Sones, Sonya. 1999. Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780060283865.
2. Plot Summary
Stop Pretending follows a young teen’s journey as her older sister is hospitalized with mental problems and the family must now cope. The short free verse poems capture the emotions of the trauma the family disaster, the despair of prolonged treatment, the relief of learning to live again, and the hope of treatments beginning to work.
3. Critical Analysis
Sonya Sones crafts her own life story into a heart-wrenching work of beauty in Stop Pretending. Though written in free verse, the short poems that make up the larger story retain a natural rhythm created by carefully chosen language that sounds good read aloud.
The story relies heavily on figurative language and imagery to express the complex emotions raging through Cookie as she faces a completely new life after Sister’s breakdown. The reader understands how all-consuming Sister’s absence is when Cookie tries to take a math exam but says that all she can understand is that “4 – 1 = 0” (82). Allusions to other works of literature (A Wrinkle in Time) reinforce Cookie’s deep sense of love for and desire to rescue Sister. The vivid imagery used in “Saint Patrick’s Day” allows the reader to see Cookie and the therapist as Cookie finally opens up and allows her emotions to show.
Stop Pretending is an excellent picture into the family life of loved ones with mental disabilities. I recommend this book not just to teens/young adults, but to educators and any other adults in frequent contact with children and teens.
4. Review Excerpts
2000 – Christoper Book Awards
2001 – Bluegrass Award (nominee)
2001 – Maine Student Book Award (nominee)
2002 – Evergreen Young Adult Book Award (nominee)
2002 – Beehive Young Adults’ Book Award (nominee)
2002 – Garden State Teen Book Award (nominee)
2004 – Volunteer State Book Award (nominee)
From Booklist: “Based on Sones’ own family experience, this debut novel shows the capacity of poetry to record the personal and translate it into the universal.”
From Horn Book Guide: “The simple verses are occasionally glib, but more often sensitively written, gathering cumulative power as they trace Cookie’s feelings of loss, despair, and loneliness as Sister is institutionalized, undergoes shock therapy, and ultimately makes small steps toward recovery.”
From School Library Journal: “All of the emotions and feelings are here.”
-Recommend to library users who also enjoy Speak by Laurie Anderson or Sarah Dessen novels
-Use as a bridge between a unit on poetry and on non-fiction (autobiographies or memoirs)
(Created in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the TWU course LS5603.20 Literature for Children and Young Adults)