Warning: Minor Spoilers
To people who live in places where abortion is readily accessible, the plot of Sharon Biggs Waller’s “Girls on the Verge” may seem like something out of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” But, as a native Texan, I can assure you the scenarios in this novel are all too real.
Seventeen-year-old Texan Camille is pregnant and needs an abortion. As a minor, Texas law requires her to have parental consent to get the procedure. However, she is terrified to tell her parents about the pregnancy because she is embarrassed and doesn’t want to disappoint them.
Out of options, Camille embarks on a road trip to the Mexican border to buy abortion-inducing pills. Accompanying her on her journey is Annabelle, an older acquaintance from her theater group whom she admires but barely knows. At the last minute, Camille’s best friend, Bea, joins them. She is against abortion but chooses to put her personal beliefs aside in order to support her friend.
Over the course of more than a thousand miles, friendships form and are tested. A fascinating dynamic exists between the three girls, each with their own definition of womanhood. Bea is a conservative Christian who wears a purity ring. Annabelle is a proud feminist who sports an “I STAND WITH WENDY DAVIS” T-shirt. And finally, there is Camille, who isn’t sure who she is or what she wants out of life. Despite their differences, they manage to come together. They support each other through the many challenges the trip throws in their way.
Woven throughout the narrative are flashbacks revealing how Camille arrived at her current predicament. She loses her virginity in an awkward one-night stand that results in her pregnancy. Camille encounters a slut-shaming pharmacist who refuses to sell her a pregnancy test. She visits a Crisis Pregnancy Center that tricks Camille by trying to pressure her into keeping the pregnancy. Camille also fails to convince a judge to give her a judicial bypass that will let her get an abortion without her parents’ consent.
Mixed with these serious challenges are also more adolescent concerns that nonetheless feel just as important and heartbreaking. She embarrasses herself in front of her cute French crush. She misses a prestigious theater camp so she has an excuse to tell her parents about where she’s traveling to.
“Girls on the Verge” is a powerful novel about growing up and girls supporting each other. More than that, it’s also a stark reminder of the hell women in some places have to go through in order to exercise their right to choose. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who is passionate about reproductive justice.
Donate to Jane’s Due Process, an organization that helps minors in Texas get abortions.
Featured image taken from goodreads.com