I am often very easily distracted by shiny new things. Seriously, it’s a small miracle I make it to work every day without walking off a bridge. I started Trouble by Non Pratt some time ago, & much to my shame, something else distracted me. I am so glad though, that I sat back down with it last week, because after two days of non-stop reading, I had been absolutely blown away by a book about Teenage Pregnancy in way I never thought I could be.
Hannah Sheppard is young, bright, and funny and she loves boys. Her and her best friend Katie, spend their days using their newly discovered feminine wiles to get exactly what they want from the boys in their school. Neither of them thinks much about the future, neither of them thinks much about school either. Their day to day life is a whirlwind of nudity and cheap alcohol in the local park, until Hannah realises she’s late for her period. It could just be stress… Or it could be the other thing. Aaron is new at the school, having left his entire old life behind. He’s determined to make his GCSE years as painless as possible, but his parents are insistent that he at least makes an effort to make friends and behave like a normal teenager, after all the drama that forced him to have to find a new school. When Hannah discovers she’s pregnant, her school life becomes a living hell of teenage torment and neglect, as she rapidly falls down the social food chain, unable to tell anyone who the father of her unborn child is. Then, something miraculous happens – Aaron Tyler, the weird new kid, the son of a History teacher, steps forward and offers to pretend to be Hannah’s Baby Daddy, to help her through a lonely teen pregnancy, and to help her save face in the shark infested waters of school. What unravels is an incredibly unlikely, heartfelt friendship.
Oh. Oh what a heart this book has. It has THREE hearts, actually. Hannah’s character development is absolutely astounding, as she meanders her way towards responsibility through some touching, and also some hilarious, moments. She’s snappy, funny and determined, but also beautifully emotional, and Non knows exactly when to allow her to stand up for herself, and when to let her completely breakdown, creating a character so real and tangible that I wanted her to be my friend. She felt like she already was, and her highs and lows hit me solidly and powerfully. As for Aaron… I have SO MUCH EMPATHY FOR AARON. He’s a complex, noble character, unfazed by the general ins and outs of teenage life, something I remember pretty strongly from my own teenage years. He’s got a strong determination to do the right thing and a brilliant sense of humour, all tempered by his mysteriously dark past – As well as his crippling sense of guilt, which I immediately clicked with. I was so caught up, not just in the present setting of the book, but also in his past, itching to know more about what has made him so insular and tragic, and Non teases that to us brilliantly slowly as we see the deep rooted self hatred that seethes within Aaron. The support cast of Trouble are so much fun, too. Katie is suitably bitchy, and her fall from grace is all the more satisfying because of how vilified Non makes her. Gideon and Anj are perfect supportive friends, and their lines crackle with youth and feeling, Hannah’s Stepbrother Jay is… Complex, but he’s pulled off in a fantastic way, despite how little he’s in the book. His presence is felt through his absence. Hannah’s Mum and Gran are heart-warmingly touching, flawed and supportive in equal measure, making her plight feel all the more rounded and real. Of course, the third heart is Hannah’s unborn baby.
Non’s real success in Trouble is her narrative voice. It’s astounding how natural her dialogue is, how perfectly normal the characters feel and talk to each other. She’s managed to successfully pin down the energy and enthusiasm, as well as the terror and apathy that define teen life, which are such contradicting aspects that so many authors fail portray all of them anywhere near as well as this book does. The entire of this book is full of pace and energy, characters that jump from the page, and positivity and heartbreak in equal measure, and it’s a complete triumph of Young Adult fiction, dealing with themes and ideas that so desperately lacking from teen literature and that NEED to be tackled. Teenagers, like it or not, are going to start having sex, and I think the important thing about Trouble is not just that it highlights the risks of pregnancy, but more importantly, it helps fight the stigma surrounding it. Pregnancy is not the end of the world, and plenty of Hannah Sheppards are out there, being told they’ve ruined their life when they absolutely haven’t. Non’s book helps to combat a lot of the secrecy and mythology surrounding the whole world of teen sexuality, as well as being a brilliantly written story. A complete triumph, and one of the brightest, strongest voices in UKYA today. Look out for more from her, because it’s going to be phenomenal.
Thanks for reading, everyone. ‘Til next time!
P.S. Not sure it needs to be said, but of course, Trouble is about Teen Pregnancy, and as such contains strong language and scenes of a sexual nature.
P.P.S. You can follow the rather splendiferous Non Pratt on Twitter HERE.