When I Grow Up

More Support, Less Judgement Needed for the Pregnant Girl

Nicole Lynn Lewis grew up in a middle class family in suburban New England and later Virginia Beach. An honors student in high school, her life changed when she fell in love with the wrong man. At age 17, a stack of college acceptances sat on her desk and she learned she was pregnant. This news changed the trajectory of her life, plunging her into poverty and creating challenges that some would find it impossible to overcome.

PREGNANT GIRL: A Story of Teen Motherhood, College, and Creating a Better Future for Young Families tells of Lewis’ experiences and shows how she persevered to become one of the 2% of teen mothers who earn a college degree (in her case, from a prestigious liberal arts college). Lewis shares her struggles with periods of homelessness and hunger, alongside the separate (but in her case, co-existing) stresses and challenges that come with being a college student and a new mother. More than just a memoir, the book weaves in facts, statistics and true stories related to teen pregnancy, relying heavily on Lewis’ work with teen parents through her nonprofit Generation Hope.

The book focuses on some of the root causes of teen pregnancy (roughly 750,000 girls between 15 and 19 become pregnant each year) and how even one person can make a difference. It addresses the lack of accessibility to services that have been proven effective to pull people out of poverty and shows the unrelenting determination some individuals have found deep within themselves to succeed. Lewis also points out that while the numbers of teen pregnancies are high, these numbers are on the decline. They are, in fact, significantly lower than they were two generations ago. She shows how targeting social programs to meet basic needs can reduce these numbers even further.

PREGNANT GIRL is raw, honest and inspiring. It reveals a life on the edges of mainstream America that too many are unaware of and demonstrates how easily one can slide from one socioeconomic bracket to another. One clear takeaway from this book is that teen pregnancy is not a moral issue, but a social one where small investments can pay huge dividends. This should give hope to women who see themselves reflected in these pages and compassion from those who recognize that, given even a single different life circumstance, they could have found themselves in the same place.


Note: Though an advance digital copy of this book was provided free of charge, no compensation was made for this review and the opinions are exclusively mine. KY