A 17-year-old high-schooler gives birth, with no one to help but her even younger sister: the first in NAL’s new line of women’s fiction.
No one seems to notice the pregnancy—not Kate Phillips’s teachers and certainly not her father Davis, who spends most of his free time with his girlfriend Hannah and her two young boys, stopping by his old house only occasionally. Seeing his own teenaged daughters only reminds Davis of their mother, Deirdre, a vibrant, much-loved, much-missed woman who recently died of breast cancer. His wife’s friends have given up asking after Kate and Tyler, despite their concerns—not that Kate minds. She’s never been the talkative type, and her cheerleader sister Tyler, 15, has been sworn to secrecy. The girls prepare for everything, combing through thrift stores and resale shops to provide a layette for the baby Kate is determined to deliver at home, without a doctor or midwife. They also study birthing books and videos, although the possibility of complications makes Tyler increasingly uneasy. But together the two manage to bring the baby into the world despite many hours of difficult labor. The exhausted young mother nurses her newborn daughter, whom she names Deirdre, and the sisters get her settled in an improvised nursery they’ve set up in a closet. Meanwhile, they attend school in shifts, rarely leaving the baby alone for more than an hour at a time. But the infant’s crying gives the girls away at last. Kate and Tyler are immediately placed in foster care, the baby is taken away (temporarily), and their father is forced to defend himself on charges of abandonment.
A well-written, thoughtful debut with wide crossover potential. Inclán never condescends and never judges, preferring to let her subtly drawn people speak for themselves. The understanding portrayal of her teenaged heroines—stubborn, careless, and fiercely honest—is remarkably astute.