When writing for teens, I always try to speak in a voice that’s a hundred percent honest. Sometimes embarrassingly honest. We can hide from the pain in our lives (and in the world) and try to pretend it isn’t there, but as Robert Frost said, “The only way round is through.” We’ve got to go through it to get to the other side of it. So it seems to me that now, more than ever, kids need to hear the truth.
Stories have a lot of power. Teens who’ve read Stop Pretending which is about what happened when I was thirteen years old and my older sister had a nervous breakdown, tell me that my book has made them more compassionate towards people with mental illness. And the ones who’ve read What My Mother Doesn’t Know, which is about a fourteen-year-old girl who falls in love with a homely guy, tell me that reading my book made them realize that they shouldn’t worry so much about what their friends think—that they should just follow their hearts. The reactions have shown me, first hand, the amazing capacity that books have to affect change.
I think being a Jew shapes my thinking on everything. Both these books are about the struggle of the underdog, of the persecuted, to fit in. And this, of course, has been the struggle of Jews throughout history.
Sonya Sones is an award-winning poet who writes novels-in-verse for young adults.