A long-lost great-aunt, a positive pregnancy test, and a road trip across England.
Hattie's friend and bad-boy crush, Reuben, is summering at his dad's place on the French Riviera. The white teen’s snark-filled email exchanges with Reuben never mention her terrifying secret: she’s pregnant, a consequence of that surprising night when Reuben fed Hattie a line about how no one else understood him like she did. Fate throws Hattie a lifeline for avoiding her own problems with a call about a great-aunt she'd never heard of. Gloria's not the sweet, kindly, sickly old lady of Hattie's imagination; she's a champagne-swilling, cigarillo-smoking, thrice-divorced former actress in the early stages of dementia. The odd couple sets off on a car journey through the landscape of Gloria's fading—and unhappy—memories. Despite references to Thelma and Louise reinforced by dark foreshadowing about cliffs, the road trip primarily serves as the setting for an internal journey. Through interludes told from Gloria's point of view, in which her fading recent memory gives way to revelations of her painful history, Hattie learns a family history packed with hard truths: white Gloria's romance with black Sam in a racist 1950s family; a violently abusive father; a pregnancy at 17. As their friendship grows, Hattie struggles with the decision she herself needs to make.
Gorgeous, compelling, and painful, though subtle as a brick—or a baby. (Fiction. 14-17)