Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy

Sonya Sones
It happens just like that, in the blink of an eye. An older sister has a mental breakdown and has to be hospitalized. A younger sister is left behind to cope with a family torn apart by grief and friends who turn their backs on her. But worst of all is the loss of her big sister, her confidante, her best friend, who has gone someplace no one can reach.In the tradition of The Bell Jar, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, and Lisa, Bright and Dark comes this haunting first book told in poems, and based on the true story of the author's life. 2000 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA) and 2000 Quick Picks for Young Adults (Recomm. Books for Reluctant Young Readers)


Reviewed: 2019-03-15

Stop Pretending is a novel in verse. Sones uses the format of poetry to take the reader through a difficult time of her life. Though each of the poems can easily stand on their own, together they weave an epic story of loss, fear, love and family. Cookie's family and Cookie herself are portrayed honestly, both good and bad characteristics are present. This lends authenticity to the book as a whole, in that others going through a similar time in their lives might find solace in these pages. The plot is evenly paced, never overwhelming with the rhythm of each poem flowing evenly into the next. Sones' word choice breathes life into the setting of each of her poems allowing for the reader to easily build pictures as the events unfold in their mind. Her expert use of spacing to add emphasis to words and phrases and does not disallow the poem to be read aloud rather, it aids the reader, as shown here, "I hug my parents/ and they hug me back,/ holding tight/ like feathers to the wing of a bird." My heart felt raw and open during my reading of Stop Pretending. I was so close to Cookie, I felt her loneliness at losing her friends and closeness with her parents and I felt her shy joy at falling in love for the first time. Though this book is recommended for 5th through 8th grade, I think that it would be appropriate for use in a high school setting as well because of how it tackles a heavy subject like mental illness with grace and honesty. This book would work well as an introduction to a poetry module for high school students who could also take the time to analyze the subject matter much more deeply.

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