I love a good book, but I also love babies, so when I came across a book billing itself as an abortion road-trip story, I was intrigued. I’m pro-life, but I’m also a compassionate person, and I’m of the camp of not shaming/harassing women who choose abortion because they think it’s their only option. So I wanted to review Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan.
While this is a book about abortion that clearly comes from a pro-choice stance, it also puts a lot of issues into the book that make it clear this situation is not what leads to most abortions. Veronica Clarke’s choice to have an abortion comes from a place that many people will view sympathetically. I won’t include too many spoilers here, but it’s not just a “I was a silly teen who didn’t use protection” situation. That being said, this book goes a little CRAZY and becomes about a lot more than abortion, which I think it knew was the only way to get away with it.
Veronica is an Ivy-league bound overachiever with a boyfriend a lot of people envy and she’s in line to be valedictorian if she plays her cards right. But instead of spending a long weekend cramming for finals with her friends, she’s on a thousand-mile road trip from Missouri to New Mexico to get an abortion. The necessity of this road trip comes from the recent political coverage we’ve seen about clinics shutting down, leaving many people to cross state lines to find a clinic that will perform an abortion without parental permission. And Veronica doesn’t have parental permission, because she comes from a good Christian family and all that jazz.
So begins a road trip with Veronica’s former BFF turned school outcast Bailey, who likes to cause trouble and keeps Veronica on her toes. Along the way, there’s crazy antics, snack breaks, everything going wrong that could go wrong, and strippers, but eventually, and this isn’t a spoiler, Veronica has her abortion.
Now that you know the plot, let’s talk about how the plot wasn’t REALLY about abortion. It was about friendship and overcoming your own assumptions about others. Yes, the roadtrip is to an abortion clinic, but that the end of the day, that’s just a sliver of this book. What really intrigued me is how this book bills itself as an abortion book but takes care to make sure that the audience symathizes with Veronica as much as possible. They made her boyfriend a total tool, someone who is not setting her up for success. They make her future as bright as possible–an Ivy League school, as if girls going to state schools don’t also face the same issues. And the road trip is a bit insane. Yes, the usual antics, but there’s car theft and a cow chase and strippers and crazy protestors and things that really eclipse the abortion.Veronica also accepts it as a given that she will have an abortion, and is far more concerned with the impact it will have on her status as valedictorian and with her friends than the affect it will have on her. No one truly talks to Veronica about her decision or offers her other options, and that’s a bit concerning.
At the end of the day, this book sets itself up to be about abortion, but it doesn’t truly open a dialogue about abortion to a larger audience. Veronica’s case is very specific, and her situation is not what happens to lead most women to an abortion clinic. Furthermore, while the abortion is the end game of this novel, it becomes far more about friendship and assumptions we make about others than about the act of abortion. This book, to me, shows there is still a long way to go in representing abortion in young adult fiction and this book isn’t the answer. We need to truly grapple with what it means to get an abortion as a teenager and all that factors that go into that and not turn it into a wrecking-ball style road trip comedy that eschews the serious decision teenagers staring at a positive pregnancy test have to make in the real world.