Book Review: In Trouble

In Trouble

Ellen Levine

Carolrhoda Books

200 pages

Imagine you’re back in high school.  You have all the trials and tribulations that comes along with the age: school, romance, friendships.  Now imagine you’re pregnant.  What do you do?  Tell your parents? Keep it to yourself? It’s such a scary time and yet, what we don’t realize is that over the decades, being a pregnant teenager has gotten just a tiny bit easier.

Jamie and Elaine are growing up in a time prior to Roe vs Wade.  The options available to a pregnant girl in their day and age are limited.  Abortion is illegal, so in order to obtain one it is necessary to be as discreet as possible.  It’s sort of an underground railroad of sorts, and you have to have the right connections and information in order to even find a doctor willing to perform an abortion.

If abortion isn’t an option, then the girl “in trouble” basically has two other avenues; she can marry the baby’s father and thus raise the child as a family or she can enter an unwed mother’s home and give her baby up for adoption.  Obviously the options are even more limited than they are today and the stigma is even greater.

I think In Trouble is a valuable resource for young girls today.  Their options may be more numerous but the struggle and confusion is still there.  Both Jamie and Elaine have the typical teenage response by digging their heads in the sand and trying to ignore the problem.  Elaine has been with her boyfriend for awhile and is “in love”, so she is convinced that her boyfriend will marry her now that she is pregnant, despite his lack of empathy and consideration.  Meanwhile, Jamie is trying to smack Elaine with a heavy dose of reality even though Jamie can’t face her own reality.

The first half of In Trouble was a bit slow for me.  There was just no impact, and Levine made the mistake of trying to focus on another storyline, which was Jamie’s father being imprisoned (this being the McCarthy era) for his communist empathy. Jamie and Elaine had such a big story to focus on that I really thought the book had too much going on with the communist subplot.  Thematically, it made sense because Jamie’s father now had his freedom and he was trying to inspire Jamie with her own freedom, but I think it she could have accomplished it in a different way.

Teen pregnancy is an issue near and dear to my heart, so I was happy that Levine was able to tackle such a serious issue in a way that was thoughtful and full of meaning.  If the idea of adoption and unwed mother homes interests you, I would suggest The Girl’s Who Went Away, by Ann Fessler.  It is a compilation of true life stories about women who gave their babies up for adoption prior to Roe vs Wade.  It is a phenomenal book with a big impact.

Other Reviews:

None that I could find.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.


6 Responses

  1. Definitely sounds like a good resource for teens/young women!

  2. I imagine this is an issue quite close to many women’s hearts. I know quite a few families that are dealing with teen pregnancy. I’m sure it is scary and difficult to face as it was back then … but at least there are more options and less stigma. Great review … and thanks for the recommendation for the related read.

  3. I’m going to get a copy of this book from Netgal. Thanks for the enlightening review. It’s a subject dear to my heart, as well. I’d also like to read the other book you suggest. I think you and I like the same books from all I can see.
    Thank you for your support in my “…Heiress” review. It was a tough one to write, but I have strong feelings about the importance of keeping women in our rightful places!
    Following you, now!

  4. I’ve heard great things about The Girls Who Went Away — I need to read it! (Someday, someday…)

  5. More people need to read about the reality of teen pregnancy in the pre-Roe v. Wade era to ensure we don’t get complacent now! It sounds like this was a good book to add to that list.

  6. I do think the stigma is less and options are more, but the impact on the young mother’s life is still overwhelming. This sounds like an important book.

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