The Effects of Teenage Pregnancy: Background information when reading With the Fire on High

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With the Fire on High

by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo X
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
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  • First Published:
    May 2019, 400 pages
    Mar 2021, 416 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
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About this Book

The Effects of Teenage Pregnancy

This article relates to With the Fire on High

Print Review

In With the Fire on High, protagonist Emoni has a baby at the end of her freshman year of high school and makes some life-changing choices. Her strong support system, which not every teen mother has, gives Emoni an excellent chance at keeping both her life and the life of her daughter on a positive track.

With her mother dead and her father living in Puerto Rico, Emoni lives with her grandmother. Their living arrangement is not unusual; in the United States, approximately 2.6 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren. With the birth of Emma, Emoni's grandmother also shares a significant responsibility for the care of her great-granddaughter.  With such strong family support and a good daycare program, Babygirl will be far less likely than many children of teen parents to suffer the consequences of "lower levels of emotional support and cognitive stimulation" or lack of preparation for kindergarten. As she grows up, however, she still faces a greater risk of lower school achievement, incarceration, or even continuing the cycle of teen pregnancy herself. 

Though their relationship is a thing of the past, Emoni's ex-boyfriend Tyrone is committed to sharing responsibility for their daughter's upbringing, consistently taking his daughter for overnight visits (and occasionally scaring Emoni with talk of full custody). Research indicates that only about 25% of teenage fathers want to be a part of their children's lives. While there are many programs that focus on teen mothers, there are far fewer for teenage fathers.  Working with high schools and social agencies around the country, the Fatherhood Project offers young dads activities meant to build their parenting skills, child development classes, and other programs designed to keep them engaged and effective co-parents, whether or not they remain in a relationship with their child's mother.

Emoni opts out of her school district's special (and slower) high school track for teenage mothers, remaining in regular classes through to her senior year. And, while she recognizes that hers will not be an easy road, she applies to several nearby colleges. Emoni is beating the odds: Only 40% of teenage mothers in the United States complete their high school education. For those who go on to higher education, only 2% complete their college degree by age 30. 80% of teen mothers rely on public assistance at some point in their lives.

Emoni's choices regarding raising her baby and furthering her education may not be typical of American teenage mothers, but her story could potentially offer a road map to young women facing difficult choices after an unplanned pregnancy.

Filed under Society and Politics

This "beyond the book article" relates to With the Fire on High. It originally ran in July 2019 and has been updated for the March 2021 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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