Kirkus Reviews QR Code
WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW by Sonya Sones Kirkus Star

WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW

By Sonya Sones

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-689-84114-0
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

This year’s umpteenth novel in verse begs the question, if the narrative were told in conventional prose, would it be worth reading? The answer in this instance is, maybe not, as it does little more than chronicle one ninth-grade girl’s progression through boyfriends until she arrives at last at an unlikely Mr. Right. Laid out in a series of mostly free-verse poems, however, the text gets at the emotional state of this girl so completely and with such intensity that a conventional narrative framework would simply dilute the effect. Sophie’s romantic travails take her from sexy Dylan (“ . . . when he kisses me / all I feel is / the overwhelming / overness of it”) through cyberdude Chaz (“If I could marry a font / I would definitely marry his”) and friend-from-preschool Zak (“I hope I didn’t embarrass him / when I laughed. / It’s just that I thought he was kidding”) to class dork Murphy (“I mean, / we’re talking about Murphy here. / He’s not exactly boyfriend material. / Is he?”). Along the way she must contend with casual anti-Semitism, her parents’ failing marriage, and her mother’s depression, but she is also bolstered by her friendship with Rachel and Grace. The verse format allows Sophie to interrogate and explore her feelings and relationships with quintessentially teenage ferocity: “I guess it wasn’t how [his eyes] looked / that got to me. / It was how it felt / when they connected with mine— / like this door / was opening up inside of me / that had never been opened before, / and his soul was walking right in.” If the threads involving Sophie’s parents are left hanging somewhat, readers will forgive this oversight. Romantic and sexy, with a happy ending that leaves Sophie together with Mr. Right, Sones (Stop Pretending: What Happened when My Big Sister Went Crazy, 1999) has crafted a verse experience that will leave teenage readers sighing with recognition and satisfaction. (Fiction/poetry. YA)