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Authors of Unpregnant on Pushing Boundaries in YA
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
September 2019
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
September 2019

Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplin are the co-authors of Unpregnant and shared their choice to write a young adult book about abortion in today's guest post. 

About the Book

SOON TO BE A MOVIE FROM HBO MAX!

Perfect for fans of Juno and Jennifer E. Smith, Unpregnant is a heartfelt and hysterically funny YA debut about fierce friendship, reproductive rights, and the wild road to adulthood.

“Hilarious. A remarkable debut.” —Stephen Chbosky, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

“A buddy road trip novel so funny, touching, and surprising, readers will forget it’s also important. Honest and relatable!” —Alex Flinn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Beastly

Seventeen-year-old Veronica Clarke never thought she’d want to fail a test—that is, until she finds herself staring at a piece of plastic with two solid pink lines. With a college-bound future now disappearing before her eyes, Veronica considers a decision she never imagined she’d have to make: an abortion.

So, we wrote a book about abortion. For teens. And not only did we write a book about abortion for teens, but it’s funny. 

This might upset some people.  

“Why would you ever write such a thing?” some people may ask. (That’s actually the nice version of that question. Sometimes they use meaner words.) Well, we can explain… 

First: why a book about abortion? We started this story a long time ago, way back in the Obama era, when the discussion of reproductive rights wasn’t constantly front page news the way it is today. But terrible stuff was still happening, even then. South Dakota was considering a 72-hour mandatory waiting period that required women to get counseling. Illinois’s parental consent law had finally made its way through the courts and had gone into effect. These actions and others were alarming and we wanted to tell a story that, instead of focusing on “the choice”, focused on how difficult it was becoming to be able to make that choice. Disappointingly, no one wanted to buy that story back in 2012. It was too controversial and too risky. But we really believed in it, so we kept trying. And then time passed, and Obama was gone and some new people were elected. In this new world, it became increasingly, alarmingly obvious that this was an important issue to highlight. 

Okay, so that’s why we decided to write about abortion. But why for teens? The quick answer is, why not for teens? Have you seen what they have to deal with on a regular basis?!? Like with the guns and the social media and the planet being basically on fire? We’re pretty sure they can handle whatever topic we throw at them. And as authors we’d never want to write down to someone because of their age. The age of the protagonist was determined by the sort of story we wanted to tell. We wanted our main character’s primary emotional arc to be about defining who she was not through other people’s expectations and desires but her own. We felt that sort of journey would be best served by a teenager because often it’s at that time in your life when you’re starting to figure out who you’re going to be. And while not every reader will have an abortion in their lifetime, pretty much everyone has to go through that process. Fiction is such a powerful tool. When we were teenagers, neither of us traveled widely, the towns we grew up in were somewhat small and homogenous, and we had a lot of privilege. Stories were where we learned about the bigger world. The library shelves had a far wider array of experiences than we were likely to encounter in our hometowns and we believe we are better people because we read those books. 

Now for the big question: why’d you make it funny? First off, thank you if you find us funny. Comedy is in no way universal. Our spouses only laugh at, like, half of our jokes. And they’re our spouses. The fact that we used humor to highlight a serious topic is where we may be pushing boundaries a little. But the truth is one in four people with a uterus will have an abortion by the time they are forty-five. It’s an incredibly common procedure. But people are often hesitant to talk about it, which can make it feel shameful. And when people are afraid to talk about things, or think they are shameful, it’s easier to pass laws restricting them. Because if you don’t believe you or anyone you know is affected by a law, it’s easier to ignore it. We really believe humor is one of the best ways to make a subject less scary. (If J.K. Rowling taught us anything, it’s that the best way to get over fear is to laugh at it.) We were very careful in crafting the story to not make light of the procedure, or treat it in a cavalier manner. Instead, we focused the humor on the difficulties in getting there and the absurd obstacles our girls had to surmount (cow stampede, ferrets, insane boyfriends) in order to point out how dangerous these laws truly are. Hopefully by the end of the book, the reader is less nervous about the topic and can see that getting an abortion isn’t something that needs to be clouded in shame. Hopefully it will remind people of the personal consequences of an election. And then perhaps someday, people won’t have to drive a thousand miles to go see a doctor.

Or if not, at least maybe we made a few people laugh for a little while.

About the Authors

Jenni Hendriks’s mom often complained she was “a real smart**s,” so she decided to make a career out of it. She moved to Hollywood and worked her way from coffee-fetcher to writer for the television series How I Met Your Mother. She is also a cartoonist whose feminist-inspired works have been published in Ms. magazine. A film school graduate, she knows how to rack focus and wrangle a cable and can tell you what a best boy does.

Ted Caplan has been working in the film industry for over twenty years as a writer, sound designer, and music editor. He has helped craft the soundtracks to many high-profile projects, such as The Maze Runner, Logan, both Deadpool films, and The Hate U Give. He is also the screenwriter of Love Sonia, a feature film about international sex trafficking from the producers of Life of Pi and Slumdog Millionaire.

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