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What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know    by Sonya Sones order for
What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know
by Sonya Sones
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This touching tale, in simple but lyrical verse format, reminded me of stories by Sharon Creech like Love That Dog (though this is aimed at an older audience than the latter). What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know deals with the ups and downs, meetings of minds and misunderstandings, certainties and doubts, of first love, compounded by high school bullying and social cruelty. If that were not enough for this artistic young couple to cope with, Robin Murphy, the narrator has the opportunity to move beyond that limited high school context to experience a sophisticated, more tolerant setting.

In the two weeks of winter break, popular Sophie and self styled loser Murphy got together: 'Sophie and I were / the only two people on the planet. / It was sort of like we were inside / one of those little snow globes, / you know?' Now school's started again, Murphy expects to be dumped, but Sophie continues to see him, despite losing her two best friends and being ostracized by the in crowd for it. Murphy feels both ecstatic and incredibly guilty that Sophie's suffering for him - 'They're gawking at us / Like Sophie's Beauty and I'm the Beast. / Like I'm Shrek and Sophie's Fiona.' They're outlaws together. It's especially touching when he wishes, 'If only everyone else / could see / What Sophie sees / when she looks at me.'

Robin gets relief from all this angst when his art teacher offers him a chance to audit a Harvard art class, a situation that creates its own stresses as the others don't know he's a high school student. He's happy and stimulated there - and he's accepted for himself and for his enormous talent. What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know is beautifully done, with great empathy, and moments of wry humor, and I enjoyed it very much.

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