The Baby by Lisa Drakeford (proof) - When Olivia opens the bathroom door, the last thing she expects to see is her best friend Nicola giving birth on the floor – and to say Nicola is surprised is an understatement. She’s not ready to be a mum, and she needs Olivia’s help. But Olivia has her own problems – specifically her bullying boyfriend, Jonty, and keeping an eye on younger sister Alice. And then there’s Nicola’s friend Ben, who’s struggling with secrets of his own … From Goodreads.
I read The Baby by Lisa Drakeford thinking that it might work for my upcoming Sex in Teen Lit Month II blog event, seeing as it's about the arrival of a unexpected baby. It doesn't quite work for what I want the month to highlight, but I was surprised with how much I enjoyed it! It's pretty good, and takes a serious look at the changes a baby can bring.
When Nicola gives birth in Olivia's bathroom at her birthday party, it's the beginning of a massive change. A change that doesn't just affect her, but Olivia, Olivia's boyfriend Jonty, their friend Ben, and Olivia's younger sister, Alice. Emotions rocket, relationships are put to the test, and decisions need to be made. Life isn't one big party, especially when there's a baby to think of.
The Baby was a completely different story to the one I was expecting. Considering the way the description goes, I thought the whole story would be set at Olivia's party, but it's actually set over five months. Each character gets a turn to narrate, and they all have their own sub-story, which intersect because of their relationships and baby Eliza.
I was a bit worried when I first started. Olivia's narration is first, and seeing as it's the night of her party, she's drunk, which could be the reason why, but I found her to tell more than show. The party is great, she gets on so well with so-and-so, but we don't really get to see why. I found her narration to be one of the weakest, I felt like she was quite young and selfish, but again, it could have been because she was drunk, because I preferred her a lot more in the other narrations. But her story is also a really important one. Her boyfriend Jonty hurts her. He's jealous and controlling, and he physically hurts her when Olivia doesn't bend to his wishes. It was shocking to read, but the focus shifts once everyone realise Nicola is giving birth in the bathroom.
Then it's Nicola's narration, and it's brilliant. She didn't know she was pregnant, and now she's a new mum. She's struggling to deal with it. She is full of awe and wonder and this beautiful little girl that she's brought into the world, but she's so unsure of what she's doing and being up with her at all hours is really taking it's toll. She has people - health visitors, social workers, midwives, and so forth - ask her all kinds of questions. Is this what she wants? What is she going to do about school? What about benefits? Who's the dad? Question after question, and so much pressure. And she has very few people on her side. It's a fantastic narration, and very realistic. I felt really sorry for Nicola, and just wished more people would help her and give her a chance.
Then we have Alice's narration. Eleven-year-old Alice is "weird", and people avoid her. I can't say for certain, but it seems to me that she might have a form of Autism; she's very intelligent, but doesn't understand social situations and gets things wrong. She doesn't have friends, and her attempts to make them, while saying completely the wrong thing, and the reaction this causes from others is just heartbreaking. She's bullied and laughed at, and she doesn't quite understand why. She just knows she shouldn't mention her imaginary farm animals, because people don't seem to like that. But there is a baby now, a baby that was born in her bathroom, Nicola's baby, and she so loves to visit and help out. I loved Alice's narration, because she is just so wonderful and has a fantastic way of looking at the world, and I just wanted to give her such a big hug. She's a really special girl, and I don't mean that in the derogatory way.
Jonty. As the story went on, the more and more I disliked him. He's not a very nice guy at all, and he treats others so badly, not just Olivia. And then we get his narration, and wow. My feelings towards him shifted. He isn't a great guy, but he has problems of his own, and I started to understand why he is the way he is. It doesn't excuse his behaviour, but I did feel some sympathy for him. And we see a real change during his narration. He does grow up a bit, and realises that he can't go on the way he has been. He sees things differently, and I ended up feeling quite proud of him.
Oh my god, Ben's narration! It was the most disappointing of them all! Ben is gay, and he's really into this guy, Josh, but doesn't know if he's gay. Then a huge bombshell is dropped, one I did not see coming at all, and I was feeling so much anguish and sadness and, oh my god, really?! It was just so surprising and in some ways so awful, and... then it just ends. Ben's story gets wrapped up, I suppose, but the whole story doesn't! Not in my opinion! There is more to that bombshell, more that I need to know. There is so much more fallout from it to come, and I cannot believe it just ends like that. This bombshell would change everything for everyone, but we don't see it, we don't see what comes, and I am stunned. There was huge potential for this story to continue and follow it through, and be SUCH an emotional story. Just thinking about what this means for the other characters really has me getting upset, and to not actually see it... I am so disappointed. It's a really bad ending, in my opinion. There's no real conclusion. Things are left open, but not in a way that makes me feel there will be a follow up novel. It's just left, and it annoys me so much.
But over all, The Baby is really good! I would recommend it for Nicola, Alice and Jonty's narrations and stories because they're just so brilliant! A disappointing ending, but on the whole, an enjoyable read.
Thank you to Chicken House for the proof.
Published: 2nd July 2015
Publisher: Chicken House
Lisa Drakeford on Twitter