If you’re not new to this site, you’re probably aware that I took a less than conventional path to parenting – having stepped in to help raise my niblings after the death of their mom. So I’m no stranger to the complete panic of finding yourself responsible for the complete care & well-being of tiny humans. But I was a grown woman by the time I had to assume this overwhelming responsibility, and Benjamin Morrison, the main character of Unexpecting by Jen Bailey, is just starting his junior year of high school when he finds out his best friend (and summertime experimental hook-up partner) Maxie, is pregnant with his baby. And faces his own panic about the situation.
Maxie’s parents want her to give the baby up for adoption, and have sent her to school with papers for Bennie to sign, to say he agrees to giving up his rights to the baby as well. Only, once confronted with the papers, he finds that he just… can’t. So he spends the whole of the book deciding what he can do, instead. Along the way, there’s a lot of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, teenagers being teenagers, parents (both soon to be and experienced) being clueless, wisdom from unexpected places, & an answer that was in front of them all the whole time.
For the first time since Maxie told me about the pregnancy, I’m scared. Not about what people will think of me, or what Mom wants me to do, or about the changes I have to make. No, I’m not scared about how this affects me. No, I’m afraid for the baby. I’m scared that I won’t be enough. I’m scared that I’ll mess something up and the baby—my baby—will be hurt by it. This baby is not a theory or a concept anymore. It’s a baby, a tiny human baby, with a heartbeat and toes and veins. This might be the realest thing to happen to me, and I don’t know what the hell to think about any of it.
To be honest, Unexpected is kind of a mixed bag for me: It’s not exactly treading new ground – teenagers having a surprise baby, not understanding exactly what that will entail for their lives if they decide to keep the baby, how just the fact of getting pregnant changes every single relationship in their lives immediately – but it also is. Because I’ve never read any of that from the expecting dad’s point of view, and I’ve certainly never read ‘expecting teenage dad who wants to keep the baby, and also is gay, and also has a crush on his former stepbrother, who just so happens to show up to help him figure his shit out at exactly the right time’ perspective. But that’s what you get here, and it’s done well.
It’s complex and simple, all at the same time.
It’s the same old story, but from a different angle, and I think that’s an angle that teenagers need to read. And Bailey has told it in an enjoyable & accessible way, and I’m so glad YA literature is a place where these kinds of evolving stories are being told.
My copy of this book was provided free for honest review by NetGalley.