Stop Pretending: What Happened when My Big Sister Went Crazy

Stop Pretending: What Happened when My Big Sister Went Crazy

4.4 84
by Sonya Sones

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A younger sister has a difficult time adjusting to life after her older sister has a mental breakdown. See more details below


A younger sister has a difficult time adjusting to life after her older sister has a mental breakdown.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
This is one of the most beautiful and most disturbing books aimed at young people that I have ever read. Beautiful not just in its use of free verse, but in the use of language and images that brings even mundane subjects to life. The author/narrator's older sister suffers a mental breakdown on Christmas Eve and their family will never be the same. The sister is hospitalized. Suddenly, mother and father are strangers to the child and to each other, and the child is either begging them to be themselves again or feeling that it could easily have been she in that hospital ward; she just wants to run away. Fortunately, instead of running, she chose to write. The poetry is absolutely wonderful--"...When I was lost, / you were the one /who found me. / Now you're the one /who's lost, / and I can't find you anywhere." And--"It seems/ like Sister is/ the crazy one, but what / if it's really the other way/ around/ and it's/ actually/ me who's the crazy one, / only I'm so crazy, I think/ it's her?" For anyone who has actually had this experience, the book can only be read in short doses; for anyone who hasn't, it's a fantastic view of a world we would probably not want to be a part of.
KLIATT - Claire Rosser
This revised edition of Sones's highly praised poetry/novel (her first publication) closely relates to Sones's personal history, and the Afterword explains how her older sister (at 19) was placed in a mental institution with manic-depressive illness when Sones herself was 13 years old. She explains that her sister eventually recovered with the help of medication and therapy and that she fully supports this book because it will help teenagers understand mental illness and the family crisis such illness causes. There is a list at the end of the book of organizations to contact if readers are worried about their own mental health or that of a member of their family. The poetry is compelling. It is so heartfelt: the pain and confusion of a young teenager when her family life dissolves into chaos because of mental illness. The older sister in Stop Pretending is hospitalized for months. Today, most patients are in a 72-hour hold situation, with medications and therapy used on an outpatient basis. This only means that a family today will have their ill family member living in their household, not "put away" in a hospital—so the poetry of Sones is relevant whatever the ultimate therapy. This book is an ALA Best Book for YAs; it won the Christopher Award and several poetry prizes.
Kirkus Reviews
In a story based on real events, and told in poems, Sones explores what happened and how she reacted when her adored older sister suddenly began screaming and hearing voices in her head, and was ultimately hospitalized. Individually, the poems appear simple and unremarkable, snapshot portraits of two sisters, a family, unfaithful friends, and a sweet first love. Collected, they take on life and movement, the individual frames of a movie that in the unspooling become animated, telling a compelling tale and presenting a painful passage through young adolescence. The form, a story-in-poems, fits the story remarkably well, spotlighting the musings of the 13-year-old narrator, and pinpointing the emotions powerfully. She copes with friends who snub her, worries that she, too, will go mad, and watches her sister's slow recovery. To a budding genre that includes Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust (1997) and Virginia Euwer Wolff's Make Lemonade (1993), this book is a welcome addition. (Poetry. 10-14)

Boston Globe
“Stop Pretending is a tour de force debut. It celebrates truth-telling, and has a purity and passion that speaks to the heart.”
ALA Booklist (starred review)
“The poems have a cumulative emotional power.”
The Horn Book
“Sensitively written.”
ALA Booklist
"The poems have a cumulative emotional power."
Chicago Tribune on Lucy Sullivan
“This debut novel shows the capacity of poetry to record the personal and translate it into the universal.”
“Beautiful and disturbing.”
starred review KLIATT

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

My Whole Family

I can
remember what
things were like before she
got sick: my whole family climbed

the big
hammock on the
moondappled beach, wove
ourselves together, and swayed
as one.

My Sister's Christmas Eve Breakdown

One day
she was my big
sister, so normal and
well-behaved, the next she was a

out the door to
Midnight Mass, a wild-eyed
Jewish girl wearing only a

One day
he was my dad,
so calm and quiet and
in control, the next he was a

my big sister
away from the door, up
the stairs, screaming so loud that my
ears stung.

One day
she was my mom,
so reliable and good in
a crisis, the next she was a

stock still with her
hands clamped over her mouth
and her eyes squeezed shut, not even

That day
I sank into
the wall, wondering what
these three people were doing in
my house

and I
shouted that they
had to stop, even though
I wasn't supposed to talk to

Three A.M. That Same Night

She hasn't gone to Mass,
hasn't gone to sleep,
hasn't stopped to catch her breath-
she can't stop talking.

She's showing me her stuff,
tons of stuff she bought,
stuff she bought this afternoon
when she went shopping.

Our bedroom's filled with bags,
way too many bags,
bags crammed full with too much stuff,
they're overflowing.

She's emptying them out:
fifty bars of soap,
feather dusters, Ping-Pong balls,
a ski mask, fishbowls,

twelve pairs of sexy shoes
(the kind she never wears),
with wrong initials.

I'm huddled on my bed,
wrapped up in my quilt,
listening to Sister rave
on and on and

just outside the door
angry whispers rise.
Trying not to let us hear,
our parents fight.

I'm huddled on my bed,
rocking in my quilt,
wishing I could fall asleep
and end this nightmare.

Stop Pretending. Copyright © by Sonya Sones. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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