When You Know What I Know

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
When You Know What I Know Book Poster Image
Girl heals after sexual abuse in poignant novel in verse.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Narrated by a 10-year-old girl, When You Know What I Know helps readers understand the complicated feelings that may arise for a child when she's been sexually abused by a family member. It explores the effects the incident can have on the extended family, including some family members who don't believe the child's report. It also describes disruption of relationships and school performance. There's a subplot about coping with the financial and emotional impacts of a divorce.

Positive Messages

With support from loved ones, you can face very hard times. You can help another person through difficulties by just being there for them, even if you're not sure exactly what to do.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The story depicts very supportive family, friends, and teachers, who rally around a girl who's been sexually abused.

Violence

A 10-year-old girl is molested by her uncle. It is eventually revealed that the man has been arrested under accusations he has assaulted other children. 

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that When You Know What I Know, by Sonja K. Solter, is a novel in verse about the psychological and social impact on a 10-year-old girl named Tori and her family after she's molested by a beloved uncle. In Tori's first-person narration, she refers to what happened to her only as "something bad," except for once as "IT," and the implication is clear that what she experienced was inappropriate touching. It's eventually revealed that the man has been arrested under accusations he has assaulted other children. This book helps readers understand the complicated feelings that may arise for a child who's been being sexually abused by a family member. A subplot deals with coping with the financial and emotional impacts of a divorce.

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What's the story?

In WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT I KNOW, 10-year-old Tori lives with her mom and sister, with Uncle Andy and Grandma visiting them frequently. Her dad lives far away with his new wife and baby. One day, Uncle Andy does "something bad" to Tori on the couch in the basement. Tori tells her mother, who doesn't believe her at first but soon accepts the truth. Tori's distress affects her school work, relationships with her friends, and even her ability to care for her pet hamster (which was a gift from Uncle Andy). She also has to cope with the conflicts between family members, like her grandma, who's reluctant to cut ties with Andy. Gradually, the family comes together to support Tori, and they all begin to heal.

Is it any good?

This gentle take on a sensitive subject could be comforting for a child coping with sexual abuse. Debut author Sonja K. Solter made a wise decision in choosing to write When You Know What I Know in verse. The poetry conveys the sense of participating intimately in Tori's inner journey through a difficult experience in her life. The tale is emotionally raw without having to be graphic about the abuse. It might be too intense for young readers with no previous exposure to the subject.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about keeping a secret in When You Know What You Know. When is it OK to keep a secret, and when is it important to tell someone you trust what you know? Why was it important for Tori to tell her mom what happened to her? What parent or adult in your life can you tell if something bad happens to you?

  • Why do you think it was hard for Tori's mom to believe her at first?

  • Have you ever had to help a friend through a hard time? How did you support them?

Book details

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