Novel Provides a Realistic Look at Teen Pregnancy

“Okay I’m pregnant, and so here’s what I’m scared about,” 16 year old Eleanor (Elly) Crowe says. “What if my kid turns out to be a mass murderer? You know, one of those kids who shoots half the school then shoots himself? Or maybe a drug dealer, or really, just—just what if my kid lies to me, or sneaks out the window to go see her boyfriend, or gets pregnant at sixteen like me?”

In Han Nolan’s book, “Pregnant Pause,” the main character Eleanor Crowe is trying her best to come to terms with her “condition,” all the while trying to make peace with her mistakes: past, present and future. It is the future that worries her most.

Of course, Elly’s worries are far greater than who her child one day grows up to be. Thrown haphazardly into the world of motherhood, Elly must grow up fast as her due date approaches swiftly.

Scared out of her mind, Elly waits five full months before she works up the courage to tell her parents about the pregnancy. As can be expected, they were none too thrilled with the prospect of becoming grandparents. “I guess I had sort of hoped the whole thing would go away,” Elly admits. Of course, she never expected her parents to force her to get married, dump her unceremoniously on her in-laws and haul themselves to Kenya. With overbearing adults passing judgment left and right, Elly finds solace as a counselor at her in-laws “fat camp.”

While living in a cabin at the camp, Elly struggles to deal with her mistakes as she is forced to come to terms with her unwanted teen pregnancy. She is faced with an immature “husband,” resentful parents, manipulative in-laws (or, the ILs, as Elly calls them), having to perform as a role model to overweight campers and her increasingly dreary future. Worse than that, she must decide whether to keep the baby or not. If only she had more time.

Eleanor is a headstrong and stubborn girl and it is hard not to admire her openness and hidden strength. The first-person narrative is refreshing in its genuity and spot on with the thinking and musings of a teenager. As Elly walks us through her “Pregnant Pause” in life, readers will find themselves experiencing similar emotions to the ones she undergoes.
It’s easy to see how Han Nolan is a national book award winner. “Pregnant Pause” is definitely a page-turner and all of Nolan’s characters are endearing, both unique and relatable. The author has a very interesting style of writing and Elly’s voice is authentic and enjoyable. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, Nolan inserts a devastating plot twist.

Although Elly’s tale is full of heart, it is in no way romanticized. Nolan is able to deliver an effective gimpse into the reality of teen motherhood. Her book exudes both complex and subtle life lessons throughout the read. Often, teen pregnancy books fool girls into thinking that having a baby is romantic: The parents end up accepting and welcoming the baby, the girl is glowing and happy to have a child, and she lives happily ever after with both the father and the baby. Elly’s reality could not be further from this. It’s sickening the way they portray it and Elly could not agree more. “Here’s what I hate about all the pregnancy books I’ve been reading,” Elly says. “Everything sounds so simple and orderly—even emergencies like miscarriages and preeclampsia and terrible things like C-sections and edema and having to stay in bed for the whole nine months. The writers make it sounds like this calm, easily-managed, well-behaved problem that we will all handle rationally.” It’s not like that, and “Pregnant Pause” makes this very clear.

The book does, however, offer up a few disappointments. The ending, for example was too simplistic, too rushed—an easy solution to a big problem. There were way too many loose ends that hadn’t been resolved and although it was a fairly happy ending, it left the reader feeling unsatisfied. At the last possible moment (literally, the very last page), Nolan presents a “fix” to Elly’s biggest problem yet. The resolution was unexpected, which is certainly refreshing, but it came out of nowhere and there was no time to adjust and absorb it.

Despite the ending, “Pregnant Pause” is a great read and offers a look into teenage pregnancy through the eyes of the teenager.