Saturday, April 27, 2013

Love & Haight-Susan Carlton

Big picture, Susan Carlton's Love & Haight is about growing up and learning how to make decisions for yourself; smaller picture, this novel is about abortion in a time when abortion was more of a dirty word than it is now. The story takes place in 1971 and begins with a 17-year old girl named Chloe embarking on a road trip with her best friend, MJ to San Francisco. The reader quickly finds out that the trip is not purely for pleasurable vacation purposes, but rather a strict mission for Chloe to get an abortion. The two choose San Francisco because it is a city far more open to a women's choice in comparison to their hometown. Being that it is 1971, San Francisco seems to be in its hippie heyday and the novel takes no backseat in describing the free love, drugs, nudity, and music of the era. The girls stay with Chloe's aunt Kiki, a self-described free spirit with a love for burning sage, taking psychedelic substances, and urging Chloe to loosen up and stay in the "now". While in San Francisco, Chloe and MJ meet a lot of strange characters and find themselves in quite a few tough situations, building constant tension for both them and the reader. In a less intense subplot, an old love of Chloe's happens to reside in San Francisco and the two reunite creating an entertaining "will they/won't they" for the reader.
Contrary to many YAL books I have read, the narrating voice of the story kept its distance and did not come off as over-eager to please the youth or be seen as "cool". The writing contained a lot of really lovely description and some top-notch simile. For the most part I found the characters to be multidimensional, though at times cliche. I could not tell if this was because of the era the story took place or because of the quality of writing. Something that I found to be very wonderful of the book was the fact that sex shaming was kept to a minimum and that the naysayers of abortion were not too loud over Chloe's own internal struggle with her decision. At times I found myself bored with some of the minor story lines, craving more of Chloe's own voice and thoughts in regards to her pregnancy, age, and decision to have an abortion.
Overall, I think this is good read for a young adult. I believe it would have captured my interest as a teenager because it speaks openly and honestly about sex, young relationships, family ties, and drug use. Reading it as an adult, I am weary of the lack of acknowledgement of any sort of privilege that Chloe has in this situation compared to many other young pregnant people.

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