Mothers wince at the 30-second pitch of my novel, The Future Unborn, at book events. No one wants their daughter, niece, granddaughter, younger sister, or any other impressionable teen girl reading young adult books about teenage pregnancy because that stuff might be contagious.
“Their father would kill me if I brought home a book about that,” one woman said to me.
Why? Reading young adult books about teenage pregnancy is a great way to educate teens while also entertaining them. According to one article on the shocking facts and statistics surrounding teen pregnancy, improper communication between teens and their parents is one of the contributing factors to unplanned pregnancy.
Yet parents remain stubbornly squeamish about books about teenage pregnancy. A novel with a pregnant teenager offers loads of controversy, and someone somewhere is going to be upset. It can’t be helped. Is she going to keep the baby or give it up for adoption? Is she going to choose abortion? Is she going to drop out of school? What sort of conflicts play into these storylines? How does she deal with them?
Here are 4 writers who’ve tackled this taboo topic for YA readers.
1. After by Amy Efaw
In After by Amy Efaw, the main character leaves her infant to die in the trash. Controversial? You bet! The powerful book follows the arrest and conviction of Devon Davenport, and as the story unfolds we begin to understand how a young mother could abandon her newborn and even deny her own pregnancy. Devon’s transformation from the beginning to the end of the book is heartfelt and moving.
2. The Future Unborn by Khristina Chess
Like the main character in After, the protagonist in The Future Unborn is a “good girl” whose one misstep leads to an unplanned pregnancy. Her immediate first choice in dealing with the situation is abortion, but several obstacles stand in the way, including lack of money and bad timing.
However, when a close family member loses a child, Kansas sees how she could fix everything by giving this baby up for adoption instead. The question is whether or not she’s willing to postpone her dreams for the future to carry this unplanned pregnancy to term—and will she really be able to give the baby away in the end?
3. Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles
In Jumping Off Swings, the author explores how unplanned pregnancy impacts the lives of multiple characters, not only the girl. Ellie is pregnant to one boy, but there is a triangle of friendships and relationships that lead to multiple people knowing about the situation. As she wrestles with the decision about what to do, the father of the child also struggles with his emotions. Their parents also know what has happened. This book is different from both After and The Future Unborn, where “good girls” try to keep their pregnancies cloaked in secret. In Jumping Off Swings, the unplanned pregnancy reverberates through many relationships and affects everyone in different ways.
4. Every Little Thing in the World by Nina de Gramont
In Every Little Thing in the World, Sydney is sent to camp with her best friend as punishment, and by the way, she’s pregnant and hasn’t told her mom. She spends her time in the wilderness forming new friendships and trying to decide what to do. In many ways, this novel is more a coming-of-age story than a pregnancy book. Yes, the protagonist wrestles with this very crucial dilemma through the storyline, but her relationships with her best friend, her mother, and others in the story are equally important. Resolving those issues are key to how she ultimately decides to handle her situation.
Reading about choice in young adult books about teenage pregnancy can scare parents who may already have established their own firm beliefs and want their children to share them. Depicting abortion in fiction—or even using the word—can be taboo, but literature can allow space for conversations about topics in a non-threatening forum because the characters and stories are fiction:
What is the difference between choice and control? In what ways does Kansas have choices and control? In what ways does she not?
How prevalent is teen pregnancy in the world today? Do you believe this is a common issue? Can it happen to anyone? Why or why not?
Do you agree with Kansas when she says, “The whole problem with relationships is that they cause you to make compromises in your choices.”? Why or why not?
Have you read these or other young adult books about teenage pregnancy worth sharing? I’d love to hear from you.