Trouble by Non Pratt (Walker Books, 20 February 2014)
TROUBLE was a really enjoyable and engaging read about two teenagers who find friendship in each other when they need it the most.
Hannah is fifteen and pregnant. She can't tell anyone who the real father is. When the whole school finds out about her pregnancy, Aaron, a new boy at school, offers to pretend to be the baby's father. Aaron has a secret tragedy in his own past to deal with, but through his newfound friendship with Hannah, he learns that maybe it's finally time to open up and move on.
I love the alternating perspectives in this book. It was done in short chunks rather than whole chapters, so sometimes Aaron could just have one sentence and we'd switch straight back to Hannah. I felt like it kept the pace up, and I never got bored of either perspective at any point. I definitely was more interested in Hannah's character, but the short chunks meant I never spent a whole chapter thinking, "When are we going to go back to Hannah?" And anyway, even if I liked Hannah more, there was a lot of interesting stuff going on in Aaron's life too!
I cared a lot about Hannah. She's just a lost fifteen-year-old who slept with someone she shouldn't have, whom she thinks she loves but who doesn't care about her. It's terrible and I just kept wanting to give her a hug. Her vulnerability when she thinks about the real father of her baby. The way she realises there's more to Aaron than meets the eye and she wants to help him when she sees that he's sad, but he won't open up to her. And that sadness she feels when he shuts her out. Her emotions were very real to me, and I loved how brave and strong she was, deciding to keep the baby and having to face everyone in her life and stand by her decision. It was so great to see her find better friends and realise the true meaning of friendship.
Aaron was sweet to Hannah, but I did think he was a bit closed-off – which was kind of the point, I suppose. But it made it hard to relate to him at times. I really warmed to him by the end though. He's so lost as well, just like Hannah. I was glad that the book wasn't a romance – it was a bit like a romance, but instead it's just about how Aaron and Hannah become best friends.
I loved all the family relationships in this book. This book was full of them and they were so integral to the story. I loved Hannah's gran and Hannah's mum. I also loved Aaron's relationship with Neville, an old man at the old people's home that Aaron volunteers at.
I found TROUBLE refreshing when it came to portraying female desire. Hannah was so frank about how horny she was, and all the make-out and sex scenes where it's clear that she's really into it and she's turned on and she wants it are just so lovely. It made me so happy. (But a reviewer on Goodreads did mention that it was odd that the book never showed Hannah considering masturbation when there was that long scene describing how horny she was during her pregnancy. I completely agree. I feel like this book could definitely have gone there!)
On the other hand, I don't know what to make of this book's attitude towards female sexuality and promiscuity. Most of the characters in this book slut-shame, and even Aaron, when he hears some other male characters slut-shame Hannah, although he does get angry at the male characters themselves, also gets angry at Hannah for "selling herself so cheap". SERIOUSLY? It's Hannah's fault that these guys are talking about her like that, even though nobody ever ever ever talks about guys in this way no matter how many girls they have sex with in this book. It left a bad taste in my mouth. But like I said, the book balanced that with Hannah owning how much she liked sex and I just... feel conflicted. I personally feel the book doesn't do enough to examine this slut-shaming culture when there's SO MUCH of it in the book.
There's a particularly troubling (ha!) moment in this scene where Hannah starts making out with a boy after she's realised that she's pregnant and suddenly she panics because she can't stop thinking about how she's pregnant so she pushes the guy off him and says 'no', and at that moment Aaron stumbles upon them and he assumes that the guy was trying to rape her – and Hannah's response was that nobody could ever do anything to her that she didn't want to do.
And the book never questions whether that statement is problematic. Aaron just accepts it as a fact and moves on. I'm sorry, but when people get raped, it's not because they let people do things to them that they don't want to do!
The ending was also a bit rushed and quite a few things were left unresolved. We don't really seem to hear that much about Hannah's pregnancy itself either. I mean, she's fifteen and pregnant! You would think she'd make more of a fuss about how annoying or painful being pregnant can be, and she'd spend more time worrying and thinking about what her life would be like once the baby was born, but I feel like there's not really much of that in this book.
But I really, really enjoyed reading this book, despite its problems. It's not a perfect book by any means, but it's well-written and funny and I felt very involved in the characters' lives, especially Hannah's.