Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Sister Went Crazy

cover image for Stop PretendingSones, Sonya. (1999) Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy. New York, NY: HarperCollins

Plot Summary:

When Cookie’s sister suffers from a mental breakdown and is sent to a hospital to recover, Cookie deals with her confusion, pain, and loss the way so many other 13 year olds do – by writing poems.  Starting from the night of her sister’s breakdown and ending with signs of recovery, Cookie chronicles the heartbreak and confusion of a family torn apart by mental illness.

Critical Evaluation:

Stop Pretending is the kind of story that is meant to be told in verse, for poetry is exactly the kind of creative outlet that a teen girl would turn to in an effort to deal with and make sense of the heartache of losing her sister to madness.  While each poem helps to move the story along, every single one could also stand alone and feels like it would be the kind of poem a teen would write.  (Readers will be unsurprised to learn that the story and poems are based on Sones’ own family’s experiences.)  None of the verse feels forced or warped in an effort to include important plot points.  Stop Pretending is crushingly beautiful and, like all good young adult books, ends on a sad but hopeful note that offers solace and understanding.

Reader’s Annotation:

When Cookie’s sister suffers from a mental breakdown and is sent to a hospital to recover, Cookie deals with her confusion, pain, and loss the way so many other 13 year olds do – by writing poems.

Author Information:

http://www.sonyasones.com/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sonya-Sones/175441839174257

@SonyaSones

Genre:

Realistic Fiction

Booktalking Ideas:

Because the format is such a large part of the story, it would be important to incorporate into the booktalk use of the poetry.

Potential Controversy:

While some of Sones other books are often challenged because of their sexual content, Stop Pretending seems to mostly fly under the radar.  There is frank discussions of mental illness and the typical teen angst and anger at her parents and sister.

Reasons for Choosing This Title:

I have to admit I picked this up in part because I thought it would merely be a quick read.  I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was.

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The Boyfriend List

cover image for The Boyfriend ListLockhart, Emily. (2005) The Boyfriend List. New York, NY: Delacorte Press

Plot Summary:

Ruby Oliver’s life is such a disaster, her parents have sent her to see a shrink.  Well, to be fair, they sent her because she has been having panics attacks.  But the panic attacks are happening because her boyfriend dumped her, her friends won’t speak to her, she’s an outcast at school, and her parents never listen.  So it’s pretty much the same thing.

Critical Evaluation:

A story about a girl losing her friends and her boyfriend and her place in the social hierarchy at school would normally be full of angst and weeping.  The Boyfriend List has those things, but it’s also full of humor, hope, and insight.  The unique voice Lockhart has made for Ruby Oliver is unforgettable, hysterical, utterly suited to the task.  I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Reader’s Annotation:

Ruby Oliver didn’t mean for the list to be made public.

Author Information:

http://www.theboyfriendlist.com/

@elcokhart

Genre:

Humor

Booktalking Ideas:

Reciting the list (and adding some plot) is really the only way to go, yes?

Reading Level/Target Age:

5th grade/14-18

Possible Controversy:

There’s some typical teenage stuff: kissing, talk of sex, drinking, etc.  It’s not likely to cause a problem because it’s mild and Ruby gets in trouble for the drinking.

Reasons for Choosing This Title:

A cousin of mine told me years ago that I had to read this – and now I finally did.