As she so masterfully does, Barbara Delinsky has written another captivating novel involving modern day societal issues. In Not My Daughter, high school principal Susan Tate has successfully overcome her somewhat rough past to excel in her career and prove all naysayers wrong. This all comes crashing down for her, however, when she finds out her 17-year-old daughter, Lily, is pregnant. Not only is she pregnant, but she's excited about the pregnancy and refuses to name the father. Susan quickly realizes the backlash from the community and parents of her students as they judge her for "allowing" her daughter to get pregnant.
Then, to make matters worse, Lily reveals that two of her best friends are also pregnant; they decided together to get pregnant at the same time because they love children and wanted to have children the same age. The novel explores the relationship between mother and daughter as Susan grapples with cricism from the community and trying to deal with the effects of a pregnant teenaged daughter. It explores the process that brought Lily and her friends to make the decision they did and how they deal with what was naively, for them, unexpected negativity.
I have to be fair and admit it's been about 6 weeks since I read this book (yes, I've been lazy about reviews lately... working on that) so I don't quite remember all the specifics about what I thought while I was reading. So what follows are probably the parts that hit me the most.
My initial reaction was skepticism toward the characters. I didn't feel as though they were realistic; Lily is supposed to be a smart, honor roll student who stays out of trouble. This wasn't fitting, for me, to the character she played who chose to purposely get pregnant without thinking through the consequences. I would have found it more realistic had she accidentally gotten pregnant. (But then the whole storyline with the pact would not exist, sooo..) I also felt Susan's reaction was unrealistic. Sure, she wasn't so happy, but she seemed almost too accepting of it. Or if not accepting, then not quite as affected as you might imagine one would be when their "perfect" daughter does something so outrageous.
But then as I kept reading I thought to myself, "why did I ever doubt Ms. Delinsky?" As with all books I've read by her, I was quickly swept up into the story, the controversy, the societal issues, etc. The other characters also helped balance out my original disbelief of Lily and Susan; the mothers of the other girls in the pact had two different reactions than Susan did and it helped cement in my mind that just as with people in general, these mothers dealt with the situation differently. And the slight "twist" involving what led to these girls making their pact and becoming pregnant in the first place was shocking and led to another set of ramifications which was interesting (and fun in some sense) to see play out. (You HAVE to read the book to get what I'm referring to there!)
The societal issues and controversy I referred to also made me think and that's one of my favorite parts about Barbara Delinsky's books. What are my opinions when it comes down to it? Do I feel for the mother who can't really control what her 17-year-old daughter does (or can she?) or do I agree with some community members that as high school principal, both Susan and her daughter should have set better examples and been better role models? Additional elements are added to the storyline that make the reader think and make the characters question what they believed. All of this contributed to a very well done glimpse into the lives of women and their daughters when their beliefs and love for each other are put to the test. If you've enoyed Delinsky's other books or are a fan of contemporary women's fiction, you will enjoy this book too!