The Opposite of Innocent is a haunting verse novel set against the backdrop of young love, what it is and isn’t, and one girl’s relationship with an older man that doesn’t go how she thought it would at all. I was interested in this book but when I realized it was a verse novel, I read it in two shorts goes (one before a book talk, one after a date) and I couldn’t put it down. I haven’t quite cracked the reason all YA verse novels are so dark and heavy but wow does it work for Ellen Hopkins, Jason Reynolds, and Sonya Sones.
Lily is 14 and absolutely in love with Luke. The only problem is that Luke is a weeeeee bit older. Okay, a lot older. But she’s loved him since she was a kid, since her parents met him in grad school, and she always said she’d marry him one day. Now he’s returned from a trip to Kenya to live with them and he tells Lily he HAS waited for her. But it doesn’t mean what she thinks it means. As their relationship progresses, Lily starts keeping more and more secrets and her relationship with Luke becomes more complicated and dangerous than she could ever imagine. With her angelic sister Alice, her overworked parents, and her best friends Rose and Taylor, Lily must decide what she truly wants and if she’s willing to speak out.
This book is heavy. It’s dark. It’s not for the faint of heart. But it’s done so well. I feel like all the verse novels I’ve read deal with extremely dark issues like drug abuse and gun violence and child abuse, but somehow the writing draws me in and I don’t want to stop reading until I know how the story resolves. The Opposite of Innocent did that to me. It grabbed me and engulfed me in the story and I had to get through it, to see what Lily would do. I read on the backflap that Sonya Sones, the author, prides herself on being a frequently banned author, and I can see why. Yes, her books deal with dark and taboo issues, but she handles them deftly and doesn’t sugarcoat anything. Unfortunately, people really do deal with the issues she tackles in her books, and not writing about it doesn’t make those issues go away.
This was a quick read for me, I read it in about two hours total, but I couldn’t put it down.I was fascinated and I needed answers and I enjoyed the ending. Sones knows exactly when to cut it off so you don’t have to deal too long in the aftermath, but assures you there will come another day. If you like verse novels and dark topics, check out the Opposite of Innocent, on sale everywhere now.