Sunday, April 15, 2012

Pregnancy Project review

The Pregnancy Project
by Gaby Rodriguez and Jenna Glatzer
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
January 2012

The Pregnancy Project was co-written by Gaby Rodriguez and a professional author who moved to print quickly to capture the excitement of a newsworthy story. Short chapters and slightly wide margins make this a blazing fast read. High school senior Gaby Rodriguez pretended to be pregnant for 6 months so that she could present a senior project on "how it felt" to be marginalized as a pregnant teen.

I read it recently, and was disturbed by it on a couple of levels:

1) The first half of the book is about Gaby's mother and her early childhood as the youngest child in a big family. The teen author seems to have a real chip on her shoulder re: teen pregnancy, both her mother's and her older sister's. She'd be a great candidate for some family counseling, rather than acting out in this bizarre way. She comes across as mildly sociopathic. When she breaks down in tears over the stress of lying to one of her favorite teachers about the "pregnancy" her first thought is that crying is something that a pregnant woman would actually do - making her story all the more plausible.

2) Rodriguez comes across as a neo-con - despite her pro-contraception stance, she quickly dismisses Planned Parenthood as an abortion factory.

3) Rodriguez is deeply starstruck by the media attention she receives after the "big reveal" at the end of her project. There is at least a chapter or two devoted to what it was like to go on "Good Morning America" and how surprising and thrilling it was to receive so many phone calls from media outlets. She also goes into great detail about the press conference she held and how the media were fighting for her attention - one reporter supposedly even tried to steal the "pregnancy bump" that Rodriguez had worn for several months while fooling the fellow students at her school.

4) I am amazed and astounded that there was a school principal who actually approved of something on this size and scale - AND that Rodriguez and her boyfriend let her boyfriend's parents believe that the pregnancy was real, right up until the end. (They reportedly were NOT excited about being grandparents and were relieved that it was all a hoax, but still, that is an astonishing level of deception to carry out.)

What Rodriguez does very well is take the nuanced view that experiencing a pregnancy in one's teens is not the end of the world. It will make life hard, much harder, to be certain, but it doesn't mean that a teen girl's life is over. She was greatly surprised that none of her friends suggested abortion or adoption as options - everyone assumed right from the start that she would keep the "baby" and while there was some mean-spirited gossip, many were fairly supportive. She was also surprised that all of the early hints she'd been dropping were mostly ignored. Rodriguez pretended to complain of nausea, made sure to schedule more trips to the bathroom, and enlisted her best friend as a confederate to publicly give her knowing looks, caution her to eat her vegetables and chide her for lifting anything heavy. It wasn't until she donned her pregnancy bump that everyone really took notice, however.

The book ends with Gaby Rodriguez describing her college plans. She seems to have some compassion for teen mothers, exhorting readers to show a little kindness for young women in a tough situation, and she stumps heavily for early sex-education and highly encourages the use of birth control. Still, for the most part, there's a thin-veneer of preachiness and holier-than-thou-ness slathered over nearly everything that Rodriguez says and does. She comes across as a more than a little crazy, and judgmental, "I won't mess up my life the way everyone else in my family did. I'm better than that," is the overall theme. I would be so interested to get an update on this whole story - will this project end up being a blip on her high school resume, or will it continue to affect her life, especially the relationships with her mother and siblings down the line? The book was adapted to a Lifetime TV movie - it's an interesting read, and will definitely make you think.

I borrowed this book.


  1. I was really looking forward to reading this, but now I think it might irritate me beyond belief. The part about not letting her boyfriend's parents in on the secret really shocked me. I can't imagine EVER making up something like that to my parents.

    The preachy side would probably annoy me too.

  2. I have to say, I enjoyed this book very much - maybe because I'm a terrible person, and I love the drama of reading about someone who is really out there.

    The preachiness in the book surprised me, but I've certainly read much worse. It wasn't so bad that I'd throw the book across the room, and say, "This is a bunch of didactic nonsense," for example.

    Lying to her boyfriend's parents, and to her brothers and sisters was truly the most unbelievable part. Fooling your classmates (and in part, sacrificing a good part of your senior year of high school) is one thing. But lying to her family really put this over the top. And that's what made me wonder -- what if she gets pregnant before she finishes college, how will they react then? Won't she be like the boy who cried wolf? Will her siblings all go, "Yeah, right, we've heard this one before."

    If she does ever decide to start a family - say later in life, when she's finished college and graduate school, and is married and has a nice house and everything set up the way she wants it, will she belatedly feel remorse for what she put everyone through?

  3. I find the 'glorification' of teen pregnancy to very disturbing. TV shows give all this drama and attention to a few pregnant teens when 99.9% of real teen pregnancies are not TV shows and magazine covers, but a real hardship on a lot of levels.

    I also find it hard to believe that at least one parent could not figure out she was pretending. This girl must have really studied what it is to be pregnant to pull this off but even with that someone should have thought: "What's wrong with this picture?"

  4. Apparently, there are a high number of teen pregnancies (and a high poverty rate) in her hometown, and she wanted to shine a spotlight on that.

    Her commitment level to the deception seemed pretty high. She wore that pregnancy bump AROUND THE CLOCK, so it's not like anybody had a chance to witness her having a good time and looking slim at the mall on weekends, and then all miserable and pregnant during the school week. A lot of her teachers were really angry when they found out. I would be too.



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