CBR11Bingo – Banned Books
Sophie has two lives – the one her mother knows, and the one Sophie hides. The one Mother knows is the sad one. The miserable home life Sophie spends as the only child of two people who hate each other. Her mother is deeply depressed, spending more time with General Hospital than with the family. Her father is cold and distant, unless he and mom are screaming at each other.
But in her other life, the one her mother doesn’t need to know about, is Sophie’s friendships — and romance. First there was Luke, who dumped her — but how could she have ever let that creep kiss her in the first place? Then there’s Dylan, so handsome, so alluring, and perfect. But she also can’t help noticing the other boys who notice her: a tentative online romance, and the unexpected affection she has for the class outcast Murphy.
Through journal-like entries in verse, Sophie works out her jumble of feelings, navigating her relationships, her growing body and desire, and the complications of family.
This was a very frequently banned book. Sones’ books have been challenged almost annually in the early 2000s, making her one of the 21st century’s most banned authors. Sones herself has blogged about it on her webpage. That sort of reputation makes one open the book wondering what sort of salacious content lay within, but as is typical here: it’s barely anything! At least John Green’s banned book has a blow job which is fairly rare for YA content. But in What My Mother Doesn’t Know, it seems like the most frightening thing Sones exposes readers to is that most terrifying thing: frank female desire.
Sophie loves being in lust and in love. She is a teenager! She feels feelings! And she shares them, but HARDLY explicitly. The most explicit poem briefly showcases Sophie exploring the new things her body does. The word “nipple” may be uttered. HA!
It’s a lovely book and a quick read, and will feel familiar to readers who grew up with Judy Blume and her ilk. Balancing out the romantic content is some heartbreaking family drama and cute friendship antics. Another interesting facet is that Sophie and her family are Jewish, and she shares some of that experience in her Cambridge community of very white and Christian people.
Sones is also a very funny author and that makes Sophie extra engaging. My favorite quote is from a passage of poems on Sophie’s period. She calls it “rebooting my ovarian operating system.”
Highly recommended for a sweet “amuse bouche” between big books!