Thursday, 14 November 2019

DEAR NOBODY by Berlie Doherty. Reviewed by Ann Turnbull

   Published in 1991, this Carnegie-winning novel centres on two talented, ambitious young people in love, on the brink of adult life and about to go to separate universities - and how they feel when they realise that their one act of lovemaking has resulted in pregnancy.

   A story like this has a built-in momentum. It takes us through Helen's instinctive denial, followed by growing anxiety, the pregnancy test, and her admission of the truth to herself - and to her boyfriend, Chris.

   Romantic, loving Chris is determined to stay with Helen. Neither of them really thinks through how they can do this. As the pregnancy advances Helen becomes increasingly desperate. She even puts herself in danger in an attempt to abort the pregnancy, but fails. Once her mother realises the truth, events move fast. Helen finds herself being pushed into an unwanted abortion - and yet she is also in despair at the thought of giving up her university place.

   Meanwhile Chris, on holiday abroad with a school friend, is distracted in other ways.

   The complex family situations are detailed and convincing. Every character is rounded, and all develop and change during the course of the story. And when the resolution comes, it feels inevitable and exactly right.

   This is a strong, engrossing story about a common dilemma that has no right or wrong answers, only the natural confusion of people's lives. I'd read it years ago, but - probably because it's so real and true to life - I couldn't remember exactly how it ended. And I certainly couldn't put it down!

   I hope young teens are still reading this story, because this is one situation that will never feel dated.

Available in paperback in several editions by different publishers. The one shown is my own copy,  from Lion Tracks (Harper Collins).



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