In Trouble

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Jamie and Elaine have been best friends forever, and now they're finally juniors in high school. Elaine has a steady boyfriend, and Jamie could have one—if she'd just open her eyes and see Paul. But Jamie has a bigger problem to worry about. Then Elaine gets "in trouble"—something they thought only happened to "other" girls. Are there any good choices for a girl in trouble? In Trouble is a novel born of author Ellen Levine's interviews with women who came of age in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including those ...

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In Trouble

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Jamie and Elaine have been best friends forever, and now they're finally juniors in high school. Elaine has a steady boyfriend, and Jamie could have one—if she'd just open her eyes and see Paul. But Jamie has a bigger problem to worry about. Then Elaine gets "in trouble"—something they thought only happened to "other" girls. Are there any good choices for a girl in trouble? In Trouble is a novel born of author Ellen Levine's interviews with women who came of age in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including those who knew what it was like to be a teen facing a horrible choice. In the decades before Roe v. Wade, a young woman "in trouble" had very few options—and all of them meant shame, isolation, and maybe much worse. Jamie and Elaine's stories are just two among the thousands of stories of teenagers facing unplanned pregnancies.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A film noir atmosphere weaves through this unabashedly political novel that addresses issues of abortion and free speech. Levine (Henry’s Freedom Box) evokes nostalgia for an era of multigenerational families living together, Automats, soda fountains, and Bogart films, while emphasizing the power wielded by social taboos. Sixteen-year-old Jamie tells the parallel stories of two teenage pregnancies in McCarthy-era New York City and her father’s recent imprisonment for political activism. In a first-person narrative that focuses on Jamie’s feelings of helplessness and anger, she reports occasional thoughts or memories that frighten her as if writing a screenplay: “Tight close-up on striped shirt with bull’s-eye on back.” When her friend Elaine gets pregnant by her boyfriend, she imagines they will get married, though Elaine’s ashamed Catholic parents have other ideas. Jamie’s pregnancy results from a violent rape; terrified of confiding in her family, she attempts various “remedies,” such as drinking vodka and throwing herself down the stairs. Encouraging historical awareness and personal empowerment, an author’s note compares 1956 attitudes about women and abortion with the present, noting that obtaining a legal abortion has become increasingly difficult. A gripping, relevant read. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—It is difficult today to imagine a time when a pregnant teen would be considered a pariah. But in 1956, that was the case. Jamie and Elaine are high school juniors with plans to attend college. Both find themselves pregnant; Elaine by her college boyfriend, and Jamie as a result of a date rape. Elaine is Catholic; even if abortion were legal, she would not have one. Her parents decide that she will go to a Catholic home, have the baby, and give it up for adoption. Elaine wants to keep her baby and is sure that her boyfriend will stop ignoring her and marry her. Jamie does not share her friend's optimism. So involved is she in trying to help Elaine consider other options and in dealing with her father's return to his family after being imprisoned for several years for his political views that it takes from March, when the story begins, too late May for her to realize that she, also, is pregnant, but she is able to use contacts that allow her to have an abortion. In contrast to its subject matter, which is based on interviews with numerous women who were pregnant teens in the 1950s, the novel has an innocence that illustrates but does not scrutinize the dangers of trying to end a pregnancy during that time. The author's notes and acknowledgments draw together the past and present, making the book a good choice for required reading in sociology or advanced American history classes. In Trouble should be available in every library serving young adults.—Suanne Roush, Osceola High School, Seminole, FL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781467751780
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/28/2014
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 999,801
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Ellen Levine is the author of many books, including Henry's Freedom Box, a Caldecott Honor book, and Darkness Over Denmark, which was a National Jewish Book Award finalist and was awarded the Trudi Birger Jerusalem International Book Fair Prize. Her book Freedom's Children won the Jane Addams book award and was named one of the Ten Best Children's Books of the Year by the New York Times. Levine is a woodcarver and a lapsed civil-rights lawyer, and she taught at Vermont College's Master of Fine Art in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2011

    This is a stunning portrayal of how society and young women dealt with unwanted pregnancies in the 1950s ...

    Georgina had taken over Elaine's best friend status with Jamie since she'd moved away a year ago, but they were still really close. Stevie, Jaime's pain-in-the-neck little brother handed her a letter. It was an urgent request from Elaine Reilly telling her to call. It had to be about that college boyfriend of hers, Neil. It was and she wanted Jamie to call her. Elaine wanted to sneak off with him again and needed Jamie to lie for her and claim she was staying at her house. Lie, lies, and more lies. Jamie could understand why she was lying to her parents, but couldn't understand why on earth Elaine was in love with Neil. It all spelled trouble with a capital T. Sometimes life seemed to constantly filled with high drama and Jamie's was no exception.

    Jamie's father, Pete Morse, used to teach math, but he'd recently gotten home after a stint in prison. McCarthy had "labeled him a Communist," and when the news first came out in the "New York Times" Jamie wanted to hide under a rock. It was 1956 and hopefully things would be easier this year than the last. No more Contempt of Congress, just being a sixteen-year-old dreaming of her future would suffice. The girls talked about "it" at school. Carol said her sister told her "that they pull out." Everyone said there were loose girls and Kay said that "Herbie says the boys know who the easy girls are, but he won't say who." Jamie was worried because Elaine wasn't that kind of girl, but she was obsessed with Neil. When they talked about it at the Automat in Manhattan, Elaine was talking love and marriage, not reality. Neil was a loser.

    Jamie was much too interested in working on the school newspaper to bother with boys, but maybe someday. Paul, the editor of the paper did like her, but he was just a friend. Her father pretty much looked like he used to, but something was "different in his eyes." Grandma would poke her hairpins in her hair when she got upset, but fortunately she'd been calm lately and her mother, Rachel, was laid back. On the other hand, Elaine's mother was a "Kotex-counter" and her father was always on an "Elaine-stakeout." Things were getting much more intense because the Reilly's were reining in their daughter. No way was she loose or a slut or anything like that. She was going to marry her college guy. It wasn't long before Jamie heard desperation on the other end of the phone. "It's not regular putting-on-weight, I think I'm pregnant." What could Jamie do to help her? Did anyone know what to do? What would happen to the next girl whose skirt became a little to tight to zip up?

    This is a stunning portrayal of how society and young women dealt with unwanted pregnancies in the 1950s. Initially I was at a loss as to whether or not I'd even like the book, let alone the intended young adult audience would. Ellen Levine, discusses why she feels the topic is relevant to today's teenager in the author's note and I immediately understood the connection. The desperation of the young women became more intense and dramatic as the tension of the situation heightened. Each character in the book is an actual portrayal of a teenager Levine interviewed during the era who actually experienced an event or events in the book. The shock of what happened to girls who unwittingly found that their skirts were becoming too tight will be an eye-opener to the YA reader, even though the 1950s are akin to the

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  • Posted September 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great book

    This is a great book about getting "in trouble". I remember the days were times were like this. My mom freak out one time cause when I was in eighth grade back in 1998-99 school year, a girl in my class got pregnant. My mom flipped out, questioning me about "boys." Granted, my mom was only doing what she felt she needed to be done. But back then, teen pregnancies were not that common. And getting "in trouble" was wrong.

    I will say that I really enjoyed this book. I think the author did a wonderful job on capturing the essence of the time period and what it was like for a young girl to get in trouble like that. This book reminded me of the movie Riding in Cars with Boys, but with slightly more drama. This book deals with the issues of abortion, adoption, and of course keeping the baby. I love that the author gave different point of views in dealing with getting in trouble.

    I think that this book can be very controversial. I know for every girl it is a different situation.Some are forced into it, while others have no other choice. And just like this book, each girl has to do what is right for her.

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  • Posted August 20, 2011

    A Very Powerful Novel

    Lerner Publishing Group has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its recent release, and I must say I really enjoyed this novel. I know it's been getting very mixed reviews, but I absolutely loved the narrative style Levine uses to tell the story of two girls facing a terrible choice. It's not the most happy topic in the world, this is true, but this novel is very well written and explains what life was like in the 1960s. The story is told through the voice of Jamie as she struggles to come to terms with not only her father's political imprisonment, but also with something devastating that happened to her (no spoilers). This first person narrative explains her thoughts and feelings about her father, her friend's predicament, and love in general, all the while interspersing the narrative with Jamie's personal demons coming to the forefront as she tries to push them back. Hence, she'll be in the middle of explaining something to the reader and will suddenly veer off with a thought that pops into her head, very quickly coming back to the original topic at hand. While I can see how some readers may be annoyed by this tactic, I found that it really helped show Jamie's psyche, especially as she deals with the trauma of having a father accused of communism, and a secret that haunts her. She is a very devastated being, closing in on herself, allowing her secret to tear her soul apart. She stops herself from giving the advice, and saying the things she needs, and wants, to say to her pregnant friend all because she has lost the ability to stand strong. This is a very powerful novel and I recommend it to all ages. Four stars.

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