About a dozen years ago, I attended a Children’s Literature Council event where the group awarded its Myra Cohn Livingston Award for Poetry to a poet named Sonya Sones. Her book, Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy, was a novel in verse; the semi-autobiographical story of a teenage girl’s battle with mental illness from the point of view of her younger sister, Cookie. As a former student of Myra Cohn Livingston, Sones was especially touched to receive the award named for her mentor, and her acceptance speech was funny and moving, much like the poems she shared with the audience. I had to go directly back to my library and read the whole thing for myself.
Rather than a loose collection of poems, a novel in verse uses each poem to build the story, layer upon layer. Sonya Sones writes poems that are insightful, wise, moving, honest, and often laugh-out-loud funny (sometimes all within a single slender page). I have enjoyed and recommended her Teen novels over the years, and was happy to see her Adult debut, The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus: A Novel About Marriage, Motherhood, and Mayhem.
True to form, Sones’ signature style brings her point of view to the story of Holly: at 50, Holly is dreading the imminent empty nest that’s fast approaching as her only daughter gets ready for college and trying to care for an ailing mother who lives across the country. She’s also mourning the end of her child-bearing years while trying to avoid her editor and finally finish her overdue manuscript. Holly’s experiences ring true, and Sones packs a lot of emotion into her carefully crafted free-verse, a format which allows as much or as little introspection as a busy reader might need. I love that a reader can spend just a few minutes reading one or two poems, or sit down and read through to the end.