The second book I want to review is by Marilyn Reynolds. She’s a young adult realistic fiction author living in California. She has many discussions with students dealing with all issues in her books as well as appropriate professionals. Her stories are full of complexity and realism with no short cuts or happy endings.
In this story Fifteen year old Emmy is just starting high school. Like many teens in her position she feels independent and free and like she’s going to have a fresh start. She has two other really good friends and feels confident they’ll be together no matter what.
In the beginning of the school year she starts to find her nitch in school. As a good singer she auditions and is accepted into a special singing group at school that goes on tours to other countries/ states and other events. She is chosen by her advisor for a gifted students program which would pay all college expenses. Her dreams for the future include anything from a forest ranger to a singer.
It’s a good thing school is so good because at home there are many struggles. All her life her mother, Barbara who she and her brother refer as “the Barb” because of her sharp emotionally abusive tongue, has been super neglectful of the children. She’s clearly an alcoholic and extremely immature. She works at a bar and often parties and doesn’t get honme til the early hours of the morning. Her brother David has dealt with the lack of security/ boundaries by acting out. And at the beginning of the story is in a detention center.
Emmy it seems is resigned to the situation. She plods along at home. Often longing for her Gramma who was the one person she feels really cared about her. Her friends especiallya friend’s mom really care and understand the situation and she’s had that stability in her life. But deep down it’s not the same as having a mom that cares, or to put it another way, not having a mom that is so irresponsible!
To fill this void in her life, (that’s my insight not Emmy’s) she falls in love with Art. She meets him in the special singing group and he wins her heart right away. He seems protective and truly caring. Something she’s lacked in her life. He’s also very popular and so this wins her status in the social scene.
However the relationship quickly becomes all about the sex. And while most times Art wears protection, and gives Emmy some contraception thing to stick you know where, there’s one time on labor day weekend on the beach where he doesn’t. However he pulls out before he thinks there would be a chance of something happening and is sure this will work. A couple months pass. Emmy continues to do well at school/ deal with home life but starts to have questions about that night. She doesn’t have her period for awhile and feels sick. Everytime she asks Art about that he says no she couldn’t be pregnant, when she pushes saying she could what if he becomes abusive verbally. Saying he’d never stay with someone who was pregnant “fall into the baby trap.” (a phraise he uses often which is truly disgusting!)
So the inevitable happens.Emmy takes a pregnancy test and it’s positive. After passing out in the singing group a nurse gets envolved and they talk about issues surrounding everything. She tells Art who remains in denial for some time. He of course strongly pushes for an abortion. Emmy considers this but after a lot of thought/ soul searching/ feeling her baby move she knows she can’t go through with it.
As expected this enrages Art. Particularly as he comes from a hespanic family with a lot of cultural influence around these issues. As well as family trauma which places Art as a person who must follow a certain path in life because of a tragedy with a sibling.
With more tirades about the baby trap/ it can’t be his he breaks up with her “ maybe until you get an abortion.”
Emmy is devasted but determined to still keep the baby. When she tells her mom, her mom also pushes for an abortion. Emmy is firm. Eventually her mom, while by no means condoning her actions softens a bit realizing that a baby is a baby however it comes into this world. She buys some things for the baby, and even attempts a few classes in birth coaching. But is very nervous about it as is Emmy. Obveously as they have had such an unhealthy relationship with Emmy being more mature than her mother, trying to rely on her and giving her trust is very hard. Being relied on makes Barb more nervous than anything.
She also has to face judgment from school. Her counselor calls it a disgrace that this happened and she has to scale back her gifted program plans, though with a lot of convincing/ promises from Emmy, and after hearing more judgment, is allowed to actually stay in the program. She is however required to join a school for teen moms. With an abbreviated day due to less physical stress on the moms and in addition to school work there are class discussions so there is a community feel to the group. Emmy once she opens up finds the group extremely supportive though is sad to see some of the girls with very supportive boyfriends/ moms.
Time passes. When the time for Emmy’s labor hits sadly Barb is out partying once again. Emmy c calls to find Barb many times but can not. Eventually her one friend that’s still by her side drives her to the hospital, though just barely as she still has her driving permet! She can’t stay and so Emmy has to spend her agonizing labor and delivery completely alone.
When seeing her baby daughter, Rosie her heart melts. She learns quickly, though she always has wanted her baby and has no regrets that caring for her is a huge responsibility physically and mentally exhausting! It’s extremely beyond overwhelming to balance school and the baby. She desperately needs some sort of break or ability to do something for herself. Unfortunately her mom goes back to the position of wanting no responsibility for the baby.
At this point as Rosie grows to be about six months old Emmy contacts Art again. The baby has a mole that art also has, unfortunately on her bottom! But this is the mark that proves beyond any doubt that she is his. Eventually Emmy simply drives over to Art’s house on thanksgiving. This is after repeated requests to get Art to tell his family. She stands up for herself and her baby accusing Art of being ashamed of her and his daughter and wanting so badly to protect his emotionally fragile mother that he’d turn his back on this. Art’s father and grandmother end up being Rosie and Emmy’s biggest allies. They realize that while this wasn’t exactly a good time in their son’s life to have a child, you can’t turn your back on your own family. They give money to Emmy that goes towards the baby’s expenses or to pay back her mom. Emmy is able to go back to the singing group which gives her the emotional/ mental breather she needs to keep going with Rosie.
By the end of the story things are by no means neat and tidy. Emmy has found a way to go to college while still having care for Rosie. Her mom still is well “the barb” but toned down a lot. David is no longer in prison but by no means emotionally healed. Things are realistically still difficult but there’s more of a sense of family than there ever was.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys young adult fiction that’s realistic and that delves into issues facing teenagers. I’v never experienced being pregnant, (and never will), or the issues Emmy has except for an alcoholic mother, who wasn’t by any means neglectful. But it’s clear that the author took care to paint an accurate picture of what happened to Emmy and her family. I also think perhaps this would be a good book for teens facing teen pregnancy or loved ones to read. It gives hope while in a grounded realistic manner.