Pregnant Pause is the story of a sixteen-year-old, Eleanor (pregnant, of course), who is pushed by her parents into marrying the father of her child and living and working at his parents’ summer camp for overweight children. The rebellious Eleanor then has to deal with a rocky relationship, pregnancy, being a teenager, being the daughter of missionaries, and being a role-model—all at the same time. Basically, it’s a YA novel combining religion, multiple current social issues, and teenagers. What could go wrong?
Now, I happen to be a sixteen-year-old girl as well, and, though I’m not pregnant, I had a very hard time believing Eleanor’s character. She changes so much that she barely even seems like a single character. And I’m not talking your normal coming-of-age, realizing-who-you-are type changes; I’m talking a total 180 of views and priorities, for no discernable reason.
Shaky characters aren’t the novel’s only sore spot. Unfortunately, the dialogue in Pregnant Pause falls flat as well. It sounds staged, wooden, and static, like the characters have memorized and then spit out the conversation, with the occasional negative adjective or metaphor thrown in. Every time I saw quotation marks, I cringed. No joke.
But this novel tackles some excellent and topical subject matter. I mean, love triangles, missionary parents with a pregnant daughter, childhood obesity, mashed cauliflower as a mashed-potato stand-in … it’s hard to find a more interesting blend of elements. The problem is, though, that the elements never really blend. They’re just kind of thrown on top of one another and lie there looking confused or wander off into the distance, never to be seen again. That last scenario actually happens to one plot twist. The characters involved just stop talking about it. There’s no explanation. No one knows where it went. No one sends out a search party. I was so aggravated when I turned the last page and realized how many loose ends remained that I almost re-wrote the ending just to put my mind at rest.
Expectations can be a killer. Like when you’re so, so sure you’re getting that really pretty necklace for Christmas, but it turns out to be for your sister. Or when that final seemed really easy but you accept your corrected copy just to discover you got a C. Or when you open a book expecting to be blown away, and it doesn’t live up to your expectations.
Even now as I hold my copy of Pregnant Pause I feel a little thrill of anticipation. ‘It’s going to be so good!’ a little voice inside of me whispers, ‘There’s no way it can’t be.’ I wanted Pregnant Pause to be good, for the sake of its themes. And I still want you to go and find books about religion, teenage pregnancy, adoption, childhood obesity, or all of these combined. Just don’t go and find Pregnant Pause.
Meredith Hilton hails from Washington, DC during the school year (in the summer, her location is pretty much up to chance). On any given day you can find her online, being artsy, in the library, or surreptitiously writing poetry during math class.