1 party, 5 friends, 1 unexpected guest.
Imagine you’re in the middle of your 17th birthday party, drinks are flowing and your having a great time when you realise you haven’t seen your best friend in a while. You’re not ready for what you find. Your friend is on your bathroom floor about to give birth to a baby you know nothing about, and apparently neither did she. Olivia’s head is spinning as she has to help her best friend Nicola deliver the baby. Little does she know this baby will blow their friendship group apart. This is the start of Lisa Drakeford’s novel The Baby. The book is divided into five sections, one for each of the main characters Olivia, her best friend Nicola, her controlling boyfriend Jonty, her gay friend Ben and her little sister Alice. We see the aftermath through each of their eyes, but all isn’t as it seems.
I’m always interested in books that focus on teenage parents and have been for as long as I can remember. As someone who stood by their best friend as they had a child at the age of 17, I was intrigued to see what Drakeford would do with her characters. It’s easy to assume that a child changes things, but I feel like there was almost too many issues with the characters and not enough novel. There are complex relationships within the group, Olivia is struggling in a controlling relationship with Jonty, Jonty hates Ben for his closeness to Olivia. The only character that isn’t involved with the group, but in my opinion has the best chapter, is Olivia’s sister Alice. Alice has no friends of her own but observes everything around her and loves helping out with Nicola’s baby at any given moment. She’s just the strange little sister but through her eyes you see more than through any other, she was my favourite character by far. As for Olivia, I felt like she was a kind of punch bag throughout the whole story and I really struggled to like her. I would have like to have seen more of Nicola and how she copes with her daughter and more of Jonty’s backstory, that was something I really enjoyed and made him a much more relatable character.
There is a big twist towards the end of the novel, which I couldn’t stand. It kind of derails the entire plot up to that point and then adds a real question mark to the end of the novel. After reading 200 pages I was beyond angry and frustrated at the twist, I’m pretty sure it’s a love or hate scenario, there will definitely be people who recommend the book to their friend on the basis of the ending, although I’m not a fan.
I’m giving this book two stars **. I really wanted to enjoy it but there really are too many issues in one short book for me to enjoy. I think that the biggest reason for my low rating is the twist at the end, it kind of ruined it for me. It isn’t that I completely loved the book throughout, but I did struggle with having positive feelings about it at the end.
Review by Chloe Metzger