Then Holly tells Jeff that she’s going to have a baby…
Most of romance writer Patricia Matthews credits under the pen name Patty Brisco appear to be in the Gothic and Mystery genres- this contemporary YA Romance/social problem novel for Scholastic sort of sticks out like a sore thumb in her bibliography…
The Plot: …especially when it is liberally padded with extensive details about football strategy.
The cover, title and tagline pretty much tell it all, as we’ve seen here before: young couple from different social strata (this time it’s a poor girl with a single mom and an upper-middle-class boy with a socially conscious family) date despite their parents’ protests, go too far and 17 year old Holly Austin has just started to suspect she’s pregnant as the book opens.
The story has little to distinguish it from the other entries in the genre– most notably it splits the point of view between the Holly and her boyfriend, Jeff. Between that and all of the football-retailed detail, it may be that Brisco decided to take a stab at marketing the book to both sexes.
Published in 1979, I think this is the first post-Roe v. Wade Teen Pregnancy Cautionary Tale we’ve covered here, and when Holly breaks the news to Jeff, the supposed availability of a legal abortion seems like a godsend to him, and he hurries to ask a friend who was rumored to have obtained one for his own girlfriend:
“I don’t really know much about it. Do you know anyone who does?
Hermie raised one eyebrow. “Do I know anybody! I’ve been through it. Things have changed, you know. A girl can get an abortion in a good hospital now. You don’t have to sneak her to some quack, or ship her off to Mexico.”
“Yeah, but it still must cost a lot. What if he hasn’t got any money?”
Hermie shrugged. “I’ve heard that there are free clinics that you can go to, but I don’t know where they are.”
Hermie convinces Jeff not to worry about it, and also to skip out on meeting up with Holly over his lunch hour, convincing him to accept a treat of “a stiff hot fudge sundae” at the local soda shop, where Jeff soon finds himself snuggled up in a booth next to Paula, a girl that he’s been nursing a long-time crush on.
Meanwhile, Holly has been waiting for hours in Jeff’s car to discuss the SITUATION. When he doesn’t show, she decides to cut her afternoon classes. Unfortunately she runs into a friend on the way out of the building who is eager to gossip about the rumored pregnancy of a trampy classmate named Bubbles Johnson.
At home she is surprised to find her Bitter Divorced Mom home early from her job as a waitress (which Holly finds SO EMBARASSING); Mom is unsympathetic about Holly’s explanation of not feeling well:
“I hope you’re not getting the flu! If you are, I’ll probably get it and I can’t afford to be off any more this month.”
Adding insult to injury, the class gossip calls Holly to share the news that she saw Jeff getting VERY FRIENDLY WINK WINK with Paula over lunch.
When Holly’s mom has to work an overnight shift, Holly finally convinces Jeff to come over and discuss the pregnancy. When Jeff brings up somehow finding the location of the magical free abortion clinic Hermie mentioned (aside: is there a less-trustworthy sounding name to get information from than ‘Hermie’? Survey says no), Holly tells him that she doesn’t want to get one, which he doesn’t understand:
Holly’s voice was cold when she spoke, but there was a tremor underneath it. “Well, since you don’t want to marry me, I guess that I’ll just quit school and get a job until it’s time to have the baby. I guess I’ll just have to take care of it myself. If worse comes to worse, I guess I can go on welfare or something.”
At this point Holly’s mother arrives home unexpectedly and finds the teens in a compromising situation and throws Jeff out of the house. It doesn’t take long for her to get the whole story out of Holly, and the next morning she takes her daughter to the family physician to confirm the pregnancy. Both Mom and doctor urge her to consider terminating the pregnancy.
Holly’s mother insists that she is going to take her daughter over to Jeff’s house and have it out with them over the hospital bills and child support if she’s going to insist upon having the baby, but when she attempts to, Jeff and his family are away at a family barbecue.
Meanwhile, Jeff tries to reach out to his older cousin, Mike, who is married with a child, and get some advice on the subject. In fact, both of the teens repeatedly try to get some adult guidance on the matter and are repeatedly met with “sucks to be you.”
There is a side-plot where Holly spends some time with Tommy, a boy who has had a crush on her (and at one point saves her from getting date-raped when she accompanies her friend on a double-date to a local disco); she briefly considers repaying him by getting him to take responsibility for the baby.
When Jeff’s parents find out they are super-gross about it, too, and Jeff father’s tries to get his son in on a wacky scheme to blackmail/trash Holly’s reputation:
“Now son,” Mr. Corby said, “I was young once too, and I know how a young boy feels.” His father smiled and punched Jeff gently on the shoulder. “But you’ve got to learn to keep out of trouble. Know what I mean?”
For a minute Jeff could not believe his ears. He had expected angry shouting but not this. What was his father saying?
“Now as far as that business of taking us to court goes, well, all we have to do is get a couple of your friends to say they’ve been with Holly too…”
Jeff refuses to go along with the scam; Holly and Jeff decide to run away and get married, but that turns out to be harder than expected when all of the Justices of the Peace they can find demand proof of age. (Jeff: “I wish I had a mustache. Then I’d look older.”)
After getting picked up by the state troopers in a cheap motel room and returned to their respective parents, Holly finally consents to have the abortion, but the morning of the appointment she can’t go through with it and runs away from home, taking a Greyhound to the nearest Anonymous Big City.
After finding there is no room at the YWCA, she almost gets her suitcase stolen while sitting at the local hamburger stand (the thief is thwarted by burger shack’s proprietress, who beans him over the head with a coffee pot).
The woman advises Holly to return home, but when she refuses, she takes her to Harvest House, a home for unwed mothers. Finally, some responsible adults! After a few weeks, Holly agrees to call home and let her mother know she is ok. When Mom arrives for a visit, Holly explains that she’s decided to stay at Harvest House to complete the school year and have the baby, at which point she will place the child for adoption.
Jeff also comes to see Holly, and is eager to pick up the relationship after the baby has been adopted. But Holly is extremely dubious about THAT prospect:
“I have to be honest with you, Jeff. I don’t know. All of this- all the name calling and shouting and the hurt, well, it’s changed things. I can’t help it, but is has.”
There’s also, y’know the fact that your father is a Soap Opera villain who wanted you to get your friends to perjure themselves to label me a slut? I just don’t know if we can come back from that, Jeff.
Sign It Was Written in 1979 Department:
“Rap sessions were held once a week in the large old-fashioned parlor, and the girls talked about themselves and their experiences.”