In What My Mother Doesn’t Know (2001), 14-year-old Sophie, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, teen, describes her surprise when she is drawn to Robin, the school-appointed loser who makes her laugh. In this sequel, Robin picks up the narrative in rapid-fire, first-person free verse as he describes their school’s reaction to the relationship: “They’re gawking at us / like Sophie’s Beauty and I’m the Beast.” Sophie compares the two to outlaws: “It’s just you and me against the world.” But after Sophie’s friends dump her, Robin feels guilty for the “random acts of unkindness” she endures: “Sophie may feel like an outlaw, / but thanks to yours truly, / what she really is / is an outcast.” A talented artist, Robin finds escape in a Harvard drawing class, where a new friendship threatens his closeness with Sophie. The story of a thrilling and faltering first love may be familiar, but Robin’s believable voice is distinctive, and Sones uses her spare words (and a few drawings) to expert effect. From bad puns to breathless accounts of locking lips to anguished worries about losing Sophie, Robin reinforces the picture of an awkward, likable, intelligent, and realistically flawed young man. Many teens will see themselves, and they’ll cheer when Sophie and Robin thwart the bullies and reclaim their social standing. Like Sones’ other titles, this is a great choice for reluctant and avid readers alike. —Gillian Engberg
Gr 8 Up—This sequel to What My Mother Doesn’t Know (S & S, 2001) stands completely on its own. Robin’s life at Cambridge High School is miserable. The arty outsider’s last name becomes the pejorative slang of the school—as in, “Don’t be such a Murphy.” His lot improves, however, when popular Sophie becomes his girlfriend despite the detriment to her reputation. Better still, the freshman is invited to audit an art class at Harvard. It is his homecoming; for once, he is the comedian rather than the butt of jokes. One of the college freshmen even shows some romantic interest in him. Written as a novel in verse, this title is a fast-paced, page-turning romp that gives authentic voice to male youth even when it is painfully truthful. —Leah Krippner
I picked up Sones’ 2001 title, What My Mother Doesn’t Know, a few years ago and loved it—but I wondered if my own teenage daughter would take to the book, written in spare but emotional free verse. But she, too, was besotted by it (and it became one of those well-thumbed books she kept by her bed). Now both of us are thrilled to find this sequel, in which 14-year-old Boston teen Sophie finds a friend in Robin, the boy everyone in school loves to hate. What happens to them, told from both their points of view, is painful, awkward, faltering, moving—and is about as realistic a depiction of teen relationships as I’ve ever read. I never thought I’d enjoy novels written in free verse, but I stand corrected; Sones’ books are just terrific. (The reviewer gave this book an “A”). —Tina Jordan
Six years after What My Mother Doesn’t Know sizzled onto the scene, Sones returns to continue the story of teen sweethearts Sophie Stein and Robin Murphy. Her signature free-verse poems give class-loser Robin voice this time, allowing him to describe his feelings as Sophie’s public acceptance of him makes her a social pariah; as he explores the physical and emotional roller-coaster of first love; as he re-makes himself from outcast to one-of-the-cool-crowd when he audits a Harvard art class—and finds himself attracted to one of that cool crowd. The excruciatingly painful dynamics of the high school in-crowd receive a thorough treatment, as does Robin’s ambivalence with them: He recognizes Sophie’s pain at her rejection by formerly close friends, but at the same time, he understands that this very rejection makes her need him all the more. Robin emerges as an appealingly flawed character whose desires—for love, for acceptance, for sex—will be instantly recognized by readers …
Yes! It’s finally here! The sequel to What My Mother Doesn’t Know!
What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know, by the incredible Sonya Sones, is also told as a novel in verse (which makes it a rapid read). What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know is told from the point of view of Robin, the so-called loser that Sophie, the heroine of WMMDK, begins dating at the end of the first book. But you don’t need to have read WMMDK to understand (and love) WMGDK (although of course I highly suggest it because What My Mother Doesn’t Know is a great book).
What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know is about Robin and Sophie’s romance, but it’s about a lot more than that, too. If I still had a book club, What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know would SO be a bookclub pick. BUY IT. TAKE IT TO THE BEACH. READ IT. Just don’t read it on a plane or people will look at you when you laugh out loud at it.
… There are relatively few books published as far back as 2001 that I continue to booktalk on a regular basis. As the years and the presentations go by, I am constantly adding exciting new books to the hundred-pound rolling suitcase library that follows me around from school to school. It is generally the kid-tested, proven winners that remain in the mix for more than a year or two.
The 2001 verse novel, What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones, has steadfastly remained part of my middle school booktalking repertoire for good reason…But—from my guy point of view—the long-awaited sequel is even better. Sonya Sones does an amazing job here of capturing the formative adolescent male mind in all its … err … splendor.
“Before We Leave
I call back my parents
to tell them where I’m going.
Because if they called the house
and I didn’t pick up the phone,
and then they tried my cell
but they couldn’t get through
because Verizon sucks so bad,
they’d probably call Mrs. Jeffries again,
not to mention the local police and the F.B.I.
And my picture would be on
every milk carton in the country
before Sophie and I even got back to the house.
So I tell them I’m going to the museum,
but I don’t tell them
that Sophie’s going with me,
and that afterwards,
we’re gonna be here alone together
for hours and hours
before her mother comes to pick her up.
Because not telling someone something,
when someone’s not even asking,
is not the same thing as lying. Is it?
I don’t have to tell my parents
about every single thing
that’s going on in my personal life.
In fact, I don’t have to tell them
about anything that’s going on
in my personal life.
That’s why they call it
… Robin Murphy is a kid who has long been the butt of cruel jokes. In fact, his name “Murphy” has become a synonym among kids for being a fool, a dork, a klutz, a whatever, as in “Don’t be such a Murphy!” But then Sophie, having seen something in Murphy that everyone else has missed, decides to go with her instincts and her heart and lets nature take its course. As a result of her daring to be seen publicly with him, Sophie is ostracized by her friends and subjected to the same sort of abuse by her peers that Robin has been dealing with for a long time. And, now that he’s upset the social order, everyone’s participation in dumping on Robin is ratcheted up a few more notches.
But What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know goes far beyond the bullying theme and far beyond the “us versus them” theme. At its core this is a joyful and a hopeful book, not an angry one. Sonya Sones treats us to the sweet, often humorous, and—to a guy’s mind—oftentimes perplexing emotional evolution of a relationship ...
And, most importantly, it is Robin Murphy this time whose innermost thoughts are revealed … Robin’s being such a sensitive, artistic kid, one with a great heart, provides the perfect counterweight to the author’s candor in revealing this young adolescent’s upwelling of male sexuality …
This is going to make for a heck of a discussion book and, as with Sophie’s story, a book that will undoubtedly be spoken of enthusiastically between kids. Woe is the middle school or high school librarian who doesn’t figure on having a couple of copies of this one in the collection.—Richie Partington
This is a sequel to What My Mother Doesn’t Know, telling the story of Sophie and Robin’s romance from Robin’s point of view. Since he has always been a social outcast, he is used to it; but it kills him to see Sophie become an outcast once she reveals to their high school world that the two are a couple. Sones writes Robin’s story using poetry throughout, in the poetry-novel format. Sophie is swept away by her romance with Robin, sharing their love of art and their intelligence, but she is hurt when her friends reject her. The social bullies have always picked on Robin, and now they add Sophie to their victim list. Robin finds a way to feel good about himself when he starts taking art classes at nearby Harvard University and is accepted easily by the college students, who don’t know he is a high school freshman. Things get better at high school for Robin and Sophie, and Sones (through Robin) tells how that happens. This is a good choice for creative students who sometimes feel ostracized in high school. It deals honestly with sexual feelings. Strong emotions of love, of humiliation, anger, and shame, drive the poetry and the reader forward.
In this sequel to What My Mother Doesn’t Know, we learn what happens next with Sophie and Robin—but this time, it’s from the artistic outsider Robin Murphy’s point of view. Struggling to make sense of how he’s actually dating pretty, popular Sophie Stein, Robin learns that getting your heart’s desire isn’t always easy.
Author Sonya Sones once again masterfully creates a book in verse that throws the reader into the depths of the character’s soul. With her amazing poetry, the voice of Robin is so strikingly real and full of self-doubt. “I told her I’d understand if it has to end. / And sure I’ll understand. / Because, I mean, what girl in her right mind / would want to be seen hanging with me? / With Murphy … / the ugliest guy at Cambridge High? / The guy whose last name people use as a diss. / As in: “You are a real Murphy.”
But even though he is wracked with confusion, life is looking up for Robin. Not only is he dating gorgeous Sophie, but he also is selected by his art teacher to audit an art class at Harvard University. There, he finally feels like he belongs. Nobody knows him as “a Murphy,” the butt of all jokes. At Harvard he is the jokester, and better yet, he makes new friends, including a female student who develops a crush on him.
Back in his real high school life, however, things with Sophie become tough. Her friends have ostracized her for dating Robin. Even though they love each other, it’s as if it’s Robin and Sophie against the world. Can Robin allow Sophie to sacrifice her social life just to date him?
Like Sones’s previous books, What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know is a truly enjoyable and fast-paced read. Her story feels so rich and full of life, and it’s amazing what she can do with so few words. Robin is an authentic male teen voice whose struggle is often heartbreaking, realistic and funny. As a reader, I can’t wait to see what Sones writes next. —Kristi Olson