Elisabeth’s hand trembled as she lifted the jar of warm liquid. She wanted to run away and scream that it was all a mistake, but instead she took a deep breath and poured her urine all over the plastic pregnancy tester. A few drops spilt on the bathroom tiles. She shivered. it was so unfair. They’d only done it a few times and it hadn’t even been that good. Not like it was in books or movies. She looked at her watch and crossed her fingers as her brother rattled the door handle.
‘I’m busy!’ she yelled.
‘All right, keep your hair on.’ He walked away. Then, the blue lines appeared. Elisabeth stared at the tester and knew that now she had to make a choice.
Elisabeth is seventeen, pregnant and needs to make choices about what to do. In Choices, Dianne Wolfer takes Elisabeth in two directions. The narrative progresses with ‘Beth’ choosing one path, and ‘Libby’ another. Neither path is easy and both have consequences for relationships with her family, her boyfriend, her faith and with her friends. There are also consequences for her education and her post-school plans. The narrative alternates between Libby’s story and Beth’s story with headings indicating the passage of time ie Beth: 16 Weeks, followed by ‘Libby: 17 Weeks. The alternating chapters are in different fonts to help distinguish between the narrators.
Choices is a sophisticated read. Elisabeth’s challenge/problem is identified from her point of view in a prologue and thereafter the voice is of one of her ‘alter-egos’. Dealing with a teenage pregnancy is not a new story line, but most novels take one path, not both. Choicesuses an omniscient viewpoint to bring in the thoughts of other main characters, but for the most part both Beth’s and Libby’s stories are a little like diaries. The omniscient point of view allows Diane Wolfer to add layers to the story by giving a depth to other characters that would be difficult to do in diary format or third person intimate point of view. Elisabeth is a strong, resourceful character and this is a very tough right of passage for a teenager…via either of the narratives. Wolfer avoids judgement of Elisabeth’s decision by presenting the dual narratives with equal weighting. Recommended for mid- to upper-secondary readers.
Choices, Diane Wolfer
Fremantle Press 2009
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
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