Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Papa Don’t Preach

When I was a teenager, Norma Klein wrote Young Adult books featuring savvy New York kids who were about 15 years more sophisticated than anyone I knew. These kids talked like the people in Woody Allen movies, and talked about stuff that the teenagers I knew wouldn’t have said out loud even for the promise of a new Benetton sweater. They talked frankly to each other and their parents about the decision to have sex and, since we’ve firmly established how repressed I happily am, you guys know it was always awkward even to read. I don’t think these super-literate and rational teenagers really existed outside of Norma Klein’s head and I watched enough NYC Prep to confirm that. There’s a veneer of sophistication to these kids, but they still have bad skin and a ladleful of hormone soup to swim through.

I just finished Catherine Greenman’s Hooked and she might have grown up on the same Norma Klein books as I did. Thea falls in love with Will in her junior year of high school and gets pregnant as a senior. They decide to keep the baby and move in together. Sounds simple, right? This book is so foreign to anything I can imagine happening if I had gotten pregnant in high school that it feels like science fiction.

Will’s parents only care that he stay in college. Thea’s mother doesn’t care much about any of it and her usually distant father is the only one who seems to care about Thea or the baby. The parents all kick in money to allow Thea and Will to sub-let an apartment while Will goes to school and Thea stays at home with the baby. An accident happens with the baby (nothing too traumatic, I promise) and all the people drift back apart as if they had never met. It’s a strange story, with some subplots written clearly and movingly and other, more major plot points half-drawn and abandoned before they develop real meaning. I still don’t have any idea whether Greenman meant to portray Thea as a good mother or as a little girl making a grownup mistake.


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