written by Jasmine, Wenlock Books' apprentice - with thanks to Non Pratt
Trouble by Non Pratt
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Young Adult
Trouble is Non Pratt’s first novel, and what a book it is! Using pregnancy as her hook, Non explores teenage friendships, sex lives, relationships and family lives in an honest and heart-breakingly believable way. 15 year old Hannah loves sex and loves to socialise by spending her free time at the park drinking with her friends and flirting with boys. When she falls pregnant, Hannah knows exactly who the father is but can’t tell anybody the truth. Out of the blue, her new friend Aaron offers to pretend to be her baby’s dad.
The blurb tells us that the new boy at school, Aaron, offers to be the father and so for the first part of the book the reader is looking for reasons why. I really liked knowing where part of the story was heading as it made me think harder about each character and the situations that they were in. The story is told through dual narrative allowing the reader to hear both Hannah and Aaron’s thoughts which I absolutely loved.
The style of Trouble reminded me of The Art of Being Normal, another YA book that I adored. Both books tackle difficult teenage issues in believable and realistic manners and both used dual dialogue to tell the stories of the two main characters. I think that dual dialogue is such a powerful tool because it allows the readers to delve deeper into the relationships between characters without the plot being interrupted by unnecessary and unrealistic displays of emotion. Whereas in The Art of Being Normal, one person’s dialogue took up a whole chapter, in Trouble the dialogue switched whenever the story needed it to, often flipping back and forth many times a chapter.
I particularly liked the structure of this book and felt that the small nods to pregnancy such as splitting the book into thirds to mimic trimesters and using dates like a pregnancy diary made this book even more special. I think it was very clever of Non to use dates instead of chapter numbers because not only did it allow the story to move at the necessary pace without seeming jumpy or confusing, but also allowed her to dictate what happened to Hannah and Aaron based on the stage of Hannah’s pregnancy.
Although I’ve never experienced pregnancy or been close to a teenager that has, I felt that Non did a fantastic job of creating characters that felt real and that I could relate to. Both Hannah and Aaron were multi-dimensional and both had interesting and gripping stories to tell. A lot of YA novels are centred around characters that are outcasts or unpopular and I enjoyed hearing a different voice with this book. I also think that Non described the dynamics between the ‘popular’ group perfectly and I completely recognised all of the characters as people I knew at school.
There’s something so wonderful about reading a book and recognising the situation or the characters because it makes reading the story not only more enjoyable but also more emotional. Non attributes her ability to write so convincingly for teenagers to believing that teens are no different from adults, saying that ‘if you believe that teens are a different species from adults, then it will be hard to write for them… I do not share that belief AT ALL’.
I think that Non has done a great justice to teenagers by humanising those going through teen pregnancies in a way which I haven’t seen done before. In many ways the reader could have expected that Hannah needed a stand-in dad because her casual sex had resulted in a pregnancy that she couldn’t connect a male to and I am so glad that this wasn’t the case. Non started Trouble by wanting to write about how society judges teens that have sex but after understanding how society judges pregnant teens even more, she decided to combine the two. What resulted was a book that feels real and raw without pitying or blaming Hannah for being pregnant.
So often teenagers that enjoy sex are shown in a negative light and I am so glad that Non has challenged this by writing a book so intelligent and genuine. I think that Non has definitely achieved her aim of redressing the balance between young and old by proving that teen sex and teen pregnancy do not need to be demonised, and has broken down barriers by talking so openly on the subject. This is a fantastic novel and I think that it was absolutely deserving of its YA Book Prize nomination.
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