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Chances Are by Donna Hill
(BET /Arabesque, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-7860-0602-1
****
Dione Williams was seventeen when she fell in love with the captain of her high school basketball team. They had sex during their spring break from school. When she discovered she was pregnant, she didn't tell him because she didn't want to jeopardize his chances for a college scholarship.

Although she refused to name the father, she told her parents she was pregnant. Her father beat her severely. Her mother began to pack her things. "You have to leave. Now. Your father doesn't want you here when he gets back." Dione Williams was seventeen, pregnant and homeless.

Chances Are, which takes its title from a popular Johnny Mathis 1957 love ballad, begins eighteen years later. Dione's daughter, Niyah, is in her first year at Howard University. Niyah's father, who never knew of her birth, was a rising college basketball star in North Carolina when he was killed in a head-on collision during his junior year. Dione completed her college work in social work and adolescent psychology. She is founder and director of Chances Are, a temporary shelter with self-help services for teen mothers and their children in Brooklyn.

Chances Are is in the midst of a funding crunch. Dione is considering pros and cons of a proposal submitted by independent filmmaker Garrett Lawrence for a documentary about the program. While the film might be used to secure needed funding, Dione is concerned about the residents' privacy and Garrett's motivation. She admits he's "drop-dead fine," but feels he has a chip on his shoulder and "some serious issues about teen mothers" that are unresolved.

Unknown to Dione, Garrett was abandoned in an alley at birth by a teenage mother. He spent time in the foster care system. Garrett is more than a little skeptical about Chances Are, which he calls a "shelter for irresponsible girls and their illegitimate children." Dione has her own secrets. Despite her success, she has kept her own personal story for fear of losing her daughter's love.

Donna Hill fans will appreciate a cameo appearance by PR maven, Terri Powers. Powers, the heroine in Hill's 1996 novel Deceptions, is still happily married to businessman Clinton Steel.

It's been a very productive year for Donna Hill with six single titles and a short story released by two publishers. Hill has added dimension to her work with the inclusion of social commentary on foster care, domestic violence, child abuse, teen pregnancy. She has been successful in presenting these issues while maintaining the integrity of the romance.

Chances Are delves into the impact of teen pregnancy without moralizing. Hill presents the problems without resorting to stereotypes and statistics. The characters are well drawn and represent all points of view. While Chances Are is a story about teen pregnancy, at its core, it is also a story about love and trust. I recommend it.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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