CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 3. . . .September 26, 2008
The Lit Report.
Sarah N. Harvey.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2008.
197 pp., pbk., $12.95.
Grades 9 and up / Aged 14 and up.
Review by Rachel Steen.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
Ruth has always been big: big-boned, big-headed, big-mouthed, big-hearted, big-haired, big-assed. When I first met her, which was in Sunday school when we were four, she was already taller, broader, louder and wilder than most of the boys in our little class. She would climb on top of our Bible-crafts table and belt out `Jesus Loves Me' or `What a friend we have in Jesus' at the top of her lungs until one of the lemon-sucking deacons would come running down the stairs from the sanctuary and hiss at Miss Reynolds to keep Ethel Merman quiet. I had no idea who Ethel Merman was, but I was in awe of Ruth, who jumped down from the table, smiled sweetly at Miss Reynolds and said she was just singing for Jesus. When she was older, whenever anyone tried to shut her up, she'd say "I'm making a joyful noise unto the Lord-is that so wrong?" For some reason-maybe because of my look of abject adoration or maybe because I gave her my crackers and cheese-Ruth latched onto me that first Sunday and we've been inseparable ever since.
Seventeen-year-old Julia Riley is a practical and savvy girl with a plan. She and best friend Ruth will graduate high school, go to college together, and get a cool apartment in the city with Ruth's older brother Jonah. But when Ruth accidentally gets pregnant, Julia must come to terms with the change in her plans and find a way to support her friend.
In her first full-length young adult novel, author Sarah N. Harvey has created a realistic and likeable character in narrator Julia. A sophisticated reader, she begins each chapter with a quote from a favourite book or play and makes frequent connections between her life and these stories, demonstrating both her intelligence and her naivety. She gets many of her ideas from reading and largely expects things to work out as they do in her books. This belief leads to eventual conflict between herself and Ruth and the important realization that life doesn't always fit itself into the best laid plans.
Like many teens, Ruth makes a mistake at a party, and pays for it. Religious parents and a religious upbringing make it impossible to ask her family for help, and she relies on Julia to tell her what to do. From the first stages of pregnancy to the birth, to the aftermath, readers will be drawn into her story, and will be satisfied with the conclusion.
Not just another "teen pregnancy novel," the author has also created a terrific story about a strong girl friendship, which is infrequently seen in teen novels. These two girls are as close as sisters, and their love for each other is genuine, and despite their sometimes selfish (but completely human) reactions, they are each other's strongest support.
The novel is well written and multi-layered, and though it may seem at times that all of the conflicts work out too tidily, the narrator carefully points out that this is an exception rather than a rule. Neither condoning nor condemning, this novel will fit perfectly into a high school parenting or family studies class, offering students a great deal of material for discussion.
Rachel Steen is the Elementary/YA selection manager at S&B Books in Mississauga, ON.
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