‘Trouble’ (Non Pratt)

‘Trouble’ is the story of Hannah, a rebellious 15 year old who is brought down to earth when she realises she’s pregnant. She’s got a bit of a reputation, and most people assume she doesn’t know who the father is. Actually, they start a humiliating facebook group to guess who the father is. Hannah knows exactly who the father is, but she’s not telling and he’s not interested.

‘Trouble’ is also the story of Aaron Tyler, the new boy at school. He’s running from something in his past, and desperate just to fit in at his new school, make friends and seem normal. But instead of sticking with that, he decides to step up and be Hannah’s fake baby daddy. He sees something more in Hannah than every other boy does, and just wants to help her.

The story itself is beautiful plotted, with the slow reveal of the real father of Hannah’s baby and Aaron’s past paced perfectly. I’ll admit, I gasped out loud and got stared at on the bus when Hannah finally revealed who the father was. I didn’t see it coming at all, but afterwards it made perfect sense. But the real appeal of this story, I think, isn’t so much the story but the characters. Hannah and Aaron are both flawed and very real teenagers. Hannah’s narration is dry and hilarious at times, and despite getting a first person view of her many mistakes and misjudgements (both in terms of who she sleeps with and who she trusts), she’s still a deeply likable character. I found myself rooting for her the whole way through, and understanding every decision she made, however poor it was.

Aaron’s narration is equally funny, though in a much more understated and sarcastic way. There’s also a running undercurrent of something dark in his past that he’s refusing to address, and it’s clear that his parents are worried about him. This mystery is intriguing, but it can be frustrating sometimes with the constant hints and dreams that he doesn’t just get to the point and admit what happened – especially as he is essentially narrating to himself. As a character, I loved Aaron – he was so goodhearted, and so determined to help Hannah and understand what she was going through. He reacted badly at some points, like to the reveal of Hannah’s baby daddy, but this was understandable. He’s a teenage boy going through a bizarre and difficult situation.

Hannah and Aaron aren’t the only characters in the story, of course. Every character I felt was very well drawn, giving a good sense of who they were even in just a few sentences of description. Anyone who’s been to school will recognise these characters, I’m sure ; the spiteful Marcy, Katie who’ll do anything to be popular, and the not so charming Tyrone and Fletch. I found it surprising that Non Pratt didn’t resort to clichés either when creating the teenagers’ families. They weren’t overbearing ogres, or absolutely perfect all-loving parents; they reacted to the news like most parents would, I imagine, and tried to deal with the situation as best as possible. In particular, Robert could so easily have been a typical evil stepfather, but I loved that he really did try his best with Hannah and was very supportive. Hannah’s grandmother and Neville were also great characters, who really brought a warmth to the story.

‘Trouble’ isn’t perfect, I’ll admit. I felt that Hannah’s revealing of the baby daddy to her family was misjudged, and didn’t have enough emotional impact. Hannah’s cruelty doing it the way she did wasn’t really addressed, and I felt that her family’s reaction just wasn’t quite big enough. Although it makes sense for the book to end with the baby’s arrival as well, I felt slightly cheated – Hannah’s life with the baby was rarely dwelled upon. She even admits herself she’d been planning for the pregnancy and the birth, not raising a baby. I wanted to see how that played out, and how her family coped with the situation. I especially felt that her mother needed to realise how her own parenting was flawed, and how much she’d missed about Hannah’s actual life. However, perhaps Pratt felt that the two main emotional moments of the story were done – Hannah’s baby and Aaron’s secret – and it’s true that they were well handled. Overall, I loved ‘Trouble’, and I can’t wait to read some more by this author.

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