Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Banned Books Week Review: What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
Series: What My Mother Doesn’t Know, #1
Published: February 1st, 2001
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
261 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Contemporary young adult in verse
Acquired this book: From the library
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Book Depository || Chapters/Indigo}

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.

 {Read my review of To Be Perfectly Honest}

What My Mother Doesn’t Know was the second book I’ve read my Sonya Sones. As I said in my review of To Be Perfectly Honest, I was wary going in because I’m not the biggest fan of poetry, and I worried the verse style wouldn’t be something I’d enjoy. Within the first few pages, I got used to it, and actually really enjoyed it. It makes for a quick, fun read, and proves that you don’t have to like poetry to enjoy books in verse. 

Reading What My Mother Doesn’t Know was like being inside a teenage girl’s head. Most of the book felt almost like diary entries; it was basically Sophie’s random and disjointed thoughts, memories, observations, and stories. I’ve read a few reviews where people complained about there being little character development and that the characters were all one-dimensional, but the book is made up of poems, so what can you really expect? It’s not your typical story where everything is laid out and explained. I liked Sophie and thought she had a strong voice, so that’s what I focused on.

About 3/4 of the way through, Sophie's random thoughts actually came together to form something of a plot, and I really liked the direction the story took. It was sweet and funny, and there were a few touching moments that took this from an ‘okay’ read to a ‘good’ one for me. I appreciated the overall message, and was left feeling satisfied.

Quirky, random, and touching, What My Mother Doesn’t Know is a quick and fun read that I’d recommend to fans of contemporary YA, whether they’re familiar with verse-style books or not.
My thoughts on this being a banned book:

What My Mother Doesn’t Know has been in the top 10 banned books several times. Some of the reasons it was banned: sexism, sexually explicit, offensive language, nudity, and unsuited to age group. I have to admit I was surprised it was recommended for ages 12 and up. Sophie daydreamed a lot about boys and talked about kissing and other things, and while her thoughts seemed to be a bit mature at times, I didn’t find any of it offensive. I'm sure most, if not all, teenage girls think about boys and sex and kissing. I know I sure did! 

I know of parents who read everything their child/teen reads to make sure it doesn’t have ‘questionable’ material or that it's age appropriate. It's their way of screening what their kids are reading, and I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with it. It’s a parent’s prerogative to protect their child, and isn’t that far better than banning a book entirely? There’s a difference between saying ‘I don’t think this book is suitable for my child’ and saying ‘this book isn’t suitable for any child’. All children are different - some are more impressionable than others - but if books are going to be banned then shouldn’t TV, movies, and video games be banned too? Those are far more suggestive than most books. When you’re lucky enough to live in a free country, censorship goes against the very principle of freedom. If kids want to read and it’s something they’re interested in or passionate about, shouldn’t we be encouraging it and not telling them this book is too violent or that book is too sexual or any book with bad language will corrupt them?
Have you read What My Mother Doesn't Know? What did you think? Have you read any books in verse?
What are your thoughts on banned books?


  1. Yay! Definitely when the plot starts happening, ROBIN!!!, is when your heart starts fluttering. I heard that the one poem about the cold window was part of the reason for it being banned. Ridiculous! In any case, I'm glad you read and enjoyed it! :)

  2. I was hoping you'd talk about why it was on the banned list. Typical reasons I suppose. I know people want to protect their kids, but come on, you don't want to shelter them. Don't ban the book, explain to your child that it's a book more suited for when they are older (like married and have kids. XD) and they can read it then.

  3. I read this book last year and even met Sonya Sones at the SCBWI LA Summer conference last summer and had her sign my copy. She's delightful. I loved this book. You're exactly right that the style of Sones' free verse poetry puts you right into the head of the main character. She has a great teen voice. Great pic for Banned Book Week!

  4. This one sounds so fascinating. It seems like the author really has a teenage voice nailed, which is awesome. I'm so tired of young characters who seem either totally immature, or beyond their years. And the fact it's written in verse makes me really interested to check it out at some point!

  5. What My Mother Doesn’t Know sounds like a touching contemporary YA. I love that the author made you feel as if you were really reading/hearing the "Teen Voice."

    And as far as banned books and subject material. It's so funny, because now that I have a tween daughter of my own-well, let's just say the mother in me wants to be very cautious, but I remember stealing my mom's "Bodice Ripper" romance books LOL. Now I'm showing my age. Does anybody remember those steamy romance covers??

  6. I haven't heard of this before now but it sounds quite interesting, I've never read a book in verse but it sounds like this was done well.

    I'm always curious about why books are banned, it makes me all the more eager to read them ;)

    A great review Marie! :-)


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