pregnant. At the time we meet her, she's five months into pregnancy, just married to her punk-o boyfriend, and about to move into her new home: a miserable one-room cabin in the woods. Eleanor does not come from a broken home, in fact her family is well-educated, caring and, well, decent. Her parents are missionaries, teaching kids in Kenia, and doing all sorts of charity work to make the world a better place. Her sister is a happily married, well-brought-up young lady. Eleanor was neither abused, nor neglected. She had a good childhood, in a loving home, with parents that maybe weren't exactly perfect, but were certainly far from horrible. Eleanor is just one of those difficult, rebellious and misguided kids. She thinks she knows better, but she doesn't, not really. She's lazy, whiny, self-absorbed and rude. And, according to her parents, she got just what she deserves: a payback from life. With her parents gone back to Kenia, she's now stuck married to a guy she's not even sure she wants to be with, living and working at a camp for overweight children (owned and run by her in-laws), and not having any clue what to do with the baby, nor herself for that matter. 

     I can't stress enough how good this book is. I loved it. I really did. At first, I wasn't entirely sure if I would enjoy a book about teenage pregnancy - it's a heavy and delicate subject that is very difficult to tackle. There are so many things that could go wrong. I was afraid that this book would come across as preachy, or that the author would strongly manifest her opinion, by either condemning the pregnant teen, or making excuses for her and her actions. But, after seeing all the praise that Pregnant Pause received on Goodreads and Amazon, I knew this was a book I couldn't afford to miss out on. And I was right - this book turned out to be all sorts of amazing and meaningful. I was positively surprised to find out that the story was free of Nolan's personal or political views, and that it didn't carry any didactic messages. Han Nolan does not judge, she just tells the story as it is, allowing the reader to reach their own conclusions. That is something I really appreciate in books. 

When It comes to me and my timing, it's always too late. Too late to get an abortion, too late to say I'm sorry, too late to say I need you, and I'm scared, and I don't want to live in a cabin in the woods. It's just too late, or maybe too hard to admit that I don't want a husband and baby, and that I'm just so tired of being me.

     Nolan's writing style was excellent. The story was told from Eleanor's first-person perspective and therefore even more moving and emotional. I really connected with Eleanor, despite her flawed character and every wrong decision she made in her life, she was still a pretty amazing girl. I won't deny it, she was a total brat at the beginning, but as the story progressed, she really changed, morphing into a thoughtful, insightful and admirable girl. She matured. At the same time, all the changes in her personality and behaviour did not happen overnight, it was an ongoing process. And witnessing her slowly realizing her mistakes and taking responsibility for her actions was really rewarding. Of course, not every mistake could be fixed, some things were irreversible, damage done. But regardless of the outcome, Eleanor learned something about herself, family, love, and - ultimately - about what truly matters in life. I really appreciated the character growth. 

     Pregnant Pause is a precious book. It made a huge impression on me. From page one to the very end, I was totally immersed in the story and impressed by it's emotional complexity. This novel makes you think and feel, and it manages to do all that without feeling heavy or draining. In fact, it's a fairly quick and pleasant read, but one that you will not be able to forget. I, myself, am still reeling from it.

This review is posted as part of the Contemporary Fiction Month feature!

Click on the picture for full schedule.

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About the Author
Evie is the Blogger behind Bookish. She enjoys reading many different genres, especially YA, Paranormal, Contemporary Fiction and Fantasy.
She loves talking to authors and is always happy to welcome them for interviews, and guest posts. She also likes spreading the love for awesome books and  chatting with fellow book-worms.
You can find Evie here: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Shelfari | The Library Thing


tinkerbell the bipolar faerie said...

Thanx for this review. This is the type of book I just love!

Tara said...

I don't read a lot of contemporary, but this sounds really interesting - might have to give it a go!

Love the review, and thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Kris (Imaginary Reads) said...

This sounds like a wonderful book. I haven't read many contemporary books recently. This sounds like a great place to start. Thanks for the review!

Evie said...

@Tinkerbell I'm so glad to hear that, it's really a great book! Thank you for stopping by, darling!

Evie said...

@Tara, it really is a wonderful book, much better than I thought it would be and with a surprisingly harrowing ending! Strongly recommend picking it up! :) thank you for your comment!

Evie said...

@Kris - so great to see you stop by again! :) Thank you for your comment, if you decide to pick it up make sure to let me know how you liked it! :)

Randi said...

This sounds like one of those books I would normally steer clear from, for the reasons you mentioned - the tendency to become preachy. However, your review makes it sound really good. I may have to give this one a try. :) Thanks for the review!

Amy said...

This sounds like a book that's very eye opening and emotional. I love when you are able to really connect with a character. Fabulous review!!

Rachelia (Bookish Comforts) said...

Evie, excellent review! You know how I know that? When I first read the summary, I was like "eh, I don't know if this is the book for me", but then I read your review, and you totally convinced me. This sounds like such a great, meaningful book without being preachy. I had many similar reservations as you, but you addressed all those in your review. I'll be adding this one on Goodreads now. Thanks!

Evie said...

@Randi Exactly my thoughts when I first read about this book! I'm so happy I decided to read it, though, as it was really wonderful and full of meaning! :) Thank you for your comment!

Evie said...

@Amy, thanks so much sweetie! :) It is a very eye opening and emotional story indeed and I'm sore you'll love it if you pick it up!

Evie said...

@Rachelia awwww, thanks sweetie! It means a lot to me to hear that! So glad you liked my review, I really wanted to be able to convey all the emotions this book invoked in me. It's a fabulous read!

Emy said...

Great review! I would love to read this book <3 I am sure we'd have the same opinnions <3

Andrea @ Cozy Up said...

It's great to find a book that doesn't have personal opinions in it from the author, especially on such a heavy subject as teen pregnancy. This sounds like a beautiful book and definitely meaningful. Wonderful review, thank you for being so in-depth hun! :)

Evie said...

@Emy, thank you for stopping by, darling! I'm sure you'd love it as much as I did!

Evie said...

@Andrea, oh hon! Thanks so much for your lovely comment! yes, teen pregnancy is a difficult subject, but Han Nolan nails it in her book, I strongly recommend you enter the giveaway *wink wink*

Alicia said...

Great review. I'll be adding this to my TBR list.

I'm so naive to when it came to teenage pregnancy. When I was in highschool I just knew that I didn't want a baby until I was "a lot" older. I became a mother at 26 and even at that age I had no clue how to be a mother. I just don't know how a 16-18 year old can raise a baby, and in most cases, alone.

Rebecca said...

I think I've heard of this book but I didn't know much about it. This sounds really good and I'm glad that it lived up to your expectations. I might just have to get myself a copy... Fantastic review, you've definitley sold me!

Lexie said...

Beautiful, beautiful review. This sounds like an absolutely fantastic book. I love stories that are so painfully real. I'll have to check this one out.

Kristie Matheson said...

I've always been iffy about reading books about tten pregnancy. However, your review has changed my mind. Cannot wait to read it!

Shari Green said...

Wow, I'm so excited to read this now! I would've wanted to read it anyway, because of the author, but with this rave review I'm definitely bumping it up on my TBR pile! Thanks! :)

Randi M said...

After reading your review, I found it by accident at my library - I read it in one sitting yesterday and...WOW. I loved it! Thank you for this review, otherwise I probably never would have picked it up! Definitely one I'm going to recommend to friends. :)

Amber Hsu said...

After reading your review, i decided to buy a copy~ It was really good! I hadnt rad any particularly good contemporary books lately. A refreshing read~

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