In Trouble

  • Interest Level: Grade 9 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 7

Jamie and Elaine have been best friends forever, and now they’re finally juniors in high school. Elaine has a steady boyfriend, and Jamie could have one—if she’d just open her eyes and see Paul. But Jamie has a bigger problem to worry about. Then Elaine gets “in trouble”—something they thought only happened to “other” girls. Are there any good choices for a girl in trouble?

In Trouble is a novel born of author Ellen Levine’s interviews with women who came of age in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including those who knew what it was like to be a teen facing a horrible choice. In the decades before Roe v. Wade, a young woman “in trouble” had very few options—and all of them meant shame, isolation, and maybe much worse. Jamie and Elaine’s stories are just two among the thousands of stories of teenagers facing unplanned pregnancies.

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Interest Level Grade 9 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 7
Genre Young Adult
Copyright 2011
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Lab ®
Language English
Number of Pages 208
Publication Date 2014-08-01
Reading Counts! Level 3.8
Text Type Fiction—Historical
BISACS YAF011000, YAF058040, YAF058180
Dewey [Fic]
Dimensions 5.25 x 7.5
Lexile 510
ATOS Reading Level 3.6
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 144543
Accelerated Reader® Points 5.0
Features Author/Illustrator note, Awards, and Reviewed

Author: Ellen Levine

Ellen Levine is the author of many books, including Henry's Freedom Box, a Caldecott Honor book, and Darkness Over Denmark, which was a National Jewish Book Award finalist and was awarded the Trudi Birger Jerusalem International Book Fair Prize. Her book Freedom's Children won the Jane Addams book award and was named one of the Ten Best Children's Books of the Year by the New York Times. Levine is a woodcarver and a lapsed civil-rights lawyer, and she taught at Vermont College's Master of Fine Art in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.


  • Amelia Bloomer Project List, Winner, 2011


Library Media Connection

“This novel would be great as a discussion starter.” —Library Media Connection

ALAN's Picks

“Setting the novel in 1956 allows young readers to see how differently society views unwed teenagers today. For instance, Elaine is forced to live at the Catholic Home and give her baby up for adoption. Levine’s novel also, unfortunately, shows us how much has stayed the same. The novel is a realistic account of girls ‘in trouble’ and how, with friends and family and fortitude, they make it through.” —ALAN’s Picks

Publishers Weekly

“A gripping, relevant read.” —Publishers Weekly


“Author Levine has broached a delicate subject in the hope that readers will reflect upon what life was like for women before Roe v. Wade and where our nation could be headed if we refuse to learn from our history…. It’s also a stark reminder of ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.’” —Booklist

School Library Journal

In Trouble should be available in every library serving young adults.” —School Library Journal

Kirkus Reviews

“Valuable insight into a time when abortions were illegal and pregnant teenagers were hidden away instead of filmed for a reality TV show.” —Kirkus Reviews


In Trouble is a book filled with surprises and mystery that readers won’t be able to put down until the very last page.” —SLJTeen

Jane M. Spinak

“Ellen Levine has captured the lives of an ordinary family living in the Bronx in the 1950s whose everyday existence is suddenly upended by two events: the father standing up for his beliefs and Jamie, the daughter, facing the consequences of a shocking trauma. Levine vividly portrays Jamie’s struggle to understand what has happened to herself, her family, and her best friend Elaine at a time when the country was scared of the ‘Commie’ threat and teenagers faced few options when they got ‘in trouble.’ This story is a prescient reminder of how fragile legal rights may be—whether asserting our political opinions or choosing how to control our bodies—when societal winds suddenly change course. But it is also a beautifully wrought coming of age tale that speaks to every generation.” —Jane M. Spinak, Esq., Edward Ross Aranow Clinical Professor of Law Director, Child Advocacy Clinic, Columbia University Law School

Gloria Steinem

“Ellen Levine has written an engaging and honest novel that reminds us how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go, in giving young women the natural right to own their own bodies. In Trouble will be a portable friend to readers who are struggling to give birth to themselves.” —Gloria Steinem