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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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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


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)

Editorial Reviews

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.
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.
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
Chicago Tribune
“This debut novel shows the capacity of poetry to record the personal and translate it into the universal.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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File size:
718 KB
Age Range:
13 - 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.

Meet the Author

Sonya Sones has written five other novels in verse: Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy; What My Mother Doesn’t Know and its companion, What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know; One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies; and To Be Perfectly Honest. Sonya’s books have received many honors, but she was especially thrilled when she learned that she was on the American Library Association’s list of the Most Frequently Challenged Authors of the 21st Century. She lives near the beach in California. You can visit her at www.sonyasones.com or write her at sonyasones@gmail.com.

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Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 84 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was heart-warming. it had such depth and soul, i couldn't put it down. it takes a toll on your emotions you never thought possible and you'll welcome it. i couldnt put it down and i finished this book in literally two hours. Sonya Sones uses few words but they are definitely the 'write' ones.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved it sooooo much.I couldn't get my hands off it. I'd reccomend to everyone ages 12&up. It's the best book I've ever read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SleepDreamWrite More than 1 year ago
A little short but the tone was there and the writing was good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book really moved me...especially because I'm going through something similar now. My favorite part, though was the Author's Note at the end... her sister was able to live a relatively normal life. I hope I can look forward to that in my situation too. 
miztrebor More than 1 year ago
Sonya Sones grew to be one of my (recent) favorite authors after I read What My Mother Doesn’t Know, and soon after, What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know. I went out and bought all her books after I read those two. But what I didn’t expect is that Stop Pretending, Sones’ first book, is an even better book than those that came after it. Sones’ free-verse novel, Stop Pretending, does two amazing things that I haven’t witnessed in other free-verse novels so far. A majority of this book’s poems can be read separately from the others. They stand alone as very powerful works of poetry and don’t need the support of the “larger story.” At the same time, they all mesh together into that “larger story” that is hard to step away from, even with it being an emotional read. It’s the combination of these two effects that makes Sones such a great novelist and poet, all in the same work. Being that this is strongly influenced by the author’s life growing up, I feel that it helped her create the very real main character. The poems bring the reader deep into the mind of this teenager who doesn’t know how to deal with her sister’s hospitalization. This can only come from someone who’s dealt with similar issues in real life. It also allows a reader, and even society in general, to consider all sides of the situation. It’s not just the patient who needs therapy, or just someone to talk to in general. It’s all members of a family, no matter how much they try to hide it. Sonya Sones’ first book is by far my favorite of hers so far. It’s no wonder her books have gotten the attention they have.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oh wow. Last year at my school library I found "What my Mother doesnt know" "What my Girlfriend doesnt know" and "one of those Hidious books where the Mother dies". I loved all three and when I saw this book I bought it without looking at reviews. The other night I reread it and cryed so hard I didnt think I could stop. It is written in short unryming poems. What happens when a young teenage girls best friend and sister loses her mind? See how this book based on real events changes your life. I hope you love it!! XOXOXO OliviaZB
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Sonya Sones books, but this was simply not her best! Although her poetry never ceases to captivate a reader, the story was not as interesting as others. If you want to read a story you can finish in an hour, then I recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Again HAPPYBIRTHDAY to anyone whose birthday it is i rekamend this book lol omg
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book wasnt that good. Honestly it could have been been extended some. The book could have been extended by adding more about John. The author kinda just stuck him in the story. He visited the sister once and after that, they dont mention him again. The author could have talked about how John changed Cookie and her family and they started growing closer to the sister. This book was way to short. It was an interesting plot but it wasnt used well. BOTTOM LINE: This is more of a short read definately not worth tons of money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome story but make it seven pages please! Keep it up
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Zig zag
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Garbage annyoing i just dont get it its sad thats why its garbage
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lanah squeals happily as she sees the movie taking place before her eyes(forgot to mention Lanahs HUGE crush on Lando Calrisian). "Before you run off on me remember we have to use the names we made up okay?" Lanah nods. "Youre Leisah Billud & im Srey Ledesk, right?" "Yep thats right" Lanah replies, snapping into her character. I run off. "Come on Leisah, Lets go see what Luke is doing." I call. "Coming Srey." Leisah replies. We run over to where Luke is walking back into his uncles house with two droids. "Hey Luke!" Leisah yells. "HEY LUKE!!!!" I yell louder. Luke turns around & sees us running toward him. He waits for us. When we catch up he says"Hey Srey. Hey Leisah." "Whats going on?" Leisah asks. "My uncle just bought these two droids from the Jawas & ive got to clean them up." "We'll help." I say quickly. "Yeah." Leisah adds. "Okay. Let me ask my uncle. Hey uncle Leisa Billud & Srey Ledesk want to help clean the droids." "Thats fine Luke as long as the droids get clean." He said. We walk into a small side hut & begin working. Luke starts on the droids & Leisah starts sweeping the floor while i begin sorting tools & parts. Suddenly Luke falls back onto the ground from where he had been clraning the small droid. Leisah & i turn around to see whatmade Luke fall. Leisahs jaw dropped & i gasped.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so great i had stayed up all night cause i couldnt sleep so i bought a bunch of books to keep my mind off things and read and finished it in like two hours and went to sleep after that
My-favorite-books More than 1 year ago
My English class read this novel together. Af first I did not think that I would like it, but I was wrong. It was excellent! The protagonist, Cookie, must come to terms with the fact that her sister is mentally ill and needs some help. At first she thinks her sister's behavior is just a little strange. But on Christmas Eve when her sister goes to mass in her nightgown, and hides 70 bars of soap in her bedroom Cookie knows that there is a serious problem. Cookie's parents must put her sister in a mental institution. Cookie must deal with taunts and teasing by her friends when they find out her sister has been committed. Cookie tries to keep it from them, and when she finally confides in them they make fun of her sister. Along with getting adjusted to her sister being in a psychiatric ward, Cookie also gets her first boyfriend. It is a confusing time for Cookie because good and bad things are happening in her life. The first time Cookie brings her boyfriend home to meet her parents they can hear them fighting inside the house. Cookie becomes very embarrrassed, but her boyfriend comforts her. Later in the novel, Cookie even takes her boyfriend to meet her sister. Ultimately, this is a novel about growing up, and learning to accept what cannot be changed. I think teenagers will be able to identify with Cookie and her struggles to understand her sister's behavior. This was a great book.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
my english class has been reading stop pertendig and its a really good book it really shows you what an teenager may go through how her sister went insace was crazy but cookie keept her head high and didnt let anything bring her down in this book it should you how your friends may turn on you when you need them the most but friends come and go but your familiy will be there through it all . i think any teenager would like to read this book .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
T_Harrison More than 1 year ago
This book is really good. The format is unique and it is really is to understand. Anyone can cope with Cookie, because we all have someone we love very much, and would just be depressed if something ever happened to them. This story helped me realize that I'm not the only one dealing with someone that is ill, and that I can live my life while taking care of them. This book is for the type of reader who has feelings the author would feel as she was writing it. Like they can actually feel what the writer was feeling.
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SHAQ32 More than 1 year ago
"Stop Pretending" is a great book to read. The reason why I think so great is because: it is not only written in poetry form, but it is nicely put together. The book is written in free verse and is highly emotional and makes you want to break-out with crying a river full of tears. It is written in a series of poems that paints a picture of the internal struggles that she went through. This book has taught me 2 valuable lessons in life while reading it. One of the life lessons is: Never judge a book by its cover b/c you never know what is going on or what will happen in that person's life. The 2nd life lesson is: cherish the time that you spend with those loved ones b/c you never know when GOD calls on you and never know what's going to happen; either today or tomorrow.