This is a blog specifically created for the purposes of my Literature for Children and Young Adults class at Texas Woman's University. Coming soon will be reviews of titles ranging from children's fiction to poetry to young adult novels. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Stop Pretending

Sones, Sonya. 1999. Stop Pretending: What happened when my big sister went crazy. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN: 0613349792

Stop Pretending, a novel in verse form, is the story of a girl’s mental illness through the eyes of her sister, Cookie. Inspired by the author’s own experiences, it is a journey through confusion, fear, guilt, anger, paranoia and ultimately, healing told in a striking collection of narrative snapshots. In the end, with the help of her family, her boyfriend and pages of reflection, Cookie learns to deal with her sister’s illness and is finally confident that it is not her fault.

While the story is full of depth and truth, the language is accessible enough to captivate a young adult audience. The narrative verse form lends itself to digestible bites of emotionally charged confessions. Though a poem here and there has a somewhat regular rhyme scheme, the rest are mostly free verse. No matter, it is rhythm and sound that accentuates the emotion of each poem. For example, in my favorite passage, Midnight Swing, each stanza is five lines and each line is six syllables long—the rhythm of which seems to mimic the swinging motion the poem recounts:

Midnight Swing
When I can’t fall asleep
I sneak out to the yard
and climb onto the swing
that’s attached to a branch
of the sweet scented pine.

As I glide through the night
and I hang my head back
I see stars and a moon
that’s following me
through the evergreen trees.

And I fly on my swing
through the midnight ice cold
as the swirling white clouds
of my own frozen breath
brush my tingling cheeks.

And my nightgown wafts up
and my hair billows out
as I float through the air
and there’s only the sound
of the dark whooshing past.

And my thoughts drift to you
on a day long ago
when my legs were too short
so you helped me climb up
and you taught me to pump.

School Library Journal says, “the simply crafted by deeply felt poems reflect her thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams during that troubling time.”

Kirkus Reviews—“To a budding genre that includes Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust (1997) and Virginia Euwer Wolff’s Make Lemonade (1993), this book is a welcome addition.” says “Blank verse is perfect for a story with such heightened emotion, and is a format that has been used with great success… teen readers may even be so inspired as to try their own hand at this challenging but satisfying form.”

Stop Pretending can be used as a call to action for both teens (and their friends and family) who relate to Cookie’s situation as well as those who feel more like Sister. This book could be used to open up discussions about the fears and pain surrounding mental illness, from both the inside and the outside. According to the end note, that was the author’s intention.

Reviewed by Joelie Key-Tissot 10/08/06


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