Well, we never did pick an official book, but I just finished After by Amy Efaw and thought I'd write a bit about it. If you've read something interesting lately, fill us in, okay?
After is a story about a 15-year-old girl, Devon, who gives birth to a baby in her bathroom at home and then ditches the baby in a trashcan in the alley. Devon goes through the entire pregnancy in denial--claiming she truly did not know she was pregnant, though as her story unfolds, she can see that she realized there were clues, but she chose to ignore them. The story mainly takes place in the juvenile detention center Devon is now in as she awaits trial. Through talking with her lawyer and a therapist, the truth behind Devon's story comes out. Together, they help the reader understand how such a perfect, hard-working, GOOD girl can hide a pregnancy and have it end in such a desperate, disastrous way.
As Devon finally allows herself to relive the baby's birth and what she did after that (she initially claims she can't remember it happening), the gruesome details are almost too much to read. Efaw makes it feel like the reader is right there with Devon, watching in horror as a girl gives birth alone and in a bathroom. I think it was especially hard for me to read because I know what it's like to have a baby, and even in the best of circumstances (in a hospital, with the proper care, knowing what was happening) it can be terrifying. To see her do this all alone, and how she handles the baby, and what she does after, was heartbreaking. I don't know of any other books that cover this subject. Devon's choices and how she deals with them make for a very interesting book.
All of that said, here's what bothered me (and Dawn, I bet you can see this coming): Devon had sex once. One time. And look at the HUGE punishment she was saddled with. Not only did she get pregnant, but she went through an absolute nightmare, made desperate and terrible choices, and now is facing jail time. Some of you know this is one of my major issues with YA books--this whole idea of a girl needing some form of punishment for having sex. I obviously understand that a larger story is being told here, but I just could not get over that she had sex once and this is the result. And the boy? She never contacted him again (because she was so ashamed that she had sex), so he knew nothing about what she was going through, and, by extension, did not have to suffer a punishment like she did. While I didn't see the book as having a heavy-handed lesson to not have sex, there is enough talk of shame and a horrible enough consequence that it certainly comes across as a good warning to girls.