Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Review: What My Mother Doesn't Know

Dear Blog,
Sorry this review is one of my shortest ever, but I'm pretty busy this week.

Summary (from Goodreads):
My name is Sophie.

This book is about me.
It tells
the heart-stoppingly riveting story
of my first love.
And also of my second.
And, okay, my third love too.
It's not that I'm boy crazy.
It's just that even though
I'm almost fifteen
it's like
my mind
and my body
and my heart
just don't seem to be able to agree
on anything.

Review: I am a fan of two things; verse novels, and Sonya Sones.  And the reason I like Sonya Sones is because she writes verse novels.  I read her novel Stop Pretending  a few months ago (review here), and have since been meaning to seek out more of her work.
What  my Mother Doesn't Know is much more joyful and light-hearted.  The narration is noisy and happy in the same way that Stop Pretending seems distant and quiet, if that makes any sense, though there are some moments of seriousness as Sophie contemplates life, love and the world around her.

Speaking of Sophie.  She was completely boy crazy but instantly likeable anyway.   Probably, as nostalgic adults say, she was "in love with love" more than her boyfriends themselves, of which there are three.  There's Dylan, who seems nice enough at first but then just tapers off in typical teenage-love fashion, Chaz, an internet stalker, and Murphy, the class geek.  For a long time, although Sophie tells her friends she has a boyfriend, she doesn't actually confess it's Murphy for as long as possible.  But they were so cute together anyway.  Sophie herself was frighteningly realistic, complete with flaws and angry emotions and everything else that makes a character complete.  

The writing style is good in that it isn't just poetry that's been through a shredder.  Sophie has a voice, a certain way of talking.  Quite often it seems that poetry is poetry, and the narrator loses his/her voice in the attempt to make the poetry sound like  more than prose that's been through a shredder. And while it's told in a typical free-verse form, instead of experimenting with different shapes and forms  à la Lisa Schroeder or Ellen Hopkins, the choice of words and so on seems quite unique.

What My Mother Doesn't Know interestingly features on the ALA list of Most commonly challenged books in the United States in 2004 and 2005.  Having read up a little more about it, it's due to two things, 1 being, poems like It's That Time of the Month Again, which speaks for itself, and Ice Capades. The second reason is it being mismarketed and appearing in elementary school libraries, aimed at 11 and 12-ear-olds and so on. I suppose parents dislike the idea of their little darlings reading about the truth. Forgive me for being frank, but the truth is truth and  whether people like it or not we young people find reality interesting.  It seems a little unfair that due to the faults of various publicity departments and whatnot it should be so challenged everywhere.
Enough with my speech.  On to the summary.

In Three Words: Funny, realistic, rude, truthful.  Oops, that's four. 
Recommended for:
Rating: 4


  1. I find that a lot of people want kids and teens to read pretty little stories instead of realistic books. For instance, in the reviews for Blood & Chocolate on Goodreads, the review at the top of the list is someone who says that the protagonist is 'too sexual' for a sixteen-year-old, and that the book 'does not belong in the young adult section'. I find comments like that really offensive, because whether the 'grown-ups' like it or not, teenagers do sometimes fall in love, and even 'do it' - forgive my language.

  2. Thanks for the great review!


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