Book Review: Trouble by Non Pratt
When Hannah finds herself pregnant at age 15, it certainly doesn’t come as a surprise to the reader, although Hannah seems to be pretty stunned herself. By the time Hannah gets around to taking a pregnancy test, we’ve seen her out at the park every Friday night, hooking up with whatever boy she can find, whether or not he’s actually available. With her underdressed, oversexed best friend Katie, Hannah is known for her sexiness and her willingness. So is it only a matter of time until it all catches up with her?
And then there’s Aaron, the new boy at school, son of the the new history teacher, and mysteriously unknowable — cool, but not excessively so; accepted by the in-crowd, but just ever so slightly stand-offish, with people to hang with but no close friends.
Hannah is hiding a big secret, and so is Aaron… and when Hannah’s former bestie blabs about the pregnancy to exactly the wrong person, the news is soon all over Facebook and Hannah’s reputation is trashed — until Aaron steps in and offers to pretend to be the baby’s father. Why? Well, Hannah needs a hero, and Aaron desperately needs to do something heroic. The two march forward together through the rest of the school year, watching Hannah’s bump grow bigger and bigger, and in the process, becoming each other’s rock and best friend.
Of course, nothing is perfect. There’s family drama to deal with, and Katie simply will not stop trying to mess up Hannah’s life even further, no matter who gets hurt. Through it all, we get Hannah’s view of life as a pregnant teen — ugly clothes, getting up to pee at night, and suffering the horrors of overly graphic prenatal classes.
There’s quite a lot to like about Trouble. Told in the first person in alternating voices, we get both Hannah and Aaron’s perspectives on themselves and on each other, and the author does a terrific job of showing how perceptive and at the same time how dense a hormonal teen can be. Both teens are funny, smart, and aware, yet they still manage to make foolish choices and hurt each other in the process. Yet it’s their friendship that sees them through, and as they finally break down their own protective barriers and share their personal truths, we get a picture of just how important a true friend can be.
Hannah is a puzzling character, and the author very cleverly shows us Hannah in a certain light early on, leading us to form certain opinions, and not revealing until much later that the public Hannah is not at all a true picture of who she is inside. She’s quite engaging and a terrific character to get to know, and yet, I never quite understood all of her decisions.
Aaron too is quite likeable, and his seemingly illogical nobility in rescuing Hannah from social purgatory eventually makes more sense, as his past and his secrets come to life.
In addition to Hannah and Aaron, we meet their families — and despite their quirks, it’s actually quite a nice change to see a YA novel with parents who are responsible, caring, supportive, and truly present. Neither of the main characters come from messed-up homes or are disadvantaged. In fact, Trouble makes a good point of showing that accidents and bad decisions can happen to anyone, even kids from good homes and with everything going for them. (Irony of ironies, Hannah’s mom is a sex ed specialist — this is not a girl who doesn’t know about condoms, safe sex, and morning after pills!)
Trouble was first published in the UK, with its US release coming up in June. I think it will translate well across the pond, although I’d imagine American teens may struggle a bit with some of the Brit speak and certain concepts specific to the British school system. Still, this should be no more than a mild inconvenience. The story itself is engaging and addresses certain universal experiences, and I think any teen reader, no matter the country of origin, should be able to relate to Hannah and Aaron’s experiences.
Overall, I’d recommend Trouble for anyone who enjoys contemporary YA without too much much of a sugar-coating. This isn’t a traditional love story, so don’t expect fireworks or declarations at the end. In fact, Trouble is refreshing in that it avoids many of the overused tropes of today’s YA fiction, such as insta-love, redeemed bad boys, or realizing that the boy next door is actually much hotter than the hunky, popular boy after all. Trouble is the story of a girl with all sorts of issues and a big baby bump, and the unlikely friend who steps in to get both of their lives back on track. Hannah and Aaron are an odd pairing, but they become true friends, and it’s both fun and touching to see how they grow and change — together.
Author: Non Pratt
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd.
Publication date: March 6, 2014 (to be published in US on June 10, 2014)
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Young adult contemporary fiction