cover image In Trouble

In Trouble

Ellen Levine. Carolrhoda Lab, $17.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-7613-6558-7

A film noir atmosphere weaves through this unabashedly political novel that addresses issues of abortion and free speech. Levine (Henry’s Freedom Box) evokes nostalgia for an era of multigenerational families living together, Automats, soda fountains, and Bogart films, while emphasizing the power wielded by social taboos. Sixteen-year-old Jamie tells the parallel stories of two teenage pregnancies in McCarthy-era New York City and her father’s recent imprisonment for political activism. In a first-person narrative that focuses on Jamie’s feelings of helplessness and anger, she reports occasional thoughts or memories that frighten her as if writing a screenplay: “Tight close-up on striped shirt with bull’s-eye on back.” When her friend Elaine gets pregnant by her boyfriend, she imagines they will get married, though Elaine’s ashamed Catholic parents have other ideas. Jamie’s pregnancy results from a violent rape; terrified of confiding in her family, she attempts various “remedies,” such as drinking vodka and throwing herself down the stairs. Encouraging historical awareness and personal empowerment, an author’s note compares 1956 attitudes about women and abortion with the present, noting that obtaining a legal abortion has become increasingly difficult. A gripping, relevant read. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)