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Sunday, May 15, 2011

In Trouble - Ellen Levine

In Trouble (Carolrhoda Ya)

Released September 2011

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Sixteen-year-old Jamie isn't thrilled that her best friend moved away. Elaine's parents moved to a new town in hopes of separating Elaine from her boyfriend. When Elaine sneaks back to the city to see him, she ends up pregnant. In the 1950s, teen pregnancy is a major issue. One that labels many girls sluts and brings shame to their family.

Jamie's determined to help her friend make the right decision. Meanwhile, Jamie's got her own problem and she's not sure who to talk to about it. Elaine's busy worrying about pregnancy and Jamie's other friend, Paul, is ready to be more than friends. Can she trust him to help her with her problem and also offer her insight on how to best help Elaine?

I have particular insight into In Trouble because I have a relative who went through a teen pregnancy in the 1950s. It was a shameful thing and an illegal abortion, forced marriage, or secretive adoption really were your only choice. Times have changed, but not as much as you'd think. A few years ago, a neighbor I'd mentored for years confessed he'd gotten his girlfriend pregnant. Both were 15 and determined to keep their baby. They couldn't imagine their baby being raised by anyone else.

As an adult, knowing the realities of what they were about to face, I admit that I was definitely not proud of either of them. He ended up dropping out of school, eventually getting a GED, while she struggled to earn her diploma. Neither had it easy, worse within a year she was pregnant again. Thankfully, they're on the right path today. He's completed a stint in the military and she's in college earning her degree. This is rare, however.

Ellen Levine's novel is an important piece of fiction. It details the struggles in the 1950s regarding abortions and how hard it was to get one. I'm certainly pro-choice and not afraid to admit it. I've watched pro-lifers peg rocks at a friend who was going into Planned Parenthood to get a pap smear because she lacked health insurance and it was the only affordable way for her to get this essential yearly check. Things really haven't changed as much as you'd think in the past 50 years. I think every teen could learn something from this book. One of the key lessons being that there is always someone you can talk to. If you can't talk to a family member, find a counselor. Deciding to undergo an abortion--a D&C is a painful procedure, I had one when a fetus I was carrying died during my fourth month of pregnancy--, keep, or give up your infant is a personal decision that only you can make. It's important to base that decision on as much factual information as possible and truly understand all the risks and benefits.

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