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Hush, Little Baby

Erin reviews Holding On To Zoe, a book that made her feel ALL THE FEELINGS.

Hush, Little Baby

BOOK REPORT for Holding On To Zoe by George Ella Lyon

Cover Story: Two Faces, No Waiting
BFF Charm: I Think So
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Straight Up But Short
Bonus Factors: Unreliable Narrator, Crazy Pregnant Ladies
Anti-Bonus Factor: The Patty Chase Awful Mom Award
Relationship Status: Therapy Buddies

Cover Story: Two Faces, No Waiting

Check it!  There are two different covers for this book already!  I have the one with the illustration of Jules holding nothng but air, which sort of gives away the story.  Unfortch I couldn't find a picture of it on the internet, so maybe I have a special cover?   But I still like it better than the other cover of Giant Face, which in no way relates to the story at all.  And also, Jules' eye makeup is way too fierce on that cover.  Damn, girl's got a fake baby, not a heroin addiction!

The Deal:

Sixteen year old Jules is at first completely freaked out when she finds out she's pregnant.  After all, the baby's dad has hightailed it out of town, her best friend thinks she should get an abortion immediately, and her mom doesn't even want to believe her.  But even though having a baby would mean a completely different life for Jules - a GED instead of graduating high school; a full time job instead of going off to college - she really wants to keep the baby.  She needs something of her own, someone who will always be there for her and love her.

When the doctor tells Jules that she has an eptopic pregnancy, Jules' mom is thrilled.  What a simple solution!  A minor surgery and they can all be rid of this little problem.  But Jules refuses to give up her baby and is determined to make it on her own.  And this is the point where Jules has a complete break with reality.  She thinks the institution her doctors have placed her in is a factory where she's working to make ends meet for her baby, Zoe.  The pills they give her are just vitamins to keep Zoe healthy.  And when she's "fired from her job" and has to go back home to her mom, she can't understand why her mom is so indifferent to Zoe.  Why won't she hold Zoe?  Why does she think Zoe doesn't exist?

It may seem like I've just spoiled the whole book, but trust me.  This is just the beginning.

BFF Charm: I Think So

Despite the fact that Jules is OBVIOUSLY seriously ill, I couldn't help but be endeared to her.  Lyon does such a great job of drawing Jules' broken psyche that, as a reader, my heart completely went out to her.  And y'all, she could use a good best friend.  Her best friend actually does the best she can under the circumstances, I think, but she's too young and too inexperienced to understand how to interact with Jules.  Jules needs people who will allow her to live in the fantasy world she's created and ease her out gently.  I'm pretty impatient, so I'm probably not her best bet, but I understand enough of what she's going to to try my hardest. 

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

We should come up with a new system for, like, VC Andrews books but also this one, where we replace swoonworthy scale with a giant trigger warning.  It'd help explain my feelings better than a number could.

Talky Talk: Straight Up But Short

I really enjoyed the narrative aspect of this book.  It's written from Jules' point of view, so even though I understood that she was inventing a reality, I was still invested in that reality.  I kind of just wanted her to be able to go off somewhere quiet, live with Zoe and be happy, even though I knew it wasn't actually healthy for her.

My only complaint about this novel is the ending, which is revealed and wrapped up too quickly.  This book clocks in at about 160 pages, and the climax and resolution come in the last 6 pages or so.  That's too rushed for me.  I'd have preferred a few more chapters, drawing out the reader's realization of what really happened instead of cramming it all in at the end.  There is this feeling of everything being wrapped up a little too neatly, even though all of the characters should be devestated from the fall out.  What is a very good book could have been a great book if the ending had been handled more gently.

Bonus Factor: Unreliable Narrator

You guys know that I'm a sucker for any kind of story featuring an unreliable narrator.  And, in this case, where the narrator has composed her own reality, it's almost achingly painful to read her descriptions of her fake life.

Bonus Factor: Crazy Pregnant Ladies

Check it.  Not enough is written about crazy pregnant ladies.  I mean, you'll hear about post partum on the news ocassionally, but no one talks about the depths to which post-partum or gestating mothers can sink to when their body is overrun by new hormones.  I'll be perfectly TMI honest with you guys:  when I was preggers with the Munchkin, I went crazy.  Not cute, wearing-funky-mumus-and-listening-to-spiritual-chanting crazy, like they show on tv.  I'm talking full-on, paranoid, isolated, risk-taking-as-a-form-of-suicide type crazy.  It was not a good time for me.  I like to be light-hearted about it because no one wants to read about a stranger's craziness, but it was pretty serious.  It was scary for me and for the people who loved me and I honestly feel that it's a miracle that I lived through it.  And so it's kind of really nice (if depressing!) to read a book about a girl who also comes unglued when pregnant.  Maybe they should study us and figure out why we react so poorly to hormone fluctuations.  Thank Christ I was born with the same sex and gender, because gender reassignment therapy would be utter hell for someone like me.

Anti-Bonus Factor: The Patty Chase Awful Mom Award

Man, Jules' mom is THE ACTUAL WORST PERSON EVER.  She's bitter because her husband left her, tells her DAUGHTER that she struck a deal with her ex-husband that he had to give up all visitation rights to Jules in exchange for a child support check, refuses to believe that her daughter's knocked up because she just doesn't have time to deal with it, and constantly berates Jules for being sick.  I HATE HER SO MUCH. 

Casting Call:

Mae Whitman as Jules

Even though she's kinda too old, when I was picturing Jules all I could think of was Mae Whitman.  But specifically from her Arrested Development stint.  It's as nose as the plain on her face!

Relationship Status: Therapy Buddies

Book, book, book.  What have you done to me?  When I met you I totally scoffed when you started telling me your story.  "Yeah, right,"  I thought.  "A fake baby.  Awesome."  But after a couple of group therapy sessions, I found myself compelled by your story.  When you talked about how your mother wouldn't let you stay at the institution because it was too expensive?  I totally welled up!  And when you told us how that stranger walked you to the Emergency Room once you showed her your "baby?"  Those tears spilled right over.  And when you trusted us enough to let us into all your secrets, my heart just broke for you.

Still, Book, I think it's best if we keep our relationship confined to therapy sessions only.  I'm not sure if you have a place in my highly-functioning life, but I know you'll be the book I'll turn to when it seems like everything's going pear-shaped.  So, thanks, Book, for being a great therapy buddy.

FTC Full Disclosure:  I received a free review copy of this book from Macmillan Publishing.  I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!).  Holding On To Zoe will be available in stores and online on July 17, 2012.

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.
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