Book: What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones, Simon & Schuster BFYR, Orig. pub. 2001, new pb edition May 2013
Book Info: YA novel in verse, purchased pb at Housing Works bookstore, 259 pages.
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
It’s not that I’m boy crazy.
It’s just that even though
I’m almost fifteen
I’ve been having sort of a hard time
trying to figure out the difference
between love and lust.
and my body
and my heart
just don’t seem to be able to agree
Get to know Sophie, a freshman in high school who’s struggling through the daily grind and all the crushes that come with it, as she shares her innermost thoughts and feelings in this remarkably relatable novel in verse from Sonya Sones.
Since banned book week is coming to a close, I thought I should read at least one of the repeat offenders on the banned/challenged list. In fact, What My Mother Doesn’t Know (WMMDK) is #31 on the list of most banned books of the last decade! Apparently the censors have issues with page 46 “Ice Capades” when fourteen-year-old Sophie marvels over her changing body. What fourteen-year-old isn’t conscious about their body? I think a lot of teens will find this book relatable, and I didn’t find it objectionable at all.
Sonya Sones’ WMMDK is a novel-in-verse and a quick, sweet read. The main character is Sophie, a boy-crazy ninth grader who falls head over heels for her dream guy, only to become disillusioned a few weeks later. Sophie has two great girlfriends, Rachel and Grace, and she’s an only child who loves to draw. Her relationship with her parents is a little rocky – both her mom and dad are distant, and it seems like her mom is depressed and wallowing in her soaps. This book is set in Boston, and Sophie explores the city’s landmarks on a staycation over holiday break.
Sophie starts falling for the outcast guy at school- they both love art and spending time together. She falls for all of him, and learns that love doesn’t always come in a pretty package but can cause sparks and butterflies just the same.
The novel covers body conscious issues, like feeling too tall and watching your body mature seemingly overnight. Sophie is Jewish and we see acquaintances and other adults make hurtful remarks, and how it’s a relief when she’s accepted for who she is. And in the background, there’s the drama with her family – why is her dad so remote? And we start to see Sophie understand where her mother’s coming from, and see their relationship develop.
I found this book totally charming and heartwarming. Sophie falls for a few different guys over the course of the book, but the reader could see that Robin Murphy was Mr. Right, no matter that he looked like Mr. Wrong. And they both love the Renoir painting at the Museum of Fine Arts called Dance at Bougival. They are brave, creative and root-worthy, and I was pleasantly surprised by their story.
The verse format works well for the story, and it almost feels like a journal style. There’s poem titles that sum up what Sophie is feeling each day, and some of the entries are quite witty. Sonya Sones gets teenage girls, and her dialogue rang true.
This book was first published in 2001 but is still relevant today. The technology mentioned is pretty current, and Sophie even has a creepy online friend, and that disturbed me more than Sophie discovering her changing body! But, anyway, I don’t think this book should be pulled from shelves, and I hope it does get into the hands of teens.
There’s a sequel to this book called What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know and I can’t wait to read it.
I have a Banned Book Giveaway going on now, and you can enter to win What My Mother Doesn’t Know or another banned book of your choice.