“You will get pregnant – AND DIE” Death and pregnancy in teen novels

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Most teenagers have seen the classic high school movie ‘Mean Girls‘. Lindsay Lohan was in her prime, Rachel McAdams was up and coming, and the memorable quotes just go on and on and on. While I’m still trying to make ‘Fetch’ work, one memorable quote comes from Coach Carr whose Sex Ed lesson included the pearl of wisdom ‘Don’t have sex. You will get pregnant. And die.’ Although this was a flip comment, it is alarming how many novels aimed at teenagers that do include sex also include pregnancy and death.

First, my least favourite, but without doubt the most famous: Twilight: Breaking Dawn, by Stephanie Meyer. It may take one thousand pages to get there, but after their one sex scene, during which they’re actually married, so it’s hardly just horny high-schoolers, Bella gets pregnant. And, whilst giving birth, she dies. Technically, she becomes undead, as her vampire-husband turns her, but still. She does technically die.

Second, and my favourite, is Noughts and Crosses, by Malorie Blackman. Callum and Sephy only get to do it once, and though it is during her abduction, theirs was a baby made in love. However, as a result of this, Callum is arrested for rape, and dies. She gets pregnant. He dies. My heart breaks.

There is the slightly disturbing Koizora, the japanese tale of Mika and Hiro. She gets pregnant, but after being raped and abused she loses her baby. The second time, she is pregnant and Hiro dies from cancer.

Go Ask Alice, edited by Beatrice Sparks is primarily an anti drugs text, though at the point where Alice thinks she may be pregnant, her grandfather suffers a heart attack.

I understand that we shouldn’t be encouraging teenagers to have sex – but surely modern novels aimed at teenagers would be more useful if they mentioned a condom from time to time? Especially as a lot of the teenagers mentioned were over sixteen (guys I’m British – age of consent is lower than the states) and were completely legal in their actions. It actually really surprises me how often teenagers having sex is followed up with pregnancy and death in so many young adult novels.

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