From Points to pregnancy: dealing with weight gain so far


This time last year, I was celebrating two milestones: my first anniversary with Weight Watchers and achieving lifetime status with the program after reaching my goal weight. Dropping those 35 pounds took me out of the “overweight” category for the first time in my adult life.

Shedding that weight was life-changing for me. Beyond being happier with my appearance, I actually had energy. Drive. Purpose. My new relationship with food made me feel empowered, not guilty. I slept better, walked taller and generally felt like Meg 2.0. And I was getting married!

Life was great before, but after WW? It was fantastic.

When I learned I was pregnant last September, I had every intention — every intention in the world! — of maintaining my healthy eating habits. Reaching for a banana instead of a high-calorie snack was just what I did — not something I thought about. I was so well-versed in the Weight Watchers way of life that I tracked Points in my head, naturally knowing when I’d overdone it or could indulge a little that day.

And I wanted — want — to have a fit pregnancy. As Spence and I began to discuss starting a family, I started researching prenatal health and nutrition. Armed with facts, data and support from doctors and other mamas, I felt fairly confident that I could continue to be me . . . just with a baby bump.

And then I got sick.

Funnel cake

The nausea started in week five, reaching a delirious fever pitch in week eight. Though I have heard so many stories that make my own morning (er, all day) sickness seem wimpy by comparison, there is no denying I was ill. Perpetually nauseous. Foods I once loved — Brussels sprouts, hummus, green beans, yogurt, chicken — became Enemy No. 1. In the weeks after we learned I was expecting, my husband and I basically had to empty out our fridge and start again.

There was no telling what would set off my gag reflex, which made it even harder. I would walk into a restaurant craving chips and queso, then panic and walk out before I’d even gotten to the counter. Something I loved one day — spicy pickles, chocolate ice cream — would sicken me the next.

What I could count on? Breads. Macaroni and cheese. Bagels. Potato chips. Rich, carb-heavy foods that seemed to settle my stomach the way my lighter fare could not.

In short? I wanted everything I stopped eating after committing to healthy eating. For the first time in more than a year, our house was packed with junk food — and I began packing on the pounds.

At this point, 20 of them.

Until I began to make my peace with it, that number terrified me. Though I limit what/how much I’m reading about pregnancy (online, especially), I know a “healthy” weight gain in the first few months is generally between one and five pounds. I probably gained that in the second week.

Now 19 weeks along, I’ve discussed this with my doctor. I’m closely monitored. I weigh in at every appointment, give blood and urine — all the normal procedures. And so far, I’m good. We’re good. At this point, there is no reason to worry or obsess about my weight — and that knowledge calms me down.

Also? I’ve learned to cut myself some slack.

Brussels sprouts

Those early months felt like I was stumbling around with an awful stomach virus — and if I thought I was going to be munching on salad greens with a light vinaigrette, well . . . there was no way. No way. I wasn’t sitting down to five-course dinners, but I was eating what I could stomach — and snacking often to keep the queasiness at bay.

Physically, I did what I had to do to get through it.

But emotionally, it was tough.

After feeling so healthy, strong and slim, my body’s rapid transformation was crazy. I felt sick, not pregnant, so it was psychologically tough to differentiate between gaining weight for a little one and just . . . gaining weight.

Those early months were hard.

I subscribe to a few baby boards for expectant moms also due in June. Though they can be something of a dark hole sometimes, especially for nervous first-timers, I do find camaraderie there — and answers to many “Is this normal?”-type questions. (Answer: probably. Everything is weird in pregnancy.)

But when I see a post called “No weight gain!!!” or “Feeling fat,” I know to stay away.

They’re triggers for me . . . especially when I started scrolling through posts from women who had not gained a pound — or actually lost weight — in their first trimester. Even recently, at almost five months along, some ladies can still fit into non-maternity clothing. Entire threads of women showing off their svelte figures at 12, 14 or 16 weeks made me self-conscious and anxious.

I bought my first pair of maternity jeans at six weeks along — because I really needed them. My pants with their single-digit tags now look laughably small, and 75 percent of my wardrobe is completely unwearable.

But this is a season. You’re growing a baby, I gently remind myself — so of course I’m growing, too.

Though I know they’re probably innocent, remarks about suddenly seeing weight gain “in my face” take me aback. I’m so happy to be having this baby, but the comments about my changing shape are hard to take. Especially with a smile.

A friend — a mom of two herself — recently told me that, once you’re obviously expecting, everyone feels as though your body is public property. Your breasts, rump and belly are all open for conversation, scrutiny and comparison . . . along with your eating habits. And parenting style. And so on.

When I was craving Milano cookies in November, someone casually mentioned “all the sweets” at my desk.

“Remember, you’re going to have to take all that weight back off,” she warned. “And good luck with that.”

I feel I need a disclaimer here . . . a big, bold one that says, Yes, I am so unbelievably happy about this baby! We already love him or her so much, and I know all these changes will be more than worth it. With time and patience, I’m sure I’ll begin to feel like my old self again.

But it’s still hard sometimes.

Honestly, it is.

So, the title of my post: how I’m “dealing with” weight gain at five months along? Now that the dark, sick days of the first trimester are behind me, I find myself . . . thinking again. Thinking like Meg 2.0.

About what I’m eating.
Why I’m eating it.
How it’s benefiting Baby J — and if it’s benefiting me.
Am I hungry . . . or bored?
If I’m hungry, is this what I’m really hungry for?

Slowly, slowly, the fruit and vegetables have returned to my plate. Slowly, slowly, I’m reaching less for the chips and more for the almonds. String cheese is back, as is Greek yogurt. And my appetite for meat, though smaller, has also returned. (Minus chicken. Something still doesn’t sit right with me.)

I’m feeling less like the junky, tired stranger who arrived in the fall and more like the empowered, choosy woman — the mom-to-be (!) — that I’m much more comfortable with. I feel human.

I guess that’s why everyone loves the second trimester, right?

Shifting from Points to pregnancy hasn’t been seamless, and I know I’ll feel a thousand conflicted emotions between now and June. (And, you know, for the rest of my life.) But I feel like I’ve reached a place where I’m feeling well enough — and strong enough — to take control of my nutrition again.

And I really want to. Moving forward, I want to approach healthy eating during pregnancy with the same zeal that first brought me to Weight Watchers in 2013.

Though part of me does wish we could take that whole “eating for two” thing literally sometimes — especially when funnel cake is involved.

Pass me an apple instead?

The Great Cookie Meltdown of 2014

I’ve had exactly two pregnancy-related freak-outs in the last 16 weeks.

The first came shortly after Thanksgiving. Freshly home from work and dying for pickles, my cliched craving of choice, I plunked down next to my husband. “I really want some of my baby pickles, but there’s a crumb in the jar,” I said slowly, then promptly burst into tears.

Big, fat, rolling-down-the-cheeks tears.

“Are you okay?” Spencer looked over suddenly, clearly alarmed. “Are you crying? Over pickles?”

“YES,” I screamed, also laughing at my known ridiculousness. The laughing/crying combination is a familiar one; I’ve come to know this strange twist of double-crossed emotions quite well.

Logically, I realize that crying over a crumb in a pickle jar is beyond silly . . . but that knowledge doesn’t stop the waterworks. Just picturing my beloved pickles with an errant bread crumb floating in the jar — thereby contaminating them, of course — was enough to send me into hysterics.

I. am. a. mess.

Once Spencer stopped laughing (kindly, of course), he went into the kitchen to fish out some “clean” pickles and returned with a bowl for me. I couldn’t stop crying long enough to eat them, moved again at his willingness to eliminate the offending bread crumb for the sake of my sanity.

In the weeks since the Pickle Incident, I’ve tried to maintain a grip on decorum. I’m going to blame hormones. My emotional responses are weird — and sometimes inappropriate. Most commonly-overheard phrase at my house? “I don’t know why I’m crying.”

And usually, I don’t.


Last weekend was to be a time of desserts and revelry. It’s Christmas! A time of joy and laughter! I attend a cookie exchange at my aunt’s house every holiday — and foolishly decided to try new recipes this year. I made plans to bake at my parents’ house with my mom, who was concocting gumdrop cookie bars, and had my ingredients ready. Get the flour and let’s roll.

Because I needed to have eight dozen (!) cookies to share on Sunday night, I decided to make four dozen of two types. About halfway into making the dough for the brown butter snickerdoodles, I realized this was going to be far more time-consuming than I’d planned.

And stressful. Can’t forget stressful.

My other variety of cookie — a rocky road-type treat with marshmallows, pecans and chocolate chips — was a recipe shared by a friend, clipped from a long-ago magazine. While the dough came together faster, the results ended up being . . . well, explosive. Literally.

Where did it all go wrong, friends? Honestly, I’m not sure. I thought I’d followed the directions closely for both recipes, but we all know that cookie-baking is a science. Where we can fudge along a bit with cakes and cupcakes, pies and trifles, cookies? Unforgiving. They don’t care if you’re tired and pregnant and nervous and stressed, you know? Cookies don’t care.

Thirty seconds can be the difference between delectable and bottom-of-a-kettle burnt.

I’m always on the wrong side of that line, it seems.

Five hours after we started, I pulled the last of the cookies from the oven. While my snickerdoodles were not photogenic, I nibbled on one and found the flavors solid.

But those rocky roads? Oh, dear.

When I say they exploded, I literally mean the marshmallows self-destructed and sent a gooey, crispy mess all over the cookie sheet (and each other). They baked at the recommended temperature for the correct amount of time — in fact, I actually pulled them early when I got wise to what was happening — but, you know . . . disaster.

“Look at this. Look!” I yelled to my husband and sister, both standing nearby with naked fear in their eyes. “I mean, this one has a HOLE IN IT.”

Katie stepped closer, peered down and gave me a sympathetic look. “It does,” she conceded.

“How does that even HAPPEN? HOW?”

Spencer grimaced. “It’s okay. I’m sure . . . they taste good,” he added limply, pushing the overcooked dough with a finger.

Unwilling to be consoled, I began to cry and gnash my teeth and froth at the mouth in a way that made the Pickle Incident look like a stroll through the park on a sunny day. After hours of cookie preparation, my results were pitiful. The rocky roads looked like freshly-destroyed cookie roadkill.

If the cookies had been for us, you know, I would have been disappointed — but ultimately gotten over the horror. But these were cookies for gifts at a holiday exchange with nice women who clearly knew what they were doing . . . and me? I’m just a cookie imposter.

An angry, emotional cookie imposter.

But you know what?

They did taste good.

Next year, new tradition: we’re lobbying for a wine and cheese social. Desserts are for the birds.

Holiday-themed pity party


The first Christmas party has been thrown!

Twenty friends and their kiddos arrived on Sunday for a holiday party, hosted for the first time at the Johnson residence. My sister and I co-hosted the event (with, you know, our husbands) and began discussing details back in October. In fact, Kate had me send out a “save the date” in early November. We were on it.

And then I got sick.

Early last week, my throat began to feel itchy. Within two days, I was wallowing in a congested-sneezing-clogged-nose hell that had me Googling every medication under the sun with “safe for pregnancy” afterward.

Spoiler: none were.

If I thought being sick was awful before, being sick while pregnant pretty much sent me into an existential tailspin. Everything is deadly; nothing is safe. I’ve never been a “natural remedies” sort of girl, but by golly was I searching for anything under the sun to get relief by Friday morning.

I’ll freely admit to once rolling my eyes at others’ dramatics when it comes to the common cold because, you know, I was tough. Chug a little DayQuil, grab an extra pack of tissues and keep it movin’, you know what I’m saying?

Yeah. Well.

I got mine, friends. Several times over. After suffering through a few work days and grossing out everyone in my vicinity, I finally called uncle and stayed home on Friday. What followed was a day of crying, cursing and throwing myself a holiday-themed pity party complete with bad daytime television, mugs of half-drunk tea and texting my husband repeatedly to learn when he’d be back to bear witness to my continued freak-out.

I’m so fun.

In my defense, I didn’t realize how much I rely on medication for comfort. Got a headache? Advil. Back hurts? Advil. Congested, hard time breathing? Decongestant. Bad cramps? Advil.

With nearly all of my go-to drugs off the table, I felt helpless. And pregnancy hormones? No joke. I have been a big, steamy mess of nonsense for the last few weeks — even before I became infected with this scourge. After going through three boxes of tissues in two days and calling my doctor repeatedly for something, anything I could take (finally got permission for low-dose Sudafed), the cold began to break on Sunday morning.

Just in time to host the party.

After disinfecting and de-cluttering everything we could, dear Spencer set to work making food while I read recipes from a bubble in the corner. I pumped myself full of water and baby-safe drugs before everyone arrived, then dissolved into a puddle of gratitude as my sister and brother-in-law showed up to help take over responsibilities.

And then I could just have fun!

And so we did. Mostly because I couldn’t believe we’d pulled it off and actually had everything go as planned. In a panicky moment on Friday, I was convinced the whole thing would fall apart because I was too weak to do more than reach for another tissue. Spence and I had looked forward to hosting our friends at our first shindig, and I didn’t want to cancel.

But I rallied, everything went off without a hitch — and I’m only feeling about 30 percent ridiculous today. The cough is sticking around, but I can handle that.

Hug your NyQuil a little closer for me, friends. You never know how much you love something until it’s gone.

I’ve been keeping a secret . . .

. . . and it was the hardest I’ve ever had to keep.

But we needed time to laugh. Ponder. Freak out — in a good way. To hug each other and daydream and think, think, think.

But I’m ready now. And it’s time to shout it from the virtual rooftops, if you will.

The ones adorned with everything sparkly and light and uncertain.

In a way, the story starts with a fortune cookie.

Until recently, I didn’t pay much attention to babies. I prefer the fat-fisted 3-year-olds with their coloring books and crayons, their funny voices and elaborate stories, their wide-eyed innocence and crazy tantrums and little shoes. When friends’ children reach toddler-age, I’m in my element — suddenly beloved friend or makeshift “aunt,” even if only for the length of a party.

But everything changes, of course.

Sometime in mid-September, I began to feel “off.” Though physically I felt okay, my emotions seemed to reach angry-dragon level. Innocent comments angered me; silly jokes I would have once found hilarious became annoying, grating. I started tearing up at really dumb commercials. Laughing way too hard at sitcoms. My emotions were magnified, all over a map as pinpoints I couldn’t control. In my more tired and frustrated moments, I kept telling my husband I felt “crazy.”

I figured I should take a pregnancy test.

The first one was on a Thursday. I waited for the news in a doctor’s office, where I’d gone in for an unrelated issue. When she bustled into the room with the news — “It’s negative” — in a chirpy voice, I deflated. In addition to being excited about a potential baby, of course, I found myself wanting to write off my insane emotions with the inarguable diagnosis of “pregnant.”

Disappointed, I texted Spencer with the update and went about my week. Other symptoms began to crop up — some soreness, tiredness — but I wrote them off, thinking about how stressed I’d been lately and how that anxiety was likely what had delayed my cycle, too.

By Monday morning, though, I really felt something was up. I hadn’t been sleeping much; my appetite had changed. Though I didn’t feel sick, exactly, I just didn’t feel like myself.

So I took another test. Embarrassed to still be obsessing about the idea even after the doctor’s visit, I waited until Spencer left for work. I checked it with trembling hands, staring and waiting, but the “negative” line appeared almost immediately — stark and undeniable. No question. No argument.

More days passed. More waiting. More nothing. Increased soreness, extra moodiness, a desire to cry at the drop of a hat. I Googled endlessly about the accuracy of pregnancy tests, wondering if I’d somehow done it incorrectly. I did read over and over that, if taken too early, a false result could be incorrect. But I was still mildly convinced I was nuts.

You know where this is going, right?

By Saturday night, Spencer and I were out to dinner at a favorite Chinese spot. I barely tasted the chicken. Though we’d had a nice afternoon, all I could think about was whether or not I could be expecting. Every cramp and twinge was analyzed; I’d been driving myself insane looking up “early symptoms” online. I had a few, but not most — and the ones I had were easily explained away.

But I had to know.

By the time our server dropped off the check with a pair of fortune cookies, I’d worked myself into a tizzy. This is practically a pastime for me, really, but this had a shade of hysteria at the edges. I’d been worrying for days and, by the time I cracked that cookie open, I was up to my eyeballs in nerves.

The cookie knew this.

“Be prepared for a sudden, needed, and happy change in plans.”

I looked at my husband, kindly waiting to hear my fortune, and felt the breath leave my chest. “I think I need to take another test,” I said, laughing, before I passed it across the table to him.

So I did.

The cookie was right.

Pumpkin family

Our first baby is due June 5, 2015. A baby! Our baby.

Sometimes it feels incredibly real and sometimes it’s very, very hard to believe. As of last Friday, I’m 12 weeks along and feel like I’m coming back to life. The early weeks were plagued by nausea and exhaustion that had me falling asleep by 9 p.m. — or earlier.

If you’ve wondered where the heck I’ve been, the answer is probably near a restroom.

My biggest enemy has definitely been lack of caffeine. Before we found out Baby Johnson is on his/her way (we’ll learn lad or lady in January), I was a major diet soda junkie. I started my day with a cup of coffee, then quickly moved to Diet Coke with a side of Diet Coke in the afternoon. If I was having a rough day, I’d cap that off with a Coke Zero at night.

“Too much” caffeine was never a thing for me; I can drink coffee and go straight to bed. It did prevent me from getting headaches — withdrawal symptoms, likely! — and kept my energy levels up at work, but I really just love the taste of diet soda. I took it for granted.

I’ll never do that again.

I’m all about water and herbal tea these days — the former something I tried to drink regularly, and the latter something I never drank at all. Going basically cold-turkey on caffeine has been tough, but remember that I’m a fearful first-timer. I’ve read countless articles online about the effects (or lack thereof) of caffeine and artificial sweeteners on pregnant women and their little ones, and though moderation seems to be key? I’m totally afraid of screwing something up.

I mean, I legitimately have no idea how to grow a human . . . I’m just glad my body does.

There are times I think this is really happening!, and other times it seems completely unreal. We’re just barely beginning to wrap our minds around the idea of a newborn, this shift from our “someday baby” to the one we plan to hold, God willing, in just six months.

I’ve felt every emotion under the sun about 10,000 times. Often in a single hour.

Utter joy.
Utter fear.

But more than anything? It’s definitely happiness. To pull out every cliché in the book, it does feel like a miracle. We had a second ultrasound last week and saw Baby J kicking, stretching and flipping like a gymnast. Seeing movement — actual movement of a moving baby — really blew our minds.

So that it’s it! My big, fat, crazy secret that I am so relieved to let out of the bag. I’ve been dying to tell anyone — everyone! — since we took the first positive test, but prudence, fear and rational thought kept me in line.

We’ve told our families. We’ve told our friends. And it was time to unleash all this upon you.

Oh, baby.

And now I can freely write posts again. Needless to say, well . . . pregnancy has occupied most of my thoughts for the last few months — and not being able to share that here has been strange and almost torturous.

In fact? I wrote the original draft of this post on Oct. 6 — you know, just to get it off my chest. Even though I knew I wouldn’t post it for more than a month, I couldn’t bear the thought of not cataloging my thoughts in some way.

The writer in me.
Or the OCD blogger in me.
Or the mom-to-be in me.

Oh, heavens.

Baby Pumpkin

Book review: ‘How To Save A Life’ by Sara Zarr

Jill MacSweeney thinks her mother is delusional when she unveils a plan to change their family forever: adopting a baby. The child in question comes with pregnant Mandy Kalinowski, a pretty girl with a hardscrabble life in Nebraska. The MacSweeneys have dealt with their share of trouble and heartbreak, and the serendipitous way in which Mandy and Robin MacSweeney connect online is a flicker of hope in an otherwise dark year.

Jill is a tough teen and only child reeling after her father’s unexpected death, and Mandy’s arrival is another obstacle to her never-ending grief. Feeling alone in the world, Mandy is desperate for human connection — but thinks giving up her unborn baby will free him or her of the life she herself led. Jill’s a little surly, sure, but her mother is a saint. It seems like the perfect opportunity — until Mandy begins to question everything. And her presence will change the MacSweeney family forever.

Sara Zarr’s How To Save A Life was a moving, poignant and realistic look at a family torn apart by a death — but it’s not a (completely) somber tale. It’s sad, yes, and my eyes filled with tears several times. But the overall message is still one of hope — that good things can come from terrible circumstances. That we can go on and rebuild and live again.

At first, Jill is a difficult character to like. She’s angry and sullen and so stereotypically teenager-y, but her attitude is compounded by her all-consuming grief. Her father Mac, the family patriarch, is a huge presence in the book — almost as much as any living character. We come to know so much about him and what he meant to his wife and daughter, and we learn about the way he supported and encouraged the women in his life. Knowing what an adventurous man he was — such a good man — breaks our hearts, too. So we share in Robin and Jill’s grief. We swim in it.

And Mandy, sweet Mandy — oh boy. She’s loopy and eccentric and a little odd, you know? She’s socially awkward and wounded and a bit broken, but she’s still such a sweet and innocent soul. So much has been taken from her, it seems, but much has been given in return. I wanted to wrap an arm around her from the very beginning, leading her wherever she needed to go. My maternal instincts went nutso the more we learned about her, and she was such a fully-realized character. I loved that, despite everything, she remained so hopeful and optimistic.

The story’s main tension comes from Mandy’s decision-making — will she really give up her baby? Will she tell Robin and Jill the actual circumstances she faced back in Nebraska? How will she remain active in her child’s life — especially without legal permission? As Jill and Robin became more and more attached to Mandy, I started to get antsy. Was she who she claimed to be? Was Mandy going to break off another piece of their glued-together hearts?

Seeking those answers was what propelled me along, even when How To Save A Life was a sad and difficult read. I ultimately ended the book on a (very) high note, though, and liked the delicious ambiguity of the ending. When I realized how some of the many problems could be solved, I felt an intense sense of relief. Sara Zarr is a powerful writer with the ability to bond you to her characters, and I’ve never forgotten Sweethearts, the young adult book that launched me back into the genre as an adult.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 1557289727 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by Amazon Vine in exchange for my honest review

Book review: ‘Bumped’ by Megan McCafferty

I’m going to be straight with you: when it comes to Megan McCafferty, I am not an unbiased reviewer.

When a copy of her latest novel — and first departure from the beloved Jessica Darling series — arrived in my mailbox last fall, you could probably hear me hollering from here to California. Not to go all breaking-the-fourth-wall-and-getting-fangirly on you guys, but when I started write meg! years ago, I had absolutely no idea that I’d someday find myself in a position to receive a book like this.

And I say that not to brag. Merely as a frame of reference for — ahem — my aforementioned bias.

All of that being said, I’m never going to lie to you. When I began McCafferty’s Bumped, the first in a new young adult series, I was . . . confused. And for about 100 pages, pretty unsure.

Unsure of the story. Unsure of where this all was going. Unsure of whether I actually . . . liked this book.

It’s true. My initial reaction? Lukewarm. I wasn’t feeling a connection with the characters or storyline, which seemed outside my comfort zone and realm of comprehension. I’ve read a few dystopian books in my day, sure, and never had much trouble grasping what was happening. But this? Well. This was proving troublesome.

Here’s the rundown: in McCafferty’s less-than-ideal future, a virus has run rampant and rendered anyone over the age of eighteen infertile — both men and women. Considering no one is cheering for the demise of the human race, teenagers — the only people still able to conceive — have become hot commodities. The government has had no choice but to legalize “transactions” between prospective parents and the teens they contract to give them a child.

And you know what that means? Sexy sex sex. All the time. Everywhere. Encouraged — no, demanded — of high school students, young women and men who are now being represented by, um, “talent” agents garnering the best deals possible for the product of a union between desirable teens. Every couple wants the perfect “pregg,” of course, and those with the funds will stop at nothing to get it.

Enter Melody Mayflower, considered by many to be the perfect candidate for “bumping.” Smart, beautiful and independent, Melody was the first in her high school to “go pro” and enter a contract to conceive for money. After signing with a wealthy couple looking for the perfect offspring, Melody’s adoptive parents encourage her to keep her virginity until a suitable suitor comes along to contribute his part of the deal. And though she’d have a willing candidate in her best friend, Zen, his desirable biracial background isn’t enough to save him from his main genetic issue: he’s short.

As Melody is waiting and debating, she gets a surprise: the arrival of her identical twin, Harmony, a young woman raised in a religious order. In a future where premarital sex is glamorized and seen as a responsibility of teens, residents of Goodside shun this sinful lifestyle, marry young and reproduce within the safe confines of their own organization. Harmony hasn’t questioned the world in which she was raised until she goes in search of her twin, hoping to bring Melody out of the darkness of immorality and into the good, clean world of Goodside.

The world has other plans, of course.

McCafferty’s novel, like many others, left me at a loss for words. For all my early inability to process Bumped’s unique brand of slang and unusual circumstances, once I got the story straight and grasped the whole “pregging” situation, I raced through this one like my pants were on fire. As always, McCafferty’s wit and humor shine through in her sophisticated, sassy heroines, and I’m pleased to say that plenty of Jessica Darling’s snark and spitfire is visible in our main twin, Melody.

The world of Bumped is cleverly drawn and realistic, and what I loved best about the book was the scary way in which I could really see this happening. As a sensible-minded woman living in 2011, I can’t say that parts of the story didn’t horrify me — but I think that was the point. With songs encouraging teens to “do it,” fake “Fun Bumps” designed to show girls how their own pregnant bellies will swell and all the talk of being “fertilicious,” any adult would read this book and think, “Um, really?”

But yes. Really. It’s slightly deranged and creepy, sure, but also somehow . . . plausible. And fascinating. And addictive. That’s what made it work.

There’s so much to take in with Bumped: religious implications; moral implications; government manipulation; the disturbing way in which teen girls are used for their wombs — and not much else. But McCafferty packs it all in with humor and wit, and I was left breathless on several occasions waiting to see how the stories — and love stories — would play out.

Of course, I can’t talk about my favorite author without talking about my most favorite of her creations: Marcus Flutie. The dashing, rebellious and unbelievably hawt hero of her Jessica Darling series, Marcus has pretty much ruined me for all other literary love interests. That being said, Zen Chen-Chavez — Melody’s best friend and purveyor of giving young women “everythingbut” — is pretty swoonworthy. I love his dedication to his friends and the sweet, sensitive side we see when no one else is looking.

Is he Marcus, with his red hair, Barry Manilow obsession, swagger and sensuality? Nope. But that would have been a tall order to fill — even by the author herself. And I certainly don’t hold that against Bumped.

Was this review long enough? I think it was long enough. In summation: loved it.

Grab your copy on April 26.

4.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0545230500 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by author in exchange for my honest review

Book review: ‘The Bright Side Of Disaster’ by Katherine Center

Busy planning a wedding to her rock-star-dreaming boyfriend, Dean, Jenny Harris wasn’t quite prepared for a little surprise headed the couple’s way: a baby. Just months from their wedding day, Jenny’s pregnancy has thrown everyone for a loop . . . especially her fiance. When Dean begins acting strangely and then announces his departure, Jenny must pull herself “up by her bootstraps,” as her father would tell her, and prepare for the arrival of a little one. Even if she’s doing it alone.

Katherine Center’s The Bright Side Of Disaster, the author’s 2007 debut, was — more than anything — a shocking portrayal of first-time motherhood. And though Center is still a no-fail author for me, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as her more recent efforts, Everyone Is Beautiful (which I loved) and Get Lucky (also loved).

From the get-go, something about this one fell flat for me. While I appreciated Jenny as a resilient character, I was still frustrated by many of the silly decisions she made. I can understand that she’s a young woman trying to figure out a difficult situation, but the way she let Dean in and out of her life grated on my nerves. Jenny is the good friend you see screwing up all over the place and badly want to tell the truth, but you’re too afraid of hurting her feelings. What she really needed was someone to throw a bucket of cold water on her face and shout, “Get a grip!”

But, you know. That happens to all of us sometimes.

The strength of the novel comes from Center’s ability to portray, with stunning clarity, just how difficult it is to be a parent. On the flip side? Well, that’s also the book’s downfall. Having no kids myself, I’ll be frank: The Bright Side Of Disaster scared the tar out of me. If I remember little else about this book (and I might not, to be honest), one scene will stay with me forever: Jenny’s birthing scene. Oh. My. Goodness.

Just . . . I’ll stop there. It’s terrifying.

A few side characters provided distractions from the chaotic monotony (is that possible?) that becomes Jenny’s life with her newborn: the handsome neighbor down the street, Gardner, who steps in and mans up when Dean won’t; Jenny’s divorced-but-maybe-still-in-love parents, who provide much needed levity; Claudia, a new mommy friend who contributes perspective. But overall, I wasn’t too interested in the side plots or invested in Dean and Jenny’s back-and-forth relationship. It was obvious what she needed to do from the start.

Center is an engaging, warm writer — and I still love her! At the risk of sounding condescending, it’s obvious how well her writing has progressed in the two novels she’s penned since this release. The Bright Side Of Disaster is a fast read, yes — and I’m sure parents will see shades of themselves in the up-all-night baby stories. But it wasn’t a homerun for me.

3 out of 5!

ISBN: 0345497961 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy obtained through BookMooch