Book Review # 54: Trouble by Non Pratt

Thursday, 23 July 2015
Title: Trouble
Author: Non Pratt
Publisher: Walker Books UK
Format: Paperback
Publication Date: March 6th 2014
Pages: 384

Source: Bought
PurchaseThe Book Depository / Waterstones

In this dazzling debut novel, a pregnant teen learns the meaning of friendship—from the boy who pretends to be her baby’s father.

When the entire high school finds out that Hannah Shepard is pregnant via her ex-best friend, she has a full-on meltdown in her backyard. The one witness (besides the rest of the world): Aaron Tyler, a transfer student and the only boy who doesn’t seem to want to get into Hannah’s pants. Confused and scared, Hannah needs someone to be on her side. Wishing to make up for his own past mistakes, Aaron does the unthinkable and offers to pretend to be the father of Hannah’s unborn baby. Even more unbelievable, Hannah hears herself saying “yes.”

Told in alternating perspectives between Hannah and Aaron, Trouble is the story of two teenagers helping each other to move forward in the wake of tragedy and devastating choices. As you read about their year of loss, regret, and hope, you’ll remember your first, real best friend—and how they were like a first love.

Trouble is the second book of Non Pratt's that I've read and also her debut, and I have to say I have never been disappointed with her work. Similar to Remix, I adored Trouble. It was a heart-touching novel that tackles strong themes, and did so perfectly. Non openly admits to not beating about the bush, she targets her audience and writes the books she wanted to read when she was younger and makes sure to keep in all of the nitty gritty. That's what I loved about Trouble. The author was never afraid to delve into themes and openly explain everything in detail. It worked really well. So in more depth, what did I think of it?

Trouble tells the story of teenage pregnancy, but this is no Juno retelling. Trouble identifies with so many other themes in this novel that it's difficult to keep track, but the one that I identified the most with and greatly appreciated with the subject of loss, grief and the mental side effects that come along with it. This novel is focused on Hannah and the issue she has with being 15 and pregnant, especially with who the father is, but take a closer look into Aaron's tragedy and so much more is unveiled that really creates an impact on both characters and reader. As mentioned before, Non is no prude, she will openly discuss sex and death in a way that teenagers of today need and expect to hear it in. It's really refreshing to read about due to the intriguing way that Non tells her tale. Whilst the novel was overall very engaging and the plot was sound, I did find myself detecting all of the little hints that led up to the reveal of the baby's father. I did guess it which I figure spoils the overall impact that Non expected to have, but while I didn't have the shock factor, I found myself pleasantly surprised at the integration of all of the clues in Non's story. It's difficult to include things without being blatantly obvious and Non tackled this well. This novel is split into dual points of view from both Hannah and Aaron and what I applaud Non on the most was the authentic voices of her teenage characters. Both Hannah and Aaron's voices really reach out to the reader, drawing them into the scenario and making them really sympathise with the characters, even if they haven't been through such drastic events themselves. 

As for the characters in this novel, there is no surprise that LGBT characters feature in the plot. In Remix we're introduced to Ruby's older brother Lee and his boyfriend Owen and in Trouble we're introduced to Gideon. Gideon in this novel was such a refreshing comic relief to read about. Although he hit every cliche and stereotype associated with gay people, I loved the general acceptance and nobody really batting an eyelid in regards to it. We need more of this in YA fiction. 

In the beginning of the novel I was debating whether I was going to enjoy Hannah's character. Up front she's depicted as a 15 year old teenager who is beginning to transition into understanding just how much power she can hold from controlling who she is as a woman. Right from the very first page we as a reader are made to understand that Hannah is a character who controls her persona through the use of sex. I enjoyed her quick witted attitude towards her situations but as we progressed through the story I was beginning to hope for a bit more than just a sex-powered manipulator. It is only when we're introduced to her reactions with Aaron that her vulnerabilities are put on the table and exposed. It's also then we learn that she's pregnant and the emotive development I was hoping for in her character began to unravel in front of me. I really enjoyed that about her character. She was an important and powerful character transitioning into understanding on the outside but once the shell cracked on her surface all of the insecurities began to unfold. In regards to Aaron's character, even reading from his first few POV chapters I knew that I was going to enjoy him. His character is very double-sided in terms of his persona and I really liked the element of mystery that his character brought about. In contrast to Hannah who is wild and who's emotions are brought to the surface so rapidly, Aaron's character is very relaxed and controlled. Each individual thought in his head is analysed over and over and I greatly appreciated this gradual process to his character. His character is also very flawed in regards to his upfront persona, it's only as we progress through the story we're given snippets into his life and it's not until the last quarter of the story that we fully understand his tragic history. I really enjoyed reading about Aaron's character, to really gain an insight into how he was managing to cope through his urgency to help others when he won't accept the help himself. 

However what really impressed me in this novel was the genuine care and empowerment that Non wrote in her adult characters in this novel, more specifically to their caring mechanisms.I don't want to limit this to parental figures because I think that Neville's character played such an important role in the progression of Aaron's character in contrast to his father. This novel takes a very refreshing light on these important figures in Aaron and Hannah's lives, expressing the very blunt reality of the reactions some of the parents' have and then weaving it with genuine care. I this this relates very strongly to Aaron's father and Hannah's mother, especially when it's announced that Hannah is pregnant and that Aaron is the (temporary) father. What was nice to see was the dramatic and realistic way that the parents handled the news and I found this to be a stunning feature in Non's book. Usually I see a topic handled and the parents either completely over exaggerate the situation or they try to show emotion and it just fails miserably. My favourite character in the novel had to be Neville. I loved how raw his character was and how sarcastic he could be in his dialogue with Aaron. He was amazing and I literally wept when we learnt of his death and the effect it had on Aaron. 

So overall Trouble was a very striking and influential book that balances so many important topics that need discussing. The novel really speaks out to it's reader and it's very clear to see why it was a nominee for the YA Book Prize. Non captures the teenage experience so vividly and creates such contrasting characters that work so well together in this story. By capturing the brutal reality in each of her character's lives, it was exciting to see the 'heart on the sleeve' approach to their reactions. I award Trouble by Non Pratt 4 out of 5 stars on my classification scale, a truly inspiring novel that any reader is bound to sympathise with in some way.

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