Just as he is leaving his mother's house to spend Christmas with his dad, 16-year-old Nick receives a surprise visit from his ex-girlfriend, Sasha: she's pregnant. Still hurt from their recent breakup, Nick has no idea how to respond. Debut novelist Martin displays uncanny insight, replacing the issue-driven engine common to most pregnant-teen stories with an emotionally complex and disarmingly frank coming-of-age tale. As narrator, Nick reviews his relationships, and confronts his drives and how he controls them-and how his friends and his father control, or fail to control, theirs. Martin is especially good at writing about sex: Nick is believably awkward, Sasha more mature (especially as viewed by Nick), and it takes the couple more than one try to get it right ("You'd think sex would make you feel less innocent. It didn't work that way for me," Nick ruminates. "I felt new"). In describing Nick's struggle to do the right thing by Sasha, the author defines each feeling, coloring in Nick's momentary failures as well as the full pain of his realization, as Sasha recuperates from an abortion: "We're at the very end.... All I have to do is walk out the door." Ages 14-up. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
KLIATT - Claire Rosser
Nick tells a story about his love for Sasha, their break-up, discovering she is pregnant with his child, and then, the abortion. The two of them are good students, popular, well adjusted, and too young to drive. The emotional details of Nick's story are as important as any of the physical ones. Nick tells not just of his love affair with Sasha, but about his parents after their divorce, his younger sister, and his closest friends, one of whom is revealing he is gay. He describes school in detail, a party where the teenagers are smoking weed and drinking and having sex, hockey games, and so much more. This is a first novel for Martin, and she is a very good writer. Even though she has used a male protagonist, and told about the affair and the abortion from his point of view, probably this will end up being read primarily by YA girls. Every one of the readers will wish they could find someone like Nick to fall in love with. As YA novels go, this one is frank about sexdesire, control, contraception, and the pain when love doesn't work out between two people who truly care for one another. The details of the pregnancy, telling parents and close friends, the decision to have an abortion, the abortion itself and the aftermathMiller doesn't shy away from anything, especially the emotional costs of it all. Sasha's parents are especially protective, which is enough to make anyone realize parents cannot will their children to stay away from sex; what is good parenting is a parent's love and support no matter what. Nick and Sasha knew very well they should be more careful about contraception, they knew the facts, and yet the pregnancy happened. Certainly their lives have been changedforever by the sadness and loss they have experienced, and readers will be wiser and more understanding of themselves and their friends. Reviewer: Claire Rosser
Children's Literature - Melissa Joy Adams
When Sasha dumped Nick he thought his life couldn't possibly get worse, but three weeks later it does. Sasha's pregnant. Even though Nick knows their relationship is definitely over, he still cares for her deeply and holds onto the hope that their relationship might rekindle. Trying to deal with both the breakup and the pregnancy, Nick reflects back to the beginning of their relationship, telling the story of how they got from there to here. Before Sasha, Nick took relationships lightly while he tried to deal with his parents' divorce and his best friend's coming out. Not wanting a serious relationship, Nick preferred to hang with a girl who was around only when he wanted to hook up. But then Nick meets Sasha at the beach and everything changes. Suddenly, Nick finds himself submersed in serious relationship and what is even more unexpected is that he actually enjoys the commitment. When their relationship becomes even more serious and more sexual, Sasha breaks up with Nick, choosing to worry about school instead of worrying about getting pregnant. Unfortunately, her decision comes too late. Martin presents a touching story of first love, a heart-wrenching breakup, and teenage pregnancy. While this is not an uncommon plot, Martin tells the story in a fresh way, through the male point of view, showing that these topics are relevant to teens of both sexes. Readers will connect with Nick's emotional struggle and find him a very likable character. The book is quick paced, well written, and will appeal to a wide audience. Martin expertly handles the sexual content, depicting first time sexual exploration in a refreshingly realistic way. It is a perfect book to use as a springboard fordiscussing teenage relationships, sex and pregnancy. Reviewer: Melissa Joy Adams
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up
With heartbreaking honesty, Martin's debut novel gets into the mind of 16-year-old Nick Severson. Still dealing with the effects of his parents' divorce, he plans to have a vacation with no commitments. However, the summer takes an interesting turn when Sasha Jasinski enters the picture. Nick is intrigued by the connection they seem to share but also put off by Sasha's initial disappointment with his behavior. To the shock of his friends, Nick stops seeing Dani to pursue Sasha. They grow closer both emotionally and physically. When things start to get too complicated for her, she breaks off the relationship only to discover a few weeks later that she is pregnant. What raises this novel above the many other teen titles dealing with sex and pregnancy is the authentic voice and emotion of the protagonist. Readers struggle with Nick as he deals with the loss of his first love and the decisions related to Sasha's pregnancy. His story challenges stereotypical notions of reckless teen sex and careless abortions; teen boys will especially applaud this portrayal of a devastated and conflicted young man who makes the right decisions, but still finds that his mistakes have repercussions. Sex, drugs, alcohol, and abortion are each portrayed realistically, and the novel gives invaluable insight into the adolescent mind and the world in which teens live.-Lynn Rashid, Marriots Ridge High School, Marriotsville, MD
One relationship ends, another begins. Shortly before he leaves to spend Christmas with his father, Nick's ex appears on his lawn to announce she's pregnant. While Sasha ponders her options, 16-year-old Nick relives the rocky course of their relationship. He remembers their encounters in the hall, their rules for dating and their gradual detachment from one another. Martin's freshman prose, whether depicting the parent-child bond, pressing decisions or sexual encounters, balances the heartwarming and the humorous elements that form the pillars for any relationship. In its focus on Nick's connections, whether with Sasha, gay best friend Nathan or his father, the tale rises above the typical teen-pregnancy melodrama. Whether encouraging Nathan as he comes out, supporting his parents' divorce or talking with Sasha, Nick worries about the personal impact of these situations in classic adolescent fashion, simultaneously self-absorbed and self-sacrificing. Authentic and sophisticated, the teen banter appeals to both casual readers and literary enthusiasts. Rich characters and honest interactions set Martin's debut novel apart, and readers will look forward to whatever gestates next. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
“This novel should be read by every teen in North America, and every parent.”—Catherine Gilbert Murdock, author of Dairy Queen
“A great read. This one will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen and John Green.”—Lara Zeises, author of Bringing Up the Bones
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2008:
"Authentic and sophisticated."
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, August 18, 2008:
"Debut novelist Martin displays uncanny insight, replacing the issue-driven engine common to most pregnant-teen stories with an emotionally complex and disarmingly frank coming-of-age tale."
Read an Excerpt
The first time Sasha lay spread across my bed, I felt like the world had changed. She was wearing cutoff jean shorts and a plain white T-shirt, not the tiny, cropped kind lots of girls wear—Sasha never wears that kind of stuff. “So it has to be my rules,” she repeated, propping her head up and peering steadily into my eyes. I stared at her long, tan legs and thought: Don’t screw this up now, Nick.
“Your rules,” I agreed, and I didn’t screw it up, not then anyway. We went on like that for nearly five months, stretching her rules, rewriting them together, until she told me we were getting too serious, that I was too much of a distraction and she had her whole future to think about.
“I want to worry about school,” she said, crossing her arms and frowning like only Sasha can—like the world was coming to an end. “Not about trying to get on the pill.”
Now I know she was wrong about the world, though—either wrong or early—because I can live without Sasha. The past month has proven that. But I don’t know how to deal with what she’s telling me now.
“Say something,” she says urgently, grabbing my arm and squeezing hard. “Don’t do this to me, Nick.”
I glance up the driveway towards my house, at the icicle lights everyone but my mom continually forgets to switch on, and wrench my arm away. Dad will be here to pick me up in less than an hour. Christmas at his place with Bridgette—that was my big problem until thirty seconds ago.
“Nick,” Sasha repeats. Snow is falling on her hair and she’s wearing the leather gloves her mom bought her at the end of October. She still looks beautiful to me, or at least I know she would if I could feel anything.
I run a hand through my snow-crowned hair and say, “This has to be a mistake.” It’s what everybody says and now I know why.
“Don’t you think I checked?” Her hands close into fists. “You think I’d come over here to tell you if I didn’t know for sure?”
“I don’t know what you’d do, Sasha.” I squint in her direction. The sky is filled with white as bright as sunshine. “I don’t know you anymore, remember?”
Sasha laughs like she hates me. She turns in the direction of the road and stands there, motionless. She’s prepared to wait, to become some kind of ice princess at the edge of my lawn. Not a nice fairy tale—the pregnant ex-girlfriend—but then I guess most of them aren’t. Not in the beginning anyway. I glance at the dark hair spilling down the back of Sasha’s coat and shiver. My heart stopped beating at the beginning of this conversation.
“So what do you want me to say?” I snap, taking a step back. Sasha laughs again, shakes her head, and stares down my street. What has she done to deserve this, that’s what she’s thinking, no doubt. There’s snow on her lashes, her cheeks are red from the cold, and suddenly I feel like a complete asshole.
“Does anyone else know?”
“Lindsay was there when I took the test.” She swivels to watch me from the corner of her eyes. It’s not safe to look at me yet. She doesn’t know who I’ll be.
“What about your parents?”
Sasha doesn’t laugh this time. Her parents aren’t a joke to either of us. We spent five months arranging meetings behind their backs and coaching Lindsay and Sasha’s other friends on alibis. We never even came close to getting caught. Or so I thought.
So what happened? Okay, I know what happened, but it barely qualified as a mistake. And it was once, that’s all. I reach out and touch Sasha’s arm—she doesn’t pull away. She’s more mature than I am maybe, at the very least she’s had more time to think. “We should’ve gone—” I begin, but Sasha’s way ahead of me.
“I know we should’ve.” Her cheeks hollow out as the cold steals the word from her lips. “I wish we did. It’s too late now.” Our eyes lock. Freeze. Dart away. “Shit!” Sasha exclaims, her eyes on the road.
Mom is motoring up the street towards us, waving, with her extreme happy face fixed firmly in place. If there’s one thing I can’t deal with now, it’s that lame happy holiday face. The real thing is bad enough, but Mom’s imitation sucks any real life out of the holidays and reminds me of a time when they used to mean something besides trying too hard. Or maybe back then I was too impressed by stuff like company Christmas parties where the boss would dress up as a skinny Santa Claus and dole out cheap board games and action figure knockoffs. I mean, I know it wasn’t perfect. I remember the arguments as well as anyone, but I also remember the four of us driving around looking at Christmas lights for weeks beforehand and my parents taking turns bringing my sister, Holland, and me shopping for each other’s presents. Some of that was real. I can feel the difference.
“Sasha, I have to go,” I say. “My dad’s picking me up soon.”
Sasha shoots me an incredulous glare. “This is important.”
“Yeah, I know.” I take a step back as Mom pulls into the drive. “I’ll call you when I get there, okay?”
Sasha doesn’t wait for my mom to get out of the car. She storms off, kicking up snow and folding her arms in front of her. I know that’s a shitty thing to do—just let her go like that—but I can’t help it. Well, I could, but I don’t want to have to try. I keep thinking maybe she’s wrong about the whole thing. Those tests can’t be a hundred percent accurate—nothing is.
Mom opens the car door, ducks down in front of the passenger seat, and emerges with a collection of bags. “Nicholas, give me a hand,” she says, handing me half her stash. That stupid stale smile is stretched across her face so tight she’s practically mummified. “Get the door, please,” she sings, all nursery rhyme–like. I’m glad I’m not going to be here for Christmas, if you want to know the truth. All the pretending gives me a massive headache, but whenever Holland or I decide to stop, Mom withdraws into a catatonic state.
From the Hardcover edition.