Sixteen-year-old Eleanor Crowe would be the first to admit that she's a screw-up. She's been in juvenile detention, she's been on alcohol and drugs, and now she's pregnant. Everyone in her life --- from her sanctimonious older sister to her do-gooder missionary parents to her boyfriend's busybody folks --- are happy to tell her everything she's done wrong, but her fiercest critic is herself. "When it comes to me and my timing," she thinks, "it's always too late. Too late to get an abortion, too late to say I'm sorry, too late to say I need you…. It's just too late, or maybe too hard to admit that I don't want a husband and baby, and that I'm just so tired of being me."
But whether she likes it or not, a husband and baby are exactly what Eleanor's future holds, as she decides to stay in Maine and marry the baby's father, Lam, rather than return to Kenya with her parents or fly to California to live with her sister. She'll be a guest at Lam's family's fat camp, expected to help teach arts & crafts and dance classes, even though she knows very little about dance and cares even less about crafts.
Much to Eleanor's surprise, she discovers that she cares about the campers in her classes, particularly Banner, a shy girl bullied by the other campers. Stubborn and un-self-conscious, Eleanor wins more campers over, even those she initially disliked. She also discovers feelings for another camper, feelings that are even more confusing as her young husband grows more and more distant just when she needs him most.
When tragedy strikes the camp, all of Eleanor's plans for life after giving birth are thrown into question. She hasn't yet figured out what she wants for herself. How can she possibly know what's best for her daughter?
In Eleanor, Han Nolan has created a complicated heroine, one who doesn’t recognize her own strengths, in large part because she's been taught her whole life to ignore them. Eleanor's interactions with her vulnerable campers illustrate her gifts for teaching, creativity and compassion, even as they highlight her impulsive nature, her stubbornness, and her tendency to speak before she thinks. Her willingness to recognize the traits in herself that will make her a successful adult and that could make her an excellent mother comes slowly and not without struggle.
PREGNANT PAUSE is refreshing inasmuch as it doesn't sensationalize teen pregnancy or pass judgment on Eleanor's situation. Sure, Eleanor is a troubled girl facing a series of equally difficult choices, but she's also a fully-realized character learning to find her place in a community, a family and a body that's new to her.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 27, 2011
- Publication Date: November 6, 2012
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Graphia
- ISBN-10: 0547854145
- ISBN-13: 9780547854144