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“How am I going to know what to do when my baby starts crying? I have no idea what to do with a baby,” Kaelynn. –Expecting
by Shannon Freeman
Diverse Characters, Good for Reluctant Readers
Kaelynn, Yessenia, and Lyric are three very different teenagers. Kaelynn is a country girl who wants to prove that she isn’t like her mother. Yessenia is a rebel who occasionally commits heists with her friends. Lyric is a popular girl who stays out of trouble. But despite their differences, they have one thing in common: they all attend a program for pregnant teens.
While at the program, the girls deal with the struggles of pregnancy, as well as their own personal hardships. Kaelynn’s mother is addicted to drugs like “coke, meth, and crack,” and Kaelynn lives with her grandmother, who she fights with. Eventually, Kaelynn leaves home and moves in with the father of her child – an older man she met at a party.
Meanwhile, Yessenia does not feel safe being in the same house as her lecherous stepfather, so she lives with her boyfriend’s family instead. But when she catches her boyfriend kissing another girl, she is left homeless. Kaelynn helps her find another home as the story progresses.
Unlike the other girls, Lyric has a seemingly idyllic life. She lives with her mother and has a doting boyfriend who her family adores. But after she gets pregnant, her “doting” boyfriend disappears entirely, leaving her scared and alone. Together, the girls learn to navigate their hurdles and find solace in an unlikely friendship.
A major theme in Expecting is dealing with hardship. Each of the girls is dealing with stressful pregnancies as well as issues unique to them. Although initially skeptical of each other, the three girls grow close and help each other get through their respective issues. Their comradery is especially important in light of their peers’ reactions to their pregnancy. At one point, Lyric remarks on how isolating being a pregnant teen is: “Yeah, you know being pregnant is kind of lonely. My friends call to check on me. They don’t ask me to hang out with them or call to talk about what happened at school.” The novel’s answer to these struggles is friendship, and the three friends learn to lean on each other in order to get through difficult times.
Freemen attempts to reach teens who may be going through some of the same struggles portrayed in Expecting. Readers who are experiencing teen pregnancy, drug addiction, homelessness, or even just a cheating boyfriend may find aspects of the story relatable. However, the girls’ stories feel rushed. At only 99 pages, Expecting is an easy sell for reluctant readers, but it often sacrifices believable character development. That said, the simple writing style and easy vocabulary make Expecting accessible to all readers. Ultimately, Expecting is a simple but highly readable story about issues that many teens find relatable. Occasionally punctuated by informative facts about pregnancy, teens in a similar situation may find the story helpful.
- While at a friend’s house, Kaelynn flirts with a man. Later that night, she kisses him at a baseball field and it is implied that they have sex. Kaelynn continues a relationship with the man. At several points in the story, she kisses him.
- While staring down at a positive pregnancy test, Yessenia recalls that she was reluctant to have sex with her boyfriend, but that she gave in anyway because he said he had “needs.”
- Lyric expresses concern about looking “slutty.”
- Despite being hesitant to lose her virginity, Lyric agrees to have sex with her boyfriend because he “told her that he loved her.”
- Yessenia’s stepfather tells Yessenia that pregnancy “looks good on” her and that she’s “growing in all the right places.” Both Yessenia and Kaelynn are disgusted by this comment.
- Yessenia acts as a getaway driver while her friends rob a store. Once everyone has reentered the car, a man from the store “point[s] a gun directly at the car’s tires” and attempts to shoot them out. Yessenia swerves to avoid the gunshots.
- When Yessenia sees her boyfriend kissing another girl, she “punche[s] him in the mouth.” The other girl pulls a gun on Yessenia, but Yessenia “slap[s] her as hard as she [can] across the face.”
- When Lyric’s boyfriend found out she was pregnant, he abandons her. Later, she “slap[s]” her ex-boyfriend “across the face.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- At a party, a group of mostly adults drink beers and pass a blunt around.
- Kaelynn asks a man if he wants to smoke a cigarette with her.
- Kaelynn insists that she is not like her mother, who does hard drugs such as coke, meth, and crack.
- Yessenia joins her friends in a car they are “hotboxing,” a term for smoking weed in a vehicle.
- Yessenia drinks a mixture of tequila and Sprite.
- When Kaelynn asks Yessenia what drugs she’s done, Yessenia says that she has “tried just about everything.”
- Yessenia buys weed while pregnant.
- Kaelynn’s grandmother takes Xanax “to calm her nerves.”
- Doctors find marijuana in Yessenia’s urine samples, and she is forced to enter a rehab facility in order to keep her baby.
- Kaelynn’s grandmother tells her to “get [her] ass in here.”
- Kaelynn calls her grandmother an “old bat.”
- A girl calls Yessenia a “homeless skank.”
- Lyric is described as the type of girl whose “family went to church on Sunday.”
- Kaelynn jokes that Lyric had “an immaculate conception.” Yessenia replies, “Yeah, right. She’s not the Virgin Mary.”