When 16 year old Serendipity Rodriguez attends a house party to celebrate the end of sophomore year, she has no intention of getting drunk and hooking up with a guy she's just met, let alone getting pregnant. To make matters worse, she has no way of contacting the father and she and her mother are about to move to a new town and in with her grandmother. It's hard enough to start your junior year as the new kid in school, but at 5-months pregnant it's even harder. So when Sara meets Leaf, who asks her out and doesn't seem to care that she's pregnant, she finds herself falling. Juggling the realities of a pregnancy with school and a new relationship are hard enough, but when Jack, the father of her baby, turns back up, Sara's life goes from complicated to a complete mess. With the help of her overbearing mother and grandmother, Sara will learn to navigate life's challenges and be ready for anything, as she prepares for the birth of her baby.
I have never read a YA teen pregnancy book quite like BELLY UP. This book has been pitched as Juno meets Gilmore Girls, and there couldn't be a more accurate description. While the pregnancy is absolutely taken seriously, Sara has an excellent team by her side in her family and friends. She explores all her options and makes the choice that she believes is best for her. It isn't romanticized or shamed but is wonderfully realistic. Sara's world is shaken but far from destroyed, and she is ultimately able to work towards a new future for herself, different than what she had previously imagined but still positive.
Sara and her family are hilarious. I love her mother and grandmother and the whole family's dynamic. They bicker and huff often, but there is so much affection underneath it all. Likewise, Sara's friends are well-developed and have fun side plots of their own. Though the big action-inducing plot revolves around Sara's pregnancy, the themes of BELLY UP extend into friendship, figuring out who you want to be, and using your voice.
Some may read Leaf and Sara's relationship as unrealistic. While their situation may not be the common narrative, I don't believe it crosses into unrealistic territory. Leaf is understanding of Sara's situation, as his sister is a young mother as well. Leaf doesn't ignore Sara's pregnancy or seek to be a father figure, but rather respects and acknowledges that this will be a huge aspect of Sara's life and will always follow her direction when it comes to her needs. In short, they are a kind, generous pair.
BELLY UP is the type of story where you want to hug the book after and hold it close on sad days. At its heart, BELLY UP proves that love and family (biological or chosen) are powerful resources, no matter what twists and turns life brings.