One of the most enduring young adult titles published in the 1970s is Go Ask Alice, a startling autobiography of a teenage drug addict. Editor Beatrice Sparks now turns the same deft editing hand to the issue of teen pregnancy in Annie's Baby: The Diary of Anonymous, a Pregnant Teenager, and the results are once again searing and powerful. Annie is 14 when she meets 16-year-old Danny, her first boyfriend, and from the start the feelings are strong enough to make the regular cafeteria food taste like "the ambrosia of the gods." Her voice resonates with innocence as she confides to her diary about what she knows must be love, but that innocence quickly fades as Danny subtly moves their relationship forward at a pace that Annie is unable to control. The pregnancy brings the truth of their relationship to light, and, not surprisingly, Annie is left to deal with the situation on her own. Annie's divorced mother is a model of understanding and support, almost to the point of being too sacrificial in accepting her daughter's pregnancy. But it is ultimately that sacrifice which brings Annie to a final decision about the baby. Although the sex here is referenced only in euphemisms, the violence in Annie's relationship with Danny and the way she is able to rationalize it is actually more disturbing than the ease of her sexual experience. Through inclusion of a therapy session transcript, Sparks makes clear that this kind of behavior is unacceptable under any conditions. She also includes a section of questions and answers, statistics, and resources for teenagers and the adults who work with them.
Annie's Baby is eye-opening and challenging, the self-portrait of a "good" girl who mistakes sex for love and runs head-on into the consequences. Annie's voice is aimed straight to teens but adults should listen, too, for it speaks volumes to us as a culture about what we are teaching our children, or rather, what we are allowing them to learn for themselves.
Reviewed by Denise Olivieri Yagel.