Friday, March 8, 2013

ARC Review: Me, Him, Them, and It by Caela Carter

Publisher:  BloomsburyUSA
Publication Date:  February 26th, 2013

ME is Evelyn Jones, 16, a valedictorian hopeful who's been playing bad girl to piss off THEM, her cold, distant parents. HIM is Todd, Evelyn's secret un-boyfriend, who she thought she was just using for sex - until she accidentally fell in love with him. But before Evelyn gets a chance to tell Todd how she feels, something much more important comes up. IT. IT is a fetus. Evelyn is pregnant - and when Todd turns his back on her, Evelyn has no idea who to turn to. Can a cheating father, a stiff, cold mother, a pissed-off BFF, and a (thankfully!) loving aunt with adopted girls of her own help Evelyn make the heart-wrenching decisions that follow?
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

If I'm going to read and like YA Contemporary, I'm inclined more toward the issue-based type than the romantic type.  There are a lot of "issues" facing teens today, and I like it when they can read about them, and (hopefully) avoid making some of the same mistakes that the characters in the books make.  I'm a sucker for teachable moments, and books like this are full of them.  That being said, I went into Me, Him, Them, and It looking for a dramatic story about teen pregnancy, but I wanted it to have a subtle message too.  Did I get it?  Yes and no.  It wasn't a super dramatic story because the protagonist, Evelyn, was not a dramatic person.  She acted out a lot, hoping to get some kind of rise out of her self-absorbed, disconnected parents, but she was more passive-aggressive about it than she was dramatic...  This story actually takes place more inside of Evelyn's head than out, and it was extremely compelling, even without the drama.  As for the lesson?  Well, it was subtle, and not at all preachy to any side of the debate on whether Evelyn should keep the baby, put it up for adoption, or abort.  The decision was entirely hers, and it took the entire 320 page book for her to work it out.  I liked that.  It made sense that it wasn't an easy decision for her, and the emotional rollercoaster ride she was on was written in a very real, very sincere way.  I think everyone has their own opinion when it comes to the pro-choice/pro-life debate, and I thought Caela Carter did a really good job keeping her personal opinion out of the story.  What I mean when I say this is that I would not be able to guess her stance from reading this book, and I know I would have a difficult time doing that.

Evelyn is a smart, pretty, upper middle class girl who wants to make her parents pay for the ways that she feels they have wronged her.  How does she do this?  She parties, quits track, and starts acting slutty (although Todd is the only one she actually sleeps with).  When Todd ends up getting her pregnant, she really doesn't know where to turn or what to do.  She talks to a counselor at Planned Parenthood, and is given her options, but Evelyn doesn't want to deal with any of it.  She doesn't want to tell her best friend, her parents, or Todd.  She goes through a range of emotions; Denial, anger, indifference, sadness, guilt.  She is unsure what to do or where to turn, and there is only one thing she knows for certain... She just wants it all to be over so that she can go back to living her life the way she was, graduate valedictorian of her class, and go to college.  At the same time, she knows that no matter what her choice, she will be forever changed, and THAT is her biggest struggle.  Aside from the internal struggles about what to do with "It", I also liked how Evelyn observed the changes she was going through physically.  As a parent who wanted her children, I found it interesting to read the account of a girl who had this foreign, unwanted "thing" growing inside her.

Honestly, this book was better than I expected it to be, and I think that has a lot to do with how Caela Carter presented the situation.  I have to wonder if she related on a personal level, because the way the situation was written was so heartbreakingly real.  I think this book would be a great class discussion book for high school students because boys and girls alike would get something from it.  Todd and Evelyn were both changed forever by the situation they found themselves in, and would have been no matter what Evelyn's choice was.  For me, the only part that didn't work was the ending.  It was just a little too clean and easy.  I suppose things could have worked out the way they did, but in the real world, I find it doubtful.  Even so, I think Me, Him, Them, and It was a great read, and one that I would recommend to anyone.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  Obviously, there is some mature content in this book, but I think the benefits of reading it far outweigh any content concerns.  It think this is a great book for students grades 7 and up to read (ages 12+); Even better if they can discuss what they've read with an adult.

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