At What Cost by Jessie Andersen
Publisher: Astraea Press
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Length: Full Length (225 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Jasmine
During her junior year, sixteen-year-old Maggie Reynolds expected to shop for prom dresses not maternity clothes. Now, instead of studying for the SATs, she’s reading, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Maggie’s ‘Mother Dearest’ lives in fear that Maggie will somehow taint the family name, so Maggie can’t turn to her for help. Meanwhile, her father is oblivious to anything but his 9-9 job. And her boyfriend, Justin? She’s pretty sure he’ll stay by her side.
While Maggie wrestles with her options, Justin offers a solution: abortion. It would solve all her problems quickly, easily, and effectively. And her parents would never know, which means they won’t throw her out and cut her off like they’d always threatened if she got herself knocked up. But an easy decision becomes difficult when Maggie’s aunt discovers her secret and sets out on a mission to stop the abortion, putting a kink in Maggie’s plan. Now Maggie must decide which choice she can live with: abortion or teenage motherhood. Either way, it’ll be a tough road to travel.
Growing up is never easy but for some, it is much harder than it is for others. Unfortunately for Maggie Reynolds, she has to learn that the hard way. After spending what she thought was the perfect summer with the perfect boyfriend, Maggie learns very quickly that what you think you want isn’t always what you really need. And, sometimes, maybe it isn’t even what you ever really wanted at all.
Anyone that has ever had that one heart-stopping, panic ridden moment where you think your life is ruined, that you are trapped and there is no way out of the current dilemma, will be able to relate to this book. Maggie’s anxiety about her situation is so well portrayed throughout that it was almost palpable. Getting pregnant as a teenager can be traumatic for anyone. Add to that the fact that Maggie’s family has steadily grown apart over the past few years, and the fact that she feels like nothing she ever does is good enough for her mother, and she feels more alone than ever.
In typical teen fashion, Maggie’s initial reaction to this news (aside from the panic) is to ignore it and hope it’ll just go away. When that doesn’t work, the obvious next step is to make it go away. Ms. Anderson does such an incredible job of describing Maggie’s experience at the abortion clinic that it brought tears to my eyes. The author does an admirable job of writing about such a touchy subject. It feels real and it feels honest. Something I think that any teen reading this will appreciate.
The reaction of Maggie’s family, when they are finally told, is anything but predictable, and once they have a chance to process the news, it’s very touching. Instead of tearing the family apart, it opens their eyes and brings them back together. The topic of the book, and the way it is written, has the potential to make a reader realize what is truly important in life…and what isn’t.
With such a buildup throughout the entire book, I felt like the ending was somewhat anti-climactic. While predictable in terms of giving you what you expect, it also ends rather abruptly. This could be to leave it open to a sequel, or simply to encourage the reader to think about it themselves, but I was left rather unsatisfied.
The lessons to be learned in this book are both in your face and subtle enough that by the end, it can leave you contemplating many different things. From the obvious issues of abortion versus adoption versus teenage motherhood to learning what sort of people to keep in your life. From learning that family is always there no matter what to learning to accept what you truly deserve instead of what you think you deserve, the lessons imparted in this tale are worthy of any teenage or adult reader.
This is a wonderfully written book that taps into the angst of the teenage years combined with the heart-wrenching emotions that can come with an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy. The family is realistically dysfunctional and the characters are sympathetic and well written. A great coming of age tale that I would definitely recommend to any teenage girl.