I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this book. Free verse novels have not been particularly kind to me in the past. Flipping through What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones, I was wary of the author’s ability to convey a complete story in so few, sparse lines. Each chapter is presented as a type of poem, short and sweet. While I appreciate the use of free verse as a literary medium, after reading the first few paragraphs, it seemed as if Sones was prepared to cut some corners as the story jumped straight in without much in the way of background. Yet, as I continued to read, I forgot this abrupt beginning and was able to discern the emotions behind the verses, made even more potent by the fact that I (and I suspect many of Sones’ adult readers) had written similar diary entries in high school.
Granted, Sones does not delve into overly complicated territory; her observations of young love mimic those that many are bound to have experienced in their own teenage years, never quite peeking past the superficial. Still, for what it is, Sones manages to tell a sweet story that explores the moment in which one realizes that physical perfection is transitory and unimportant. Sones utilizes a particular romance trope that I love yet rarely see in the young adult context, which greatly enhanced my enjoyment of this story. Even so, I was impressed by her ability to tell a complete tale with so few words, though she was able to achieve this only by maintaining a singleminded focus on her protagonist’s love life without much emphasis on the other issues that plague teens. Considering the all-important status one’s love life tends to occupy in high school, perhaps this isn’t too inaccurate a portrayal of a typical teen after all.