Friday, 23 April 2010
Review: Stop Pretending
Summary (from Goodreads): It happens just like that, in the blink of an eye. An older sister has a mental breakdown and has to be hospitalized. A younger sister is left behind to cope with a family torn apart by grief and friends who turn their backs on her. But worst of all is the loss of her big sister, her confidante, her best friend, who has gone someplace no one can reach.
In the tradition of The Bell Jar, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, and Lisa, Bright and Dark comes this haunting first book told in poems, and based on the true story of the author's life.
Review: I love blank verse novels. Maybe because I love blank verse. The added bonus of a plot is, well, fantastic! I spend hours searching Goodreads for good YA blank verse books. My main problem with it is that normally novels in verse are annoyingly short. I mean, just because it's poetry why should it be only 150 pages? Many poets should take a leaf (or six hundred) out of Ellen Hopkin's YA novels in verse, which are epic. I've never read any, but I've been meaning to read Crank for a while. (On the author's website there's a list of other YA verse novels. But I think it works well that Stop Pretending is so short. The language is spare and intense, and the words sit in a solitary way by themselves on the page.
The story itself is thought-provoking, and I imagine the theme of mental illness would spark much discussion at a book club. I like that it's told from the point of view of a relative and not the person themself (e.g, A Note of Madness by Tabitha Suzuma, which is). A relative is close enough for their whole world to be shaken up, and a friend (e.g Life, Love and More Good Sense by Amber Deckers) isn't so...direct. It's a tricky subject but Sonya Sones writes it well, maybe because Stop Pretending is semi-autobiographical and her own sister had a nervous breakdown.
And what do I make of the main character herself?
I both feel like I was right over her shoulder, nay, I was her, but on the other hand I barely knew her at all. I didn't even know her name. I feel like I should have at least found out that much. Although the reader sees right into her world, the mysterious narrator seems to keep us (meaning, the readers) at a distance and seems drawn inside herself. That took some getting used to, and it made it quite hard to relate to her, but thinking about it I suppose it was quite effective.
Summary: Short, deep and ultimately hopeful. I shall most likely read some of her other books. Who wouldn't want to read a book called One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies?!