Cover Image: Belly Up

Belly Up

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Member Reviews

With BELLY UP, Eva Darrows delivers yet another important book that is told through humor, incredible relationships, and the strength of teenage girls.

BELLY UP tells the story of Sara Rodriguez, a 17 year old girl who gets pregnant after a drunken one night stand, who is suddenly thrust into adulthood and must face her new reality with the help of her mother, grandmother, and friends. The plot is developed over the course of her pregnancy and her senior year of high school, and it’s a tragic comedy of errors as she navigates doctor appointments, cravings, homework, and having a social life. Overall, the situation is treated with Darrows’ customary humor, but it’s also treated with attentive care. There are conversations about abortion and adoption, how becoming a mother will affect Sara’s educational prospects, how to navigate life as a single mother even as she receives all the support in the world from her loved ones, and so many other difficult situations that many teenagers don’t have to face, and Sara does this with a level of maturity that is enviable and admirable.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the novel for me was the varied female characters and all of the great, different relationships that are found within the pages. There’s Sara, of course, who is laidback and easy going, but whose mentality is tested when she finds out she’s pregnant, and it’s really amazing to watch her grow page by page into someone even stronger and more courageous than who she was at the start. Astrid, Sara’s mother, is a lot like her and I enjoyed seeing the similarities between them, and the back-and-forth they’ve developed as single parent and child, which I found to be incredibly realistic and relatable as someone whose been in a moderately similar situation. Mormor, Sara’s grandma, is a fierce, unyielding, battle axe of a woman, and while she’s a pain in the butt a lot of the time, it’s clear that she really cares about Sara and Astrid and would do anything for them. Devi is Sara’s best friend and one of the people who is with her every step of the way, and I really admired the unending loyalty and support that she shows Sara. And one aspect I adored about all of these characters is the fact that they all allowed themselves to be vulnerable in different ways, at some point throughout the novel. They were also so real and such complex characters, and they felt like people that I could know in real life.

Also, the romance between Sara and Leaf was very enjoyable to read. There’s very little angst once they get past the pregnancy road bump (heh) at the beginning of their flirtation, and I very much enjoyed the fact that it was such an easy, steady relationship. Once they express their feelings for each other, it’s such an enviably easy ride for them as they navigate the changes in life together. Leaf is so supportive of Sara and does his best to take care of her and Cass, both before and after she’s born, and I loved the ways in which he was considerate of Sara and sensitive to her needs.

Darrows’ books are always so relatable and realistic that it’s so easy to get lost in them, and BELLY UP is no exception. It’s a fabulous read and I highly recommend it.
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I was first attracted to this book because I am always interested in media portrayals of teen pregnancy, In fact it's a topic I'm so passionate about I wrote my final paper in college English Lit on the subject.

Whenever I start any fiction book about pregnancy, I am particularly interested on how experienced the author is with the topic and how accurately they write about it. As a 3 time pregnant mom, doula, and childbirth educator I catch when things don't make sense. So I was very happy that the pregnancy facts and experiences in Belly Up are very accurate to real life and pregnancy.

The second thing I really enjoyed about this book were Sara's struggles with self-identity as a biracial person growing up in a predominantly white area. I myself am white/hispanic mixed and also grew up in New England so many of her thoughts and experiences rang true for me. It's a struggle that not many people understand since unfortunately we still lack a vast mixed population in this country.

This book also addresses all spectrums of gender and sextual identification. I have spent the last 11 years living in the conservative deep south so these topics aren't the daily norm for me. But when I graduated in 2006 in NH, things were much more progressive than they are even now here. So the way these topics were handled made sense for the area and setting in 2019.

Overall I really enjoyed Belly Up and plan to look for more from Eva Darrows.
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I was so pleasantly surprised by this book! I'm not a huge fan of most contemporary but I found this to be such a refreshing read. Once I started reading I couldn't stop. Sara's voice is so funny and unique and her interactions with other characters, especially her family, were wonderful. I loved the Larssen clan--each woman had great characterization and flare that added a lot to the story. 
My only issue with this book was Leaf. He seemed a bit too flawless and accepting and it would have been nice to see him be a bit more dynamic in moments. In general, a lot of the teen side characters weren't developed as much as they could have been. Still, the cast was very diverse in terms of sexuality and gender identity which was delightful, and I did cry a bit at the end. Overall a quick and charming novel.
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This was a good book. There is an important message (not about pregnancy in general; about people's attitudes, belonging and not belonging, stereotypes, prejudice, etc.) All good themes. I would say they were given justice. 

So, why this less than stellar rating? I guess the book didn't hold my attention. It started out strong but it lost me in the middle. This is not so much of a critique of the book; in this case, I do think it's more about me. 

What I'm trying to say is: I rate this book 3 stars for my personal enjoyment, but it feel it objectively deserves more. I do recommend it.
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I was really hoping for a great story, but there was such a focus on gender, that the actual story was lost. If it is really important, mention it once, maybe twice. This wasn't really a novel, more of a soap box for the author to state her thoughts on gender. There really just wasn't a whole lot of actual story to review.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Author: Eva Darrows
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN (US & Canada) and Inkyard Press
Publication Date: 30 Apr 2019
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This was surprisingly good! I didn't think I would love it since it does deal with sensitive topics like teen pregnancy but it was really good! the main character was really interesting and I love the approach the author took with her. Overall, I thought this was great and highly recommend!
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This was SO WONDERFUL. I cried. It’s funny and sweet and every single character is a precious angel snowflake I would die for.
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I was totally expecting Belly Up to be a heavy read, what with the teen pregnancy and all, but I was completely wrong. It's light and fun, and super positive (a little unrealistic, or maybe a romanticized story). The main characters are a little too good to be true, kinda lifetime movie-y, but in a good way. This isn't a story about how life is over when you get pregnant as a teen, but how it just changes things. And those changes can be good or they can be bad or they can just be changes. Some of the situations are glossed over, or spun super positively, but that's not a bad thing. 
The book is hugely diverse, with a Gray Ace best friend (wifey), several POC, a transwoman, lesbians, and so on. Sara also makes a point to say that the assigned gender of her baby is [spoiler] female [\female] but that she'll leave the door open for the baby to decide later on. 
Totally not a typical teen romance, but in a very good way.
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This book was breathtaking! Mistakes that lead to something wonderful! Thank you netgalley for the free arc in exchange for an honest review!
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This book was a lot of fun to read! I loved Sara's voice! This book was a honest telling of teen aged pregnancy, of some of the kinda gross things that happen, and the realities of her situation. I loved how she had the support of her mom and her best friend!

Sara was a fantastic narrator! If you enjoy the voice like in the synopsis above (there's another synopsis, but I like this one better) then you'll like this book. Then there's the fact that her mom's side of the family is Scandinavian, and her dad's side of the family is Latino. So she's torn between those two worlds while not fully belonging to either. Which isn't fun! 

I really enjoyed Leaf and his friends who become Sara's friends. Yeah for diversity, because he's Roma, and his cultural treatment of food was an interesting part of this book. It wasn't all about her pregnancy! His reaction to her pregnancy and her reaction to his reaction made for great reading!

The relationships in this book were really great and realistic! Sara's with her mom, with her grandmother, with her best friend, with Leaf, with the baby's dad, yeah. They were a great base of this book, and I loved reading about them! 

Loved reading this book and it was a really great book!
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Oh man I struggled with this one. It took me way longer to read than it should have, but I just never felt compelled to pick it up again once I put it down. I started off really liking it, but that took a quick turn. I love me a good food description in a book, but even I found it to be too much. I also found it to be very preachy. I don’t like feeling told off when reading, and I found myself feeling that way a LOT. I like the idea of the story, but I did not like this book, and that kills me a little. Maybe I was too old for this book.
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My first 5-star read of the year!

I stayed up way past my “bed time” to read Belly Up. The story was so honest, real, and raw. Let’s not forget hilarious. This book was filled with laugh out loud moments, the one liners and jokes had me going.

There is a little bit of all types of representation in Belly Up. At first, it felt like the author was just throwing in everything she could think of, like a smorgasbord of representation, with no real reason. I looked outside that, though, because it wasn’t about me . . . it’s about others seeing themselves in a character. With that said, you can find a bit of ace, trans (MTF), questioning bisexuality, demisexual, and queer in one or more of the main characters.

I hated Mormor at first, but the crazy bat grew on me. I loved the support of Sara’s family. I’m reading some reviews saying this is unrealistic. In some cases, it might be. However, I think it was realistic enough. Not all families bail on their teenaged daughter/granddaughter, etc. when she becomes pregnant. It’s refreshing to see the positive, instead of all the negative.

I’m indifferent with the Jack ending, but this is a personal thing of my own reasoning. I can’t say much about it without spoiling, so I’ll keep it at that.

Read it! You’ll laugh, you’ll throw a shoe, you’ll cry.
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I loved this book! Everything about it was amazing! It had sweet contemporary romance without characters having to be conflicted and angry at everyone for most of the story. It had rep galore in many fashions! It read like I was having conversations with my own best friends and didn't take itself anymore serious than it needed to be. 

Belly Up is the story of how a reckless night at a party goes from fun to life changing. When Serendipity, Sara, has a drunken one night stand as way of rebounding from her ex she finds herself pregnant his with baby. The story goes through her figuring out the ups and downs of what her options are and the results of those decisions. 

The writing is spot on and I loved the humor so much. Multiple times I was giggling out loud at something Sara or another character would say. The one liners in particular were incredible! I loved the sass both Sara's mom and Mormor (grandma) had throughout the story and how they were involved and included. Too often the adults in the teens life are glossed over in fiction and I'm glad they weren't in this. Even Sara's friends parents were mentioned and occasionally seen. 

As for the representation, amazing! Darrows really packs diversity into this story and it all translates and works flawlessly for me. Not only do we have multiple sexual orientations represented but we have multiple religion and ethnicities as well. I greatly appreciate Darrows including variations of asexuality in her characters (gray ace and demisexual) and showing different diverse characters than we are use to seeing in other literature. The characters do a phenomenal explaining what and when things need to be explained without being rude or condescending about it. For example, I was completely engrossed when Sara was learning about Romani traditions and culture and the stories she was being told came naturally and the character was understanding of her ignorance instead of condescending about it. Another character starts her dialogue by telling Sara she is a trans queer girl and that if she has a problem with it then she can go find other people to talk to. The right to the point here is what's up attitude set the tone for her character and let you know what you needed without dwellig on the legistics of it. Other diverse characters are present and they all have their own way lf showing you who they are in a very natural and very them way. All of these aspects to these characters lets the reader connect to them in a much more intimate way than one may be use to. 

Overall I think this is one of my new favorites and I wouldn't be surprised if it stays in my top 5 on the year. I can easily see myself rereading since Darrows does an incredible job of making the dialogue, both inner and outer, relatable. It's also just an overall wholesome read without unnecessary drama. It was kind of refreshing in way. If YA contemporaries are your forte, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.
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I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

This book at first made me nervous to read. I liked the movie Juno and I thought this book would be like it. First thing I want to talk about is the characters names in this book. They are weird. I mean Leaf and Serendipity? What the heck. I noticed that the main character loved to mention that her family was Swedish. She mentioned it only five times a chapter. I swear. Sara aka Serendipity is one of the most annoying characters I've read about. She said the weirdest and most outrageous things. This book has got to be for older teens and not younger teens. I was surprised with some of the stuff she said. But the thing that annoyed me about her was how she didn't want to assume the gender of her baby. I understand that in this day and age that people want to be respectful of others and their own decisions but that baby hasn't picked what gender it wants to identify as and won't for some time. So it's okay for her to call it a girl. It seemed like a lot of characters in this book were from the lgbt community and I'm not for sure if the author had a reason or was just trying to make it full of people from this community. I don't like when authors put them in the books just to try to make the book diverse. It annoys me a lot. Maybe this isn't the case with this book I don't know. 

The plot of this book was kinda boring. Sara doesn't do anything eventful. She starts off with having a one night stand and ends up pregnant. Then she's instantly hoping into a new relationship at her new school. I just thought that was odd. She kept saying oh he won't want to be with me because I'm pregnant. 

The family is very accepting with her becoming pregnant and not knowing the father. All she has is the first name. It also seems like she doesn't even bother to look for the father of her baby. She just is like oh no one knows him and moves on. She didn't try that hard to find him at all. And we don't see her look for him at all.

Overall I didn't like most things in this book but I did like how the main character kept the baby and decided to finish up school. I admire her for that. The writing wasn't horrible and I was able to finish the whole book which is a plus. 

I also want to say that just because I didn't care for the book doesn't mean you won't.
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This book rather rubbed me up the wrong way right on page one, so it seems that I and this author must part ways since this is the second one of her novels that I have not liked. I negatively reviewed the previous one in December 2018.  So I guess I'm done with this author and she's no doubt glad to be done with me!

Even before I began to read this, I could see by the white space that this author evidently really dislikes trees, to want to slaughter so many to make a print book! Each chapter starts halfway down the page, and the margins on every page - which I assume is mapped out for a print version - had glaring, massive, tree-rasing white spaces. I'm slowly getting to the point where I'm thinking about DNF-ing and negatively reviewing all print books which are so disrespectful of the environment.

The next thing was in those first few lines where I read:

There's a first time for everything.
First time playing quarters.
First time spinning the bottle.
First totally hot consensual truck hookup with a superhot boy whose digits I forgot to get.
First time getting pregnant.
Surprised you with that one, didn't I?
Actually, no you didn't, because it's all in the back-cover book blurb! I know authors typically don't write their own blurbs unless they self-publish, but this author's blurb is word for word the opening lines of chapter one! The unexpected expectancy is central to the plot, so in what way was it even remotely a surprise? Not a lot of thought went into those opening lines! Fortunately, the book turned around somewhat after that, and it managed to draw me in, but the relationship 'tween author and reader was stretched even so, and by a quarter the way through, I could not stand to go on. This was a stillbirth.
So serendipity (yeah, why a mom only one generation away from her Swedish extraction would choose such a name goes unexplained), aka Sara-for-short, had a truly foolish hook-up with a guy she had never met before, knew nothing about, but nevertheless had unprotected sex with him - in his pickup truck (they're named pickups for a reason, and you should have no truck with them!).

I have to say that this girl comes off as profoundly stupid and so very easily manipulated by everyone. She never even went to get a morning after pill, and had no interest in getting checked up for STDs. Then of course she got pregnant and while the author wants us to believe she has some conflict in deciding what to do about it, the writing makes it clear she's already made her decision, so all the dithering and uncertainty felt completely fake in such a tell and no show novel.

The best example of this - and the one which made me give up on it - pops up about a quarter the way through the book, where Sara's mom is packing boxes into the car for transportation to her mom's house. The two of them are moving to live with Sara's grandmother to save on bills, This has nothing to do with the pregnancy, but when Sara offers to help, her mom ignorantly bans her from lifting, as though she's an invalid.

No! Pregnancy does not automatically make a woman an invalid! Women are not fragile. They're not delicate! They can lift things! They can open their own doors! They can even close car doors - Megan Markle proved it! What a shock! They do not need to be bubble-wrapped and set in a corner where they will not be interacting with anything dangerous! So why do authors, and even more shamefully, female authors, treat their own gender like its weak and delicate?

Yes, if there are medical reasons why she needs to take it easy, that's one thing, but in Sara's case she's a strong, healthy young woman with no medical issues and no pregnancy problems. She's just been given a clean bill of health by her doctor with no restrictions, she's only 11 weeks in, and yet her mom thinks it will be a disaster if she lifts a box or two of household items?

The problem with this is two-fold in that first, Sara hasn't decided if she's keeping the baby, so this concern seems a bit overdone given her ambivalence. If it miscarried, while that itself would be traumatic for her whether she wanted the child or not, it would solve her problem of not wanting to be saddled with a pregnancy in her circumstances, yet while every other remote and absurd eventuality seems to have crossed her overly fertile mind, this particular one never enters, not even in passing? It rather belies the ambivalence she's supposed to be feeling - hence the tell and not show problem.

But even if she was dead set on keeping it (she is, but the author thinks we haven't noticed), let's consider some real women. Jocelyn Benson, at 38, completed the Boston marathon in 6 hours while very pregnant. 35-year-old Amy Keil did the same thing at 34 weeks in 2015. Meghan Leatherman set personal records in Crossfit at 40 weeks, including weight-lifting. Lea-Ann Ellison did the same sort of thing.

At the 2009 Grammy awards, MIA, aka Mathangi Arulpragasam, got up and sang Swagger Like Us, danced in a bikini, and delivered her healthy child three days later. These women may be exceptional in more ways than one, and I am not suggesting that every woman carrying a baby immediately follow their example, but their example proves that pregnancy does not cripple a woman! It does not equate with being an invalid. It does not demand every woman for every pregnancy be coddled like fine bone china! Yet this author seems to think it does.

It would have been nice had the author shown that this young healthy woman could carry a box or two without having to call her friend to come over and help. Actually, given Sara's sorry ignorance, if her friend Devi, whom she'd inconvenienced by calling to come over and help had lectured her about what a pregnant woman could do, that would have made for some good reading.

As it is, it's a double problem in that Sara's mom thinks Sara is utterly helpless now she's pregnant, and Sara thinks her mom is inadequate in that she can't carry a few boxes out to the car by herself and desperately needs help. So we have a female author espousing 'weak women', and two female characters all but dismissing each other as a whole person. It was sad, and brought me that final step to DNF-ing this novel.

This author doesn't seem to have a good handle on pregnancy either, or needs to clarify her writing better. At one point she's talking of the baby being fully-formed, and later talking of it being a bean. Maybe she means the size of the fetus when she refers to a bean, but she's not being very clear what she means.

At eleven weeks a fetus might be described as the size of a large butter bean, but it is also recognizably humanoid. Despite looking human though (and ignoring the outsized head which is half the body's length at that stage) the baby still doesn't even have red blood cells, let alone be remotely viable in any other way. It's incapable of breathing before the second trimester, for example, because the neurological system isn't properly there, so despite looking humanoid, it has less going for it than your average caterpillar! So please do not take your what to expect when you're expecting lessons from this novel! Take 'em from a competent, experienced, and fully-qualified medical doctor!

In short, I cannot commend this as a worthy read. It was far too loosely-wrapped, and while I was certainly not expecting a medical manual, I did expect authenticity and realism and got neither.
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This book exceeded my expectations, I was expecting to read a book about teen pregnancy and really found myself reading a book about a girl that happened to get pregnant. The pregnancy was a main part of the story but I still felt like Sara was the main character and focus of the story, it was done very well. The author uses a lot of teen "lingo" so it helps to be aware of the culture when you read this book. If you are not, you probably won't understand much of the diversity included in the book.
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Belly Up shows the realities of teen pregnancy without dumbing things down. I wouldn’t use it as curriculum in my classroom as I feel the content is a little mature for them, but I would recommend it to older, more mature students.
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I was very excited to be chosen to read and review this story from NetGalley and Inkyard Press. The title and the story reminded me of the movie, Juno. If you haven't seen that movie, you have to watch it. It takes a comedic twist on teen pregnancy.

Yes, I know what you're probably thinking, there's nothing funny about teen pregnancy. No, there isn't, but you have to admire the talent of writers for putting that spin on something that is usually so sad and depressing.

Anyway...

Sara (Serendipity) gets over a heartbreak and makes a decision that does indeed have consequences. The story is told from Sara's point of view of of her breakup, the meeting up with a cute guy and hooking up (and thank you to the author for using the phrase hooking up correctly). Sara and her mother move in with her grandmother (Mormor) and there's the discussion of what Sara's options are.

She calls the baby a womb goblin. That was too funny not to mention.

Sara has an awesome best friend whom calls her Wifey (her name is Devi). You want to be feel bad for Sara because of her situation, but at the same time, you're happy for her because she has the support she really needed that, in reality, most girls in her situation don't get.

I adored Sara - even if I was silently judging her for the choice she made. I can't fully judge, though, can you say you didn't at least one stupid thing because of heartbreak or any other reason? Not excusing it, just asking.

All in all, the story as a whole, I actually liked. The formatting was a bit off to where sometimes it was difficult to read, but that's not the author's fault. I loved the diversity of the book. Serendipity has Hispanic and Swedish in her background. And I really liked that even though Sara's mother really didn't have in mindset to be a grandmother, she's been in Sara's situation and is supportive - and hysterical about it sometimes.

"Nope. No preggers carrying boxes. I love you, kid, but you're as useless as tits on a bull right now."

And who can't relate to Sara most times? She's going through pregnancy, but she's tough and brave enough to tell her Mormor what's going to happen and that's that. No disrespect intended.

"There was a half-eaten jar of Nutella beside me and no knife. That's right, I finger swipe ate half a jar of Nutella and there were no regrets."

The book will be published in April and is available for pre-order. Teen pregnancy isn't funny, and of course it's a difficult situation to be in, but I liked how this book at least gave it some uplift. Good ARC to start off the new year.
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When Sara thinks about her future her thoughts tend toward Ivy Leagues and adventures with her best friend- not to paying the price for a one-time rebound hookup with a random guy at a party. Oops. Fortunately Sara has a pretty amazing support system to see her through all the bumps in the road to come. 

This was very much a book about the best possible circumstances in which to deal with a teenage pregnancy. Sara has a lot of privilege compared to other girls in her situation and I don’t think this story goes far enough into discussing that. While the story doesn’t glamorize pregnancy it definitely wraps the experience up in a nice bow by the end. I enjoyed reading the story. I found the supporting characters to be more interesting than the protagonist and was left wanting to know how things turned out for them. All that said, it was an enjoyable story but not one I’d necessarily recommend as a book on teen pregnancy. Everything was just too easy for Sara.  That’s definitely not the usual story for pregnant teens.
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Sara’s junior year is coming to an end. She and her on again/off again boyfriend have broken up for good this time. Her best friend, Devi, makes her attend the big end of the year party. Sara gets drunk and decides to hook up with someone she meets at the party to get over her ex.  After the party Sara finds out that she and her mom will be moving to the next town to live with her Grandmother and help save money.

About a month later Sara realizes that she was left with a reminder from the night of the party. She also has no idea how to get a hold of her hook up. Sara is surrounded by strong women, will she be able to live up to the woman they believe she can be?
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