What My Mother Doesn't Know Essay - Critical Essays

Sonya Sones

Literary Criticism and Significance

What My Mother Doesn’t Know was published in 2003 to positive reviews and numerous awards, including the International Reading Association Young Adult’s Choice for 2003, the American Library Association 2002 Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, and the American Library Association 2002 Best Book for Young Adults, along with many others. The book’s universal themes, easily understandable writing, spunky yet sensitive main character, and positive messages made it a quick, enjoyable, and highly recommendable book. Many reviewers noted that the book’s simple, narrative poems and easily accessible main character would be especially enjoyed by reluctant readers who have a hard time reading either because of a lack of fluency or interest. However, it is sure to be enjoyed not only by the reluctant reader but all teenagers; one reviewer said that readers will be left “sighing with recognition and satisfaction.” No matter the reading ability, the book is “destined to captivate” and pull readers in. The only criticism of the novel was that it is written entirely from the girl’s perspective, so teachers or adolescents seeking a balanced perspective will need supplementary materials.

Of particular praise is Sones’ poetry and narrative style, which has been praised as “easy and fun to read,” as reflecting the “tender rhythms of a teenage-poet,” and as “never pretentious,” enhancing the charm and pleasure of the novel’s storyline. Sones’ “honest and earthy” tone leaves readers both laughing and sympathizing over Sophie’s experiences, which are universally relatable. In fact, Sophie’s experiences are so relatable that they might as well be the readers’, and the book makes them “a little more livable by making them real, normal, and OK.” Despite that the themes and experiences in the book are common, Sones manages to give them added charm, humor, and interest; the cliché situations are “beyond formula” in the novel when seen through Sophie’s eyes. A favorite on teenager book lists in libraries across the country, What My Mother Doesn’t Know is destined to be a favorite among teenagers as Sophie wins her way into their hearts.