Title: Love & Haight I Author: Susan Carlton I Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) offers the following synopsis for Love & Haight:
Chloe and MJ are spending their Christmas vacation in San Francisco. While MJ is looking for a good time, Chloe is looking for an abortion, but in 1971, abortions, while legal, aren't easy to find.
Actual Plot Summary: It's 1971. Chloe is one month pregnant because of an unfortunate one night stand with a cute guy named Shep, and she doesn't want to be pregnant anymore. She's got her whole life ahead of her – prom, graduation, college – and she wants an abortion. Abortions are hard to come by in 1971, so she researches the best places to get one and then she and her best-ie (MJ…Roman Catholic and that does become relevant to the story) drive to San Francisco over Christmas break to have the deed done. They show up on her Aunt Kiki's doorstep unannounced and begin the process of securing an abortion, but they run into a good many roadblocks along the way.
She goes to a clinic that was recommended by her pediatrician (without her mother's knowledge) and they talk her through the process. She must produce a psychological evaluation that recommends an abortion. She must get counseling on her pregnancy options by abortion experts. She must produce parental consent because she is a minor. The abortion must be approved by a board of medical specialists. Only then will the City of San Francisco allow an abortion.
Throw in the mix that MJ's brother (Teddy) is attending college in Berkley and that, unbeknownst to MJ, Chloe and Teddy had a summer romance before he left in the fall; that MJ knows Chloe is pregnant but Teddy does not; that Kiki and her live-in boyfriend (Fig) are fully entrenched in the Haight-Ashbury scene and Kiki almost overdoses on some drug mixture of hashish and LSD; that Chloe's divorced mother (who prefers to be called Virginia) is too caught up in her own liberation to notice that her daughter is in trouble; and…of course, because what kind of story would we have if it didn't include a deadbeat dad…that her father has split the scene to find himself; also that she'll have to forge parental consent because she doesn't want to tell Virginia what happened. It makes for quite an adventure.
This young adult book has earned a Mature Content rating for extreme language, extreme sexual content, extreme drug usage, cigarette usage, alcohol usage, aberrant behaviors and mature themes including a graphic discussion of abortion. It also receives three and a half stars for story development.
Review : Remember that the star system does not indicate any kind of recommendation for a young adult novel. This is just a way of clarifying whether the author achieved what he or she set out to accomplish when writing his or her book. As best I can tell, the aim of Love and Haight is to peel back the skulls of 12 to 18 year old children and defecate into their brains and toward this supposition, the author exceeds expectations.
Actually, YALSA (a division of the American Library Association) does a fair job of summarizing Love & Haight, although the abridged nature of that summary hardly does the book justice. I suppose we should all be thankful that our tax money was at least able to procure the word abortion in the description of YALSA's top young adult books for 2013. So hooray! Good to know that your hard earned money isn't being wasted.
In truth, this book is at least as graphic as the Vagina Monologues. It enjoys the emotional depth and maturity of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. It gets so clinically detailed about abortion procedures that at times, it's not so much of a children's novel as it is "What to Expect When You Wish You Weren't Expecting."
Oh, and I counted 65 uses of profanity and that number does not include the sprinkling of literary delights such as:
"Flirting with any passing penis."
"The good girl here, she's getting the hanger."
"Nixon said, 'trust me' about Vietnam. Shep said, "trust me' about the condom."
"Last month, after an awareness-building weekend, Virginia shared a tip for achieving a mind blowing orgasm."
"When they were younger, MJ thought she wanted to be a nun. That was before she discovered boys and blow jobs."
"These weren't anti-war/anti-draft/pro-Indian rights/pro-feminist marches. These were anti-abortion protesters and they were protesting people like her."
I could go on, but why bother. There's hardly a page that won't fully educated children on perversion with all its variations and nuances. If your child reads this book, she will be instructed on the countless uses for roach clips and condoms. (Did you know that you can use condoms to make balloon animals? I never really gave it much thought before reading Love & Haight. You learn something new every day, I guess.) She will obtain a working knowledge of LSD, hashish, and marijuana. She will gain explicit insight into the content of the Kama Sutra…that's actually a funny story that I'm sure your child will love. See, when Chloe was in the fifth grade, she made the mistake of asking Virginia (her mother) if French kissing could get you pregnant. Instead of answering the question, Virginia left the room, reappeared with her copy of the Kama Sutra and told Chloe to say hello to her new "bible." Chloe then entertains young readers with the content of the Kama Sutra including terminology and exciting new sexual positions. Totally awesome. There's also a good tutorial on the numbers 6 and 9 that occurs when Chloe is attending the annual Nude Relay…they're not just for algebraic equations anymore, kiddies.
Then there's Chloe's discussion with an expletive-slinging rabbi. Chloe describes herself as Jewish in name only, but she has been moping around quite a bit because her Catholic BFF told her that the fetal tissue growing inside her has a soul. Teddy (also Catholic) is horrified that the girl he loves would consider having an abortion, and that she spent the night with someone other than him – yeah, there's that little problem too. Her aunt wants her to have the baby and put it up for adoption. Fig agrees with that idea. Of course, Kiki and Fig are junkies so take it for what it's worth.
So I'm sure you'll be thrilled to have your daughter digging on this little soliloquy:
"What about an adoption? That's what the nice nurse asked me: Am I interested in adoption? Well, guess what? I'm not. To have a kid – " Chloe drew a sharp breath in. "Well, that's putting it out there, you know? It would haunt me forever to put a person out in the world and not take care of it. An abortion so early…when the thing is less than a freaking inch…"
That's where the profanity spewing rabbi really comes in handy toward removing any doubt in Chloe's mind because the rabbi assures Chloe that the child is "mere water." At one month gestation, Chloe is simply removing something analogous to her own limb. If she waited two more weeks then it would be harder to justify, but at a month, God will give her the thumbs up.
That's all she needed to know. It would seem that abortion won't haunt her forever the way adoption would. Adoption = guilt and abortion = happiness. She invites Virginia (Virginia is now in San Francisco because Kiki overdosed and was hospitalized) along for the abortion for parental consent purposes and that's where Chloe learns that her mom is the only person who ever understood her at all. Virginia wants to hold Chloe's hand while they end her grandchild's life.
It's quite a generational bonding moment.
After the abortion, the nurse and Virginia suggest that it might be time for Chloe to consider going on the Pill. Chloe declines stating that she won't be having sex ever again.
Mom and nurse offer a heartwarming wink-wink, nudge-nudge, "Don't deny yourself the fireworks!" And they laugh. Because the worst is over, and now is the time for jubilation, I guess.
So MJ, for all her rosary reciting and bible thumping, gets over the whole thing immediately. Teddy loves Chloe so much that he can get past the termination of a child's life. It's a happily ever after all around. Unless you're a "less than one inch" fetus, and then life sucks. Literally.
I don't recommend this book.