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Girls In Trouble    by Caroline Leavitt Amazon.com order for
Girls In Trouble
by Caroline Leavitt
Order:  USA  Can
Griffin, 2005 (2004)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Girls In Trouble has a slightly misleading title to me, it sounds like chick lit or maybe even young adult fiction but it is not. I would firmly place it in the genre of literary fiction and a quick read of the short blurb on the back of the book speaks volumes. Sara is sixteen years old and she is pregnant. She is in denial about her pregnancy and when her boyfriend, Danny, runs off to parts unknown, Sara is too far along for an abortion. Sara decides to consent to an open adoption with an older, childless couple, Eva and George.

Sara loves Eva's carefree nature, and George is such a kind, gentle man. The couple dotes on Sara during her pregnancy so that she feels like she has a new family. Of course, Sara's parents, Abby and Jack, are in the picture and they are aching over the situation. Abby is a dental hygienist who abandoned dental school for marriage. Jack is an accountant who is rendered speechless for a time when Sara announces she is pregnant clearly, his little girl is gone forever. Sara is a highly intelligent young girl who is slated for an Ivy League school if the pregnancy and birth of the baby do not derail her future.

Jack and Abby desperately want Sara to move on with her life, but she has other plans after the baby is born. (One of the most refreshing aspects of this novel is that Sara is such a bright, intelligent girl rather than the stereotypical, disadvantaged pregnant teenager.) Sara wants to see the baby and she visits the home of Eva and George every day. While this plan sounded well and good to Eva and George during Sara's pregnancy, the reality is less appealing. Eva is overwhelmed by the demands of a young infant and at times, it seems that Sara has a bond with the baby that Eva simply cannot duplicate. When Sara crosses a line, Eva and George take drastic measures that form the basis of the majority of the novel.

The story was so engrossing that I had trouble putting it down. Leavitt does an excellent job of characterization. I was able to understand the perspective of each individual and this is a book where emotions run high due to the significant issues addressed (adoption, family bonds, maternal love and teen pregnancy). The book is neither overly sentimental nor overly provocative. Leavitt has a special knack for delving into the important issues without depressing the reader. Instead, she imparts her themes through moving characters and poignant moments. I highly recommend Girls In Trouble to fans of literary and contemporary fiction, and also as a wonderful book club read.

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