I want to issue a spoiler alert right off the bat. This is a very compact novel with a big social issue smack in the middle, so I feel like I can’t complete a proper review without discussing said issue. So if you plan on reading this book and want to be completely surprised, I would skip over this review.
For starters, My Darling, My Hamburger deals with teenage issues. What is amazing is the fact that this book is still relevant, considering it was first published in 1969 (not to mention that the author is a man who was born in 1936!). It is the story of two sets of high school sweethearts; Liz and Sean are more of the cool kids in school who seem to be more sure of themselves, although they each are privately dealing with insecurities. Then you have Maggie and Dennis. Maggie is your typical geek, although she is wiser and more comfortable in her own skin than her peers. Unfortunately, she is also a pushover. She and Dennis have been going on a few dates with one another because Sean and Liz set them up.
Being that the couples are in high school, sex turns out to play a major role. Maggie is so scared of intimacy that she cannot even allow Dennis to kiss her. However, she is able to stick to her guns and not do anything that she feels uncomfortable with. Liz, on the other hand, gives into the pressure she feels from Sean to have sex. Within a few months, Liz is pregnant.
At first, Sean blurts out that he will marry Liz when they graduate the following month and they can have the baby. Unfortunately for Liz, Sean ends up having a change of heart. Although Liz is absolutely gutted by this fact, it was hard to fault Sean because he made what seemed like a reasonable decision. Liz decides she cannot have the baby on her own, so she is forced to make the decision to terminate the pregnancy.
We’re talking before Roe v Wade here, so Liz ends up having a “back alley” abortion, from which she suffers severe hemorrhaging, making it necessary for Maggie to call Liz’s parents and thus alienating their friendship forever.
I decided to read this book for the Shelf Discovery challenge. To be honest, I had never heard of this book until skimming Shelf Discovery—I had decided to read only books that were new to me, no re-reads, and this one seemed interesting. Having now read it, I think it was a good choice and I only wish I had heard of it when I actually was a teenager. As I said previously, My Darling, My Hamburger is mostly relevant, considering when it was written. I haven’t heard of an instance of a back alley abortion being performed in years (although I guess in most cases you wouldn’t know about it!), however back alley abortions were still performed even after Roe v Wade. Take the case of Becky Bell, for example.
Even so, the novel explores issues that teenagers still deal with today—relationships, intimacy, pregnancy. I was skeptical when picking up the book that a man born in the time frame that Zindel was born in could possibly grasp the situations that teenagers may find themselves in. Sure, he was young once, but that didn’t stop me from having my doubts. I needn’t have worried though. Zindel did a wonderful job and hit the nail on the head with this one.
I read this book as a part of the Shelf Discovery challenge.