CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 4 . . . . October 10, 2008
C.K. Kelly Martin’s first young adult novel is frank to the point of almost being brutal and yet so sincere that readers are totally immersed in the main characters and suffer the highs and lows of their relationship right along with them. We are swept up in their roller coaster emotions.
Sixteen-year-old Nick is the narrator, and having the story told from the male point of view is compelling. Nick is a likeable teen who loves to play hockey, party with friends and chase girls. Two minor characters mirror the sides of Nick that we see. Keelor is his macho, hockey-playing friend. Nathan is another close hockey friend who is gay. Nick’s role is somewhere between the stereotypes – typically male in many ways, and yet surprised by his emotional reactions and uncertain how to deal with them. Nick is mature and sensitive, wanting to support Sasha and yet unsure of his role since she has declared that their relationship is over.
Sasha is also mature and a likeable character. She and Nick consider various choices when she finds out she is pregnant: the morning-after pill, keeping the baby, abortion. Both teens eventually confide in their parents, and here, too, Martin is realistic. The parents are initially shocked and saddened but also are willing to help however they can and willing to support Nick and Sasha regardless of what decision they make.
Despite the intense themes of teenage sexuality and pregnancy, Martin never preaches. Her characters discuss many options and many emotions, but one feels the choice is theirs and suited to their circumstances rather than being ‘scripted’ by the author. Some readers will agree with the final decision, others will not. Individual beliefs play a role for readers just as they do for Nick and Sasha.
The news of Sasha’s pregnancy is revealed in the first few paragraphs of the novel, as Nick’s mother and sister are returning home from Christmas shopping. Martin then takes readers back in time to June, just as summer holidays are starting, in order to help readers understand both Nick and Sasha and their developing relationship. By the end of the book, we are back in the present, and school is beginning in the new year. This structure works well and involves readers at every turn.
This young adult novel is candid and intense. One feels that Martin both understands and genuinely likes her characters. Her tone is never judgmental. Like Nick and Sasha, Martin takes a difficult situation and illustrates potential methods of dealing with it. She vividly describes the confusion, fright and devastation the teens feel without allowing them too much self-pity or, in Nick’s case, the opportunity to simply bow out when things get tough.
Wisely, Martin keeps her characters believable throughout, and, therefore, there is no magical ending to the book. The reality of the situation and its repercussions don’t simply evaporate to allow Nick and Sasha to be ‘happy ever after.’ Life and love are too complex to be ‘solved’ on the last few pages.Some critics may find this novel too gritty and detailed for teen readers, but I applaud Martin for her intelligent characters and her sensitive portrayal of their honest reactions and emotions. Relationships, love and sex are important parts of teens’ lives, and this book deals openly and honestly with them as well as with an unplanned teen pregnancy. This is a worthwhile and perhaps even necessary novel for all teens and might well enlighten their parents and teachers also. I Know It’s Over should be widely available, and I would encourage all teens to take the time to read it.
Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French, lives in Ottawa where she has turned her love of travel into a new career as a travel consultant.
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