by Sarah N Harvey Print book : Fiction : Juvenile audience
Great character in a pretty-good story   (2009-04-28)
With the help of some famous first lines, Julia tells the story of her best friend Ruth's pregnancy, from the confession that Ruth "did it" at a party to the summer that Ruth gives birth to a baby girl, all while keeping the pregnancy a secret. Julia is a planner and a researcher, and as a devoted best friend, she does everything she can to help the sometimes volatile Ruth make it through their junior year of high school without anyone, particularly her Bible-thumping parents, know that she's pregnant. It helps that Ruth's stepmother is also giving birth during the year, with the assistance of a midwife. As the year quickly goes by, Ruth and Julia begin to change, each adapting new roles that neither girl ever planned.
This is one of those strange novels that has an awesome main character - Julia is well-developed, clever, and funny - and a somewhat mediocre plot. Ruth's pregnancy is treated somewhat lightly, though there are several spots where the author seems to warn readers that it's probably not a good idea to help your teenage friend give birth without the aid of a trained doctor or any sort of medical facility. This point just doesn't ever sink in. The story also deals with post-partum depression, probably an uncommon element in young adult novels. It was nice to see this issue brought up. It was hard to understand why Ruth and Julia were friends, considering Ruth was downright abusive during most of the story. I also lost track of several other plot elements, such as Julia losing a ton of weight, the romance between Julia and Ruth's brother, or the developing relationship between Julia and her stepmother. Parts of the story work very well, but other pieces are just garbled; for example, Julia's mother just doesn't seem to be the same character as she was at the start of the book (I get that Julia gains appreciation for her mother's strength). The characters are also very anti-Christian, which I imagine could turn off a lot of readers. However, the story-telling device of using first-lines is a great one.
I'm curious to see more from this author, because it's a well-written story and can be enjoyable. I'd just like to see it tidied up a bit more. This reminded me a lot of Chris Crutcher's books.
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