Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy by Sanya Sones

Stop Pretending is a fictionalized account of the author's own sister's mental breakdown told entirely in poetry.

The story is told through the eyes of the younger sister, Cookie, who at thirteen idolized her older sister (simply referred to as Sister) until the breakdown happened on Christmas Eve. The episode began when Sister tried to run barefoot to Christmas Eve midnight Mass despite the fact that she was Jewish and barely dressed, covered only by her nightgown. After a long night full over other manic behavior, she is taken to a hospital's psychiatric ward to be institutionalized.

The story follows Cookie as her friends drop off one by one, her family unit falls apart under the weight of sudden unexpected stresses, and as she struggles to reconcile the girl in the hospital that does not recognize her during visits with the older sister that she use to look up to, steal clothing from, and go to for advice.

The poetry in Stop Pretending is not particularly well written. I liked the book, regardless, though. As the daughter of a man who is manic-depressive, the things that Sones wrote about rang true, obviously due to the fact that the poems were based off of the journal entries written in her youth about her sister. I appreciated that she portrayed all sides of the spectrum-- the good days, the bad days, the days that the person you're talking to is sometimes on a completely different planet. Beyond her writing about manic depression, her writing about simply being a teenage girl seemed honest an accurate as well. One of my favorite poems in the book is "Secret Rendezvous at the Full Moon Cafe" where she wrote about synchronizing her watch with her boyfriend's so that at the stroke of midnight they could look out on the moon at exactly the same time. That seemed like something I would have done at that age.

Stop Pretending isn't a book that I can see myself recommending to anyone but it is a book that I'm sure I would to have loved stumbling over when I was in middle school or maybe freshman year of high school.

For information about mental illness, check out NAMI, The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

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