Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Verse Novel: Planet Pregnancy

If you’re looking for a novel-in-verse spin on the “Juno” story, you might try Planet Pregnancy by Linda Oatman High, the story of an unexpected teen pregnancy from the point of view of the “unwed mother” in a voice and language that reflect teenspeak and adolescent angst.

Unfortunately, our protagonist, Sahara, lives in a conservative Texas town WITHOUT a sympathetic boyfriend—or many friends at all. She feels alone and scared, but ends up with her mom in her corner and a determination to raise her new daughter, Grace, on her own. Her wry sense of humor is reflected in the honest point of view, beginning with the section subheadings themselves:

Trimester One; Nice Girls Keep Their Legs Together
Trimester Two: The Great Date Rape

Trimester Three: Forever Is Ahead

The text runs quickly in short, narrow columns of poems that stream into each other. A sporadic rhyme scheme suggests a sense of rap or conversational rhythm. Small gray orbs punctuate the poems periodically to change the story direction or tone. Tiny patterns emerge, giving the poem structure (sometimes short, staccato lines) or impact. For example, for 10 pages (from pages 114-124), many of the “stanzas” begin with the words, “You need,” hammering the concerns and anxieties Sahara feels as she prepares for her baby’s arrival. Here’s the concluding bar of "Trimester Two":

You need
to work overtime

for the rest
of your life

to pay for

all the stuff,

but it

still won’t be

How will

I survive
and keep

me and the
kid alive?

High, Linda Oatman. 2008. Planet Pregnancy. Asheville, NC: Front Street, pp. 114-124.

For teen readers, this is a very accessible, fast-moving story that could lead to an interesting discussion comparing the book with the movie, Juno [teen pregnancy, body image, boyfriends, babies, expectations]. And dig that crazy cover which is so subtle I didn’t even get the pregnant silhouette at first. Follow up with Virginia Euwer Wolff’s Make Lemonade, Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, or even Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, for parallel stories, characters, and conflicts.

For more Poetry Friday nuggets, go to Big A little a.



Anonymous said...

This one's still in my TBR pile. Your great review makes me wish I could move it up, but I've got some books I simply MUST read for deadlines first.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Boy, I understand that completely! This one will read FAST once you get to it. Yours in poetry!

Crystal Guliford said...

Interesting...I was surfing, doing a bit of research on verse novels, and stumbled upon your blog...

The subject matter jumped out at me..(date rape?) but it has sparked my curiousity...

Sylvia Vardell said...

It's quite compelling and worth a look!