Over the next ten weeks I will be reading and reviewing the shortlisted books for the inaugural YA Book Prize. I’m thrilled that the diverse and thriving UK YA scene is being celebrated. I’m also thrilled that Non Pratt’s second book, Remix, is coming out this summer!
“A boy. A girl. A bump.” Hannah is fifteen and pregnant. Aaron is the mysterious new boy in school. They barely even hang in the same crowd, so why does Aaron offer to be the pretend dad of Hannah’s unborn baby? Trouble takes the controversial topic of teenage pregnancy as a springboard into an exploration of family, friendship, sex, and growing up.
I love contemporary fiction, but Trouble is so good it should convert even those who don’t: far, far from boring, it’s a compelling and realistic story, with two narrators whose distinct voices are irresistible. From the bright graphic cover, I expected something a lot lighter than what I got. Although certainly very funny, this is a book that grapples with serious issues. Perhaps because it is so realistic, it’s not always a comfortable read. It is, however, so beautifully written that it’s always an easy read.
Aaron deservedly has plenty of fans, despite not being Will Hughes, but I fell in love with Hannah. Hannah makes choices I never would have as a boring, bookish teenager, but she is so canny, and made me laugh out loud. It’s a delight when the girls get to be the funny ones. Trouble is packed full of characters you really could be friends with. Everyone is charming and perfectly pitched. (Okay, there are some exceptions. My reading notes on this book are full of scribbles like “KATIE YOU [EXPLETIVE]!!!”) YA fiction unavoidably deals a lot with family relationships, which can be done clunkily, but Trouble‘s parents (and siblings, and grandparents, and…) are wonderfully drawn – family is a source of real support and love, as well as the expected strife.
Trouble is excellent, gritty and moving and hilarious. If your idea of a good novel is a stretch of time sharing somebody else’s thoughts, I couldn’t recommend it more highly; I came away feeling emotionally drained and immensely fond of some fictional people. The plot putters out a little towards the end, which I found unsatisfying – the ending provided emotional pay off but left some things unresolved. I had many unanswered questions, but some of that comes down to personal taste.
Additionally, it’s not clear whether the identity of the baby’s father is meant to be a big twist. I guessed who it was very early on, and then felt smug, but there was still plenty to enjoy in the dramatic irony of being in on the secret. It’s the waiting for everybody else to catch up that’s the real fun. It just adds another layer to this smart, sharp, absorbing story. As I said before the jump, I’m really looking forward to Pratt’s second novel – I can’t wait to see how she’s developed her considerable talents.