GJ woman’s book a poignant look at teen pregnancy
Chloe Wilson is 15, boy-crazy, sometimes sneaky and a little delusional. In other words, she’s like a lot of teenage girls.
What will soon set her apart from her peers, though, is the fact that she gets pregnant.
Chloe finds herself shunned by friends and shamed by her religious community.
The boyfriend bolts — “It’s not mine” is his immediate reaction. But even worse than Chloe’s tender heartbreak is the hurt she causes her parents; they are crushed.
Her childhood instantly ended, Chloe must remake herself into an adult.
Thus begins “The Total Deconstruction of Chloe Wilson” by Rebecca Carpenter.
The Grand Junction author is able to write, believably, from the viewpoint of a teenager, without the lecturing overlay of adult perspective.
It is a cautionary tale, for sure, made all the more poignant because it is the true story of Carpenter’s life.
“The Total Deconstruction of Chloe Wilson” is not a novel, but is a memoir with changed names and indistinct place references. Now an adult owner of a preschool, mother of two and a grandmother, Carpenter said she thought about writing this book for many years.
“If I could help just one girl, it would be worth sharing my story, even though in the beginning it was uncomfortable to think back on that time,” she said.
After a couple years of writing, “I was looking for a traditional publishing route,” Carpenter said. She pitched and pitched and pitched. “I sent out a million query letters. After a year of that, I decided I wanted to indie publish.”
She had a deadline in mind. May 7 is the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
In the back of Carpenter’s book is a self-evaluation section with questions for young readers to ask themselves, such as “Where do you think self-esteem comes from?” and “What are your aspirations or goals for the future?”
There’s also a list of discussion questions from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies. Those questions include “Will having sex make me popular?” and “How do I manage pressure from my boyfriend to have sex?”
Carpenter said she hopes the book opens discussions among friends and among families.
Because I happen to have Carpenter’s target audience at home — two 16-year-old girls — I asked my daughters, Piper and Isabel, to read “The Total Deconstruction of Chloe Wilson” and share their thoughts about what struck them.
Piper pointed out that Chloe rebelled against her strict upbringing: “I think her actions were based on relatively selfish motives and that’s why she got pregnant, because she was trying to defy her mom’s rules. This can be a lesson for parents and kids because it shows not to put your kids on a tight leash but also that your parents are making rules in your best interest.”
Isabel agreed that young men and young women often view sexual attention differently, and she wondered about the lasting effects on Chloe from being fondled and kissed at the age of 13 by a predatory older man — a babysitting client.
“Attention from guys is a nice feeling and gives young women confidence in themselves but can be dangerous because a guy’s intentions can (and usually are) very different. Did her early encounter with the guy she babysat for drive her desire for attention from guys?”
Carpenter’s book is available through Mesa County Public Libraries and at her website, thecaterpillargirl.wordpress.com. She would like to see copies in school libraries and in the hands of school counselors. She also will make herself available for presentations.
Though Chloe — and Rebecca — eventually found self-confidence, stability and success, the cycle of teen pregnancy is difficult to break. Happily-ever-after is for fairy tales, not for real life.
“The bottom line is, you’re an individual,” Carpenter said. “As a parent, what can you do other than teach them and hope for the best?”
We’ll let Chloe have the last word.
“I was in such a big hurry to grow up that I got exactly what I wanted. I robbed myself of my teen years, of all the experiences that teens are supposed to have. There would be no prom dress. And there would be no walking to the podium to receive my diploma. For many years, I dreamt I was back in school. I would wander the halls looking for my locker and classes. In my mind, high school was unfinished business.
“But teenage girls have a choice. They don’t have to choose the path to deconstruction, or one that will lead to teen pregnancy. I had a choice too. I chose the wrong path.
“I hope you will choose wisely and choose to enjoy the process of growing up. Once your youth is gone, you can never get it back.
“I was once young and naïve
“I was once insecure and plain
“I was once dishonest and fake,
“I was once fifteen and pregnant.
“That was my teen story. How will yours end?”