Sometimes it’s easy to fall between the cracks…
At 3.04 p.m. on a hot, sticky day in June, Bess finds out she’s pregnant.
She could tell her social worker Henry, but he’s useless.
She should tell her foster mother, Lisa, but she won’t understand.
She really ought to tell Boy, but she hasn’t spoken to him in weeks.
Bess knows more than anyone that love doesn’t come without conditions. But this isn’t a love story…
Kirsty Capes’ debut novel Careless is a coming-of-age story about teen pregnancy and children in care.
Observant and heartfelt, Capes’ novel is written in first person from the perspective of fifteen-year-old Bess, who learns she is pregnant in the toilet cubicle of a Golden Grill kebab shop. She can’t tell her foster mum, whose shrill and argumentative nature makes her difficult to confide in, and she can’t tell the boy she’s been dating because he clearly doesn’t care too much for her.
The strongest relationship Bess has in her life is with her best friend Eshal. When the two of them form a plan to solve Bess’ pregnancy problem, it has disastrous consequences.
“That evening, I take the 400 bus home and I watch the shiny, molten surface of the reservoir through the window, milky pinky-blue sky behind it. As the bus rounds the corner onto the estate, I look up at Stage H, thinking someday I’ll be in there, making films.”
Bess and Eshal must learn to navigate their own futures amidst people who think they what’s best for them. It’s refreshing to find a novel focusing on children in care — an aspect of society that feels largely ignored in fiction. And Eshal’s relationship with her family, and the expectation that she’ll enter an arranged marriage, is to be commended. I think Kirsty managed that plot line with sensitivity and compassion.
Many readers will be able to relate to the relationship between Bess and Boy, which unfortunately, appears one-sided. Bess is besotted with Boy, but his attention wavers between hot and cold. I’m sure many readers will have found themselves in a similar position, and be able to recognise Bess’ internal thoughts and feelings.
“I’m gasping for breath. I know he’s listening to my thoughts. I tell him in my head, It’s like Titanic. And he laughs aloud like he heard me and he kisses me. His mouth is warm and there is salt on his lips. A proper kind of kiss. My first.”
Admittedly, this wasn’t quite the story I was expecting. I thought it’d be a comedy, which it isn’t. I anticipated it’d be heartfelt and emotional, which it is, but it’s actually quite grim and dark too. A heavy story.
Bess is, at times, insufferable. Is it terrible that I found myself siding with her mother more often than Bess? Yes, her mother is unreasonable, quick-to-rage, and quick-to-blame, and her actions at the end of the novel are unforgivable, but I found Bess’ immaturity and naivety about pregnancy quite painful in the novel — almost too painful to stomach.
“It’s weird that, considering how much Eshal knows about me and what we’re about to do, I’m shy about changing in front of her. She senses this and steps out of the room, closing the door.”
Raw and dark, Careless is recommended for young readers. I didn’t feel this was the literary novel that the blurb promised — it felt like it will appeal to a younger target audience. Readership skews female, 15+
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Hachette Book Publishers