by Sonya Sones

Struggles of Underdogs

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.

How Books Tell the World’s Bad News to Children

The articles in this special section:

Beware Sentimental Tripe

by Jane Yolen

Truth Soothes

by Susan Rich

Heroines Overcome their Demons

by Gail Carson Levine

Bad News from the Start

by Ellen Handler Spitz

Kaddish as Magical Incantation

by Susie Morgenstern

Cry for Someone Else

by Esther Rudomin Hautzig

History Helps

by Karen B.Winnick

Struggles of Underdogs

by Sonya Sones

No Brainwashing

by Yehudit Kafri

Hope After the Holocaust

by Ruth Minsky Sender

Pain Is a Teacher

by Julius Lester

Forget Bibliotherapy

by Johanna Hurwitz

War in a Picture Book?

by Fran Manushkin

Discovering Hatred

by Leslea Newman

Between Hopes and Reality

by Etgar Keret

The Power of Anger

by Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso