Monday, July 25, 2011

Happiness is...a good book. (Summer Reading edition #28)

Uh, just pretend it's Sunday! (With a second and official Monday posting to follow later today.)

What My Mother Doesn't Know
Author: Sonya Sones
Pages: 259
Age Range: 13+
Published: 2001
Genre: Realistic Fiction/YA
Cover Score: **
Overall Grade: ***
Rating: PG-13

(I realize this is the image for the audiobook but I did actually read the printed copy. This was just the only image I could find that looked like my cover looked.  All the print editions have newer covers, just FYI!)
In an effort to broaden my scope a bit I've tried to hunt down a few older titles and varying genres. This one fits the bill for both.  While 2001 wasn't that long ago it's enough to have changed the landscape of the teen world. No IPods or texting occur though there are emails and cell phones. The real reason I picked this though was the fact that it's a novel written in verse. Some of these are more masterfully done than others (Helen Frost for example creates poetic forms that she adheres to throughout the book, diamant√© and so forth, many of which could stand as beautiful poems on their own) while others simply write in spare prose, the poems falling more into the free verse category.   This is one of the latter.

Sophie is a ninth grader on the quest for finding Mr. Right. She thought she had found him in the beautiful and thoughtful Dylan but as their relationship progresses she realizes that it's hinged more on physical aspects than common goals or interests. As he pushes her to 'go further' than she wants to and she finds herself becoming more and more interested in an online relationship she steps up and breaks things off.

She has a series of flirtatious encounters, pity parties and daring adventures while coping with her two best friend's different love interests, school and trying to avoid running into Dylan, and dealing with her neglectful yet interfering mother. A run-in with a mysterious masked man at the Halloween dance has her examining all of the male forearms she comes in contact with. And she worries about her sanity when she begins to have daydreams and lustful thoughts about the nerdy, unattractive but talented guy in her art class. She does find a Mr. Right after all but even that revelation comes with its own dilemmas. 

Sophie's pain and doubts are well portrayed and anyone who's ever felt the longing or heartache involved in a new/old/past/unrequited love will recognize the emotions and know exactly where she is coming from. 
The over abundance of white space on the page will be encouraging for reluctant readers and teens will appreciate Sophie's humor and insecurities. There are some slightly more mature themes, particularly regarding sexuality and maturation though nothing overly graphic.

I enjoyed this quick glimpse into Sophie's life (and made me grateful t o no longer be a teenager!) It would make a great beach read for the middle school set or anyone trying to recover from a first love.

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