Hannah Sheppard is fifteen, and living life to the fullest – parties, boys, and hanging out with her best friend Katie. Then she finds out that she’s pregnant, and everything changes. She knows who the father is, but she can’t tell anyone, so rumours run amok, and Hannah’s reputation and relationships suffer greatly.
Enter Aaron Tyler, who’s transferred into Hannah’s school late in the year for reasons he won’t talk about, and is feeling disconnected from his new schoolmates, but nevertheless feels the need to help Hannah. So he offers to be her baby’s pretend father.
Trouble was published in 2014, and is Non Pratt’s debut novel.
This book has several significant themes – family, grief, bullying, sex and pregnancy (of course), and growing up – but at its heart, it’s really a story about friendship, and I think that that makes it incredibly relatable. All the themes are handled really well, and very realistically.
The pacing is perfect, and the twin mysteries of the real father of Hannah’s baby, and of the reason for Aaron’s transfer are both engrossing (though I was very late to catch on to the answer to that first puzzle 😳 ), even though they’re not the main focus of the story.
Hannah is an interesting character, and although she’s not immediately particularly likeable, she definitely grew on me. Her main interests seem to be boys and sex, so she’s garnered something of a reputation as a “bicycle”, but she’s also surprisingly mature for her age, and handles her unexpected pregnancy really well. As the story went on, her character developed a lot, and it was really wonderful to watch her grow.
Aaron is more withdrawn, and for the most part tries to keep to himself, despite his parents pushing him to try to make new friends. A mysterious incident at his last school led him to transfer halfway through the school year, and he is constantly trying to make up for his role in it, which is a big part of the reason why he volunteers at the old people’s home, and why he decides to help Hannah. It’s a little self-serving, but over the course of the book, we begin to see that he’s actually very kind and dependable.
There are several supporting characters as well, including Anj, Gideon, Marcy, Rex and Tyrone (amongst others), but the most important were probably Jay (Hannah’s stepbrother), Katie (her best friend), and Neville (the man Aaron goes to visit at the old people’s home). Katie made a thoroughly nasty antagonist, and Hannah’s disappointment and frustration with Jay came across perfectly. As for Neville, he was surprisingly (I’ve been using that word quite a lot!) likeable, and he made an excellent counterpoint to Aaron’s gloominess.
And as a final note: I loved their parents (especially Aaron’s). Best fictional parents ever.
This book is full of relationships (and note that it’s relationships, and not romances, though it could easily have been a romantic novel), and the most significant of these are as follows: Hannah and Aaron; Aaron and Neville; and Hannah and Katie.
Aaron and Hannah start off as acquaintances, and are basically involved in a business arrangement – Aaron pretends to be the baby’s father, and in return he gets to feel like he’s doing some good in the world (which is very important to him). But as they get to know each other, they become very close friends, and their growing friendship was one of my favourite things about the story.
Hannah and Katie, in contrast, start out as best friends – though even from the beginning, their relationship seems oddly contentious, as if they don’t quite fit together – but when Katie betrays Hannah’s secrets in order to climb the popularity ladder, their relationship becomes understandably chilly, and Hannah spends a lot of time in the book trying to come to terms with their broken friendship.
Lastly, there’s Aaron and Neville, a cantankerous old man who is essentially Aaron’s closest friend for most of the book. He’s the one who Aaron goes to when he wants to avoid the world, but Neville is also the one who manages to get Aaron to finally open up about his past.
The writing was excellent throughout the novel: It was incredibly absorbing, and both Aaron and Hannah’s voices were very distinctive. The book doesn’t take itself too seriously, which was also nice, and all the humour was really well-placed.
The only real potential flaw with it was that the perspective jumped around quite quickly, which some people might find irritating, but I felt that it actually enhanced the reading experience, as it allowed the mysteries of Aaron and Hannah’s pasts to be drawn out a little longer – whenever they came close to talking about it (which was quite a few times), it would suddenly switch to the other perspective, so that we wouldn’t get any potentially spoiler-y inner monologues.
OVERALL IMPRESSION [5/5]
A surprisingly insightful and touching story about finding true friendship in hard times, that was excellently written, with amazing character and relationship development. An incredibly enjoyable book.
Fans of Sarah Dessen’s books, particularly Just Listen and Lock & Key. And I feel like people who liked Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, or A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz would probably enjoy this, too.