Okay, okay, 16 and Pregnant & Teen Mom = fish, barrel. However, as fun as it is (GUILTY PLEASURE), today's post is about something similar but different: The Pregnancy Project. I liked The Pregnancy Project at first, but it kept slipping down my star-chart from three stars (okay) to two (um, alrighty then) down to one (whatisithis). In The Pregnancy Project, Gaby Rodriguez and her ghostwriter Jenna Glatzer tell the story of how Rodriguez faked a pregnancy for her senior project as a social experiment. AKA, in a nutshell, she trolls her school.
SOME POINTS AND STUFF:
1. The entire first half of this book is backstory that could and should have been seriously edited down. For example, the whole Quinceañera chapter could go.
Pages 1-95 : backstory.
Pages 96-163 the project (in full).
Pages 164-218 her foray into mass media when her project went viral, and how she'll spend her royalty money (but she didn't do this for the money!) (the lady doth protest too much, methinks). The royalty money bits really scream immature author and lazy editor. Just because you got paid a lot of money for this doesn't mean you tell your readers that in the final chapter, crowing over the new car you want to buy. Just, no. Everyone knows royalties are a part of publishing, but yikes. Also, including random anonymous internet comments from people who criticized you and then saying "Uh....yeah, right" as a response in your book just solidifies the image of you trollin'.
2. Rodriguez visits Planned Parenthood and immediately feels qualified to judge their statistical data that they present without providing anything to back her claim. Visiting PP had a lot of potential, but she scurries right out of there, losing an opportunity to talk more about the issues she seems concerned about (teen pregnancy etc). Funnily, Rodriguez herself presents no data to back up her own claims throughout the book (note the quote at the end of this post, holy cow girl).
3. The book is pretty much what you'd expect a book written by a high-schooler to be like. It's to-the-point and the ghost-writing didn't help all that much. Had Rodriguez been a more experienced sociologist and researcher this might have been a deeper story, but as it is, it's straightforward and full of family stuff that is unnecessary. (See point one.) And while there are TONS of random bits of family history, when it comes to the actual project, we get six quotes of gossip that she overheard that she presents in her final project, one or two short notes about family reactions, and mostly not much else. I wanted drama! I wanted tearful conversations about how she's ruining her life! I wanted parental meetings and the whole shebang! In the end when it's revealed she was faking it, we just get a one-sentence note about her boyfriend's parents saying good, glad you guys get to go to college after all.
4. This reads like a glorified school project. Which, well, it pretty much is. I would have liked to see Rodriguez delve into more research on the topic (and there are definitely scholarly works out there!). But that would have required more experience. I almost want to say that she should have drafted this, then waited until after a first year of college or so to publish it after finding a sociology mentor/someone who could guide her into making it more than just a high school presentation.
5. The part of the book that actually details the project is very skimpy on the details. Since she relied on her friend to channel gossip back to her, there's very little meat to the story beyond 'I felt bad that people were staring' and 'People were MEAN and judged me!' Then it gets a little preachy saying that it's mean to be judgmental and teen moms need support (true, but simplistic) and that people shouldn't tell the teen dad how horrible it's going to be 100% of the time (true, but simplistic again). There are a lot of statements she makes based off of her meager observations that she extends to the greater population and I'm not sure that's the best scientific approach. There's very little about the project itself and a whole lot of family background and feeeeeeelings -- I was expecting much more about the project and less about her siblings. In other words, high school level work. I'm sure the publication of this book will ensure her acceptance to many colleges after she finishes her first year at the one she was already accepted at, and that's great. Hopefully she'll be able to hone her project and writing skills to produce better work later.
For a high school reader, I'd give it two stars. For an adult reader, I give it one and a half, maybe. It's YA nonfiction and should be viewed as such, and not as totally scientific.
SOME QUOTES AND STUFF:
"There was one morning in March before school that I'm not proud of, when I snapped at my mom. My fake belly was not behaving anymore, and she was trying and trying to fix it so the wires wouldn't stick into me and the clay would stay put, but I was running late to class and had to go.
'Just leave it!' I yelled. 'Forget it!'
Then I got into an argument with Jorge, and I just got mad at God for letting this be so hard. 'Where are you?' I prayed. "I don't want to go through this anymore. You're supposed to ease my burdens when it's too much to take. Well, it's too much to take now! I'm tired of feeling like this.'"
Yes, your self-selected "social experiment" high school project is so hard that it's causing you to have a crisis of faith. That's all we get on that though. It's like she wanted some angst, so tossed it in there. Keep in mind, she wasn't actually pregnant, and never had to go through the emotional turmoil of finding financial support and making those types of plans. Perspective, girl. Perspective. Granted, she does mention that she needed to gain some perspective, but it ultimately comes across as more whiny when the page space could have been used to document the project more extensively. How did she tell her boyfriend's parents, for example? We don't even get that.
"If the mom feels depressed and unsupported, how is she going to do a good job taking care of her baby? Depressed moms don't take care of themselves, let alone their kids. They end up resenting their kids and often not bonding with them, which means the kids don't feel safe and loved."
That's a pretty big generalization there, one that I think a LOT of people who are parents who struggle with depression would balk at. Having depression does not mean you're not a good parent, or your kids are resented and unloved, and the fact that this is in the book with no supporting data/references again shows the lack of editorial oversight. Gaby can be forgiven -- but the ghostwriter and the editor should really have gone through to take a look at Gaby's statements. Rodriguez isn't a child psychologist or attachment parenting or medical expert. Like, at all. Geez louise.