What My Mother Doesn't Know

by Sonya Sones


Sonya Sones's What My Mother Doesn't Know

Book review by Monica Friedman

Young Adult

Love and Infatuation: The Secret Life of a Teenage Girl in Verse

What My Mother Doesn’t Know is the perfect book for the reluctant teen reader, the starry-eyed young lover, or anyone at all curious as to what exactly goes on the mind of the modern adolescent. It’s a novel written in short poems, covering vast terrain on a journey that propels the heroine from superficial reaction to profound understanding.

Book review - What My Mother Doesn't Know

Sophie is fifteen, a freshman in high school. She’s had the same best friends, Rachel and Grace, since the third grade, and she possesses a keen sense of humor and a budding artistic talent. She’s in love with Dylan, who has “dark, smoldery eyes” and “a miracle smile.” From the moment they touch, their “bodies seemed to be/carrying on a conversation of their own,” and when their eyes meet, “I practically had/a religious experience.” All she can think about, all she wants to do, is kiss him and kiss him and kiss him.

At home, her parents fight constantly, except, of course, when her dad’s at work (he often works through dinner or travels for business) and she thinks, “Maybe Dad loves me/But it’s sure hard to tell. I don’t think he’s ever/kissed me or hugged me/in his life.” Her mother escapes reality by keeping half a dozen televisions turned on throughout the house “so she won’t miss anything.” But her mother does care, enough to stop her from buying a dress she thinks is too sexy, enough that every night, at eleven o’clock, when the TV station runs their “Do you know where your child is?” PSA, she knocks on Sophie’s wall, and Sophie knocks back.

Do teenage girls think about sex? Sophie’s friend Grace moans “about/how horny she is and about how if/she doesn’t find a boyfriend soon/she’s going to die of lackanookie disease.” Sophie wonders over how fast her breasts are growing and presses them against a cold window “just so I can see/the amazing trick/that my nipples can do.” When she discovers a secret stash of “the dirtiest books/I’ve ever seen/in my life” in her parents’ closet, she tries to imagine her parents reading them “but it’s just too gross.” Instead she concludes, “every time they go out/and leave me alone in the house/I’ll be racing right back up here/to grab another one off the shelf.”

At the same time, she doesn’t plan to have sex anytime soon, even though she’s not about to tell her mother that.

Although she adores Dylan, Sophie finds herself mysteriously fantasizing about kissing Murphy, even though he’s easily the least popular boy in school. As her infatuation with Dylan fades (their first fight is over her disappointment with his new haircut), she begins chatting online with a faceless stranger called Chaz, realizes he’s a creep, and then develops an obsession over a masked man who dances one single, perfect slow dance with her at the Halloween dance.

Book review - What My Mother Doesn't Know

With gentle perception and a firm grasp of the reality of American adolescence, What My Mother Doesn't Know takes an honest look at love, lust, infatuation, friendship, family, and learning to be true to oneself, even when that truth violates others’ expectations. It’s a fast, fun, clever read, using simple language to convey complicated ideas and telling an enchanting story of young love and self-discovery.

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