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":
to work overtime
for the rest
of your life
to pay for
all the stuff,
still won’t be
me and the
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.