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Across the Uni-Verse: Novels in Poetry, Part 2

4703932712_b3b6867d25There are a lot of things I appreciate that I can’t do. I think roller coasters are amazing, but they scare me. I also get wicked sick when I ride them. I love poetry but my attempts at verse are sadly lacking. I love novels written in verse. I actively seek them out to buy, read and share with others. It’s all a good outlet for lack of artistic prowess. To me it seems like books in verse transcend genre; they are their own format like graphic novels. The sparseness of the words allows the reader to get right to the heart of the story and all it’s emotional content.

I’ve already done one booklist of some of my favorite novels written with poetry, Across the Uni-Verse: Novels in Poetry. Here are some new books in verse to enjoy.

formerly shark girl kelly bingham coverShark Girl by Kelly Bingham came out in 2007, so it’s not new, but it has a sequel Formerly Shark Girl that just came out in May. Jane is the girl everyone thinks they know. People know her through her work as an artist before her accident. People know her as a victim of a shark attack afterwards. Missing her dominant hand, Jane learns to redefine herself. Novels that revolve around identity always fascinate me. The verse format excels in expressing the emotions of all the characters. I think readers will really enjoy some of the strange letters Jane got while recovering. Her accident was public knowledge. This led strangers seek her out. Formerly Shark Girl continues the story.

looking for me betsy r rosenthal coverI found Looking for Me by Betsy R. Rosenthal while looking for more novels in verse. My hunt led me to the children’s department. This is another story that focuses on identity. As NoveList puts it, Edith, an “eleven-year-old Jewish girl, one of twelve siblings, tries to find her place in her overcrowded family.” Looking For Me is based on the author’s family. Through Edith I thought a lot about immigrants finding their place in America as well as children in a big family feeling lost in the shuffle. I know it’s corny to say this is a universal story, but I think readers of any age can empathize with the fear of being forgotten. The simplicity of the writing reflects the honest perspective of innocent eyes and a curious mind.

my book of life by angel martine leavitt coverIf you are waiting for the new Ellen Hopkins novel in verse, Smoke, which isn’t available until September, a read-alike would be My Book of Life By Angel by Martine Leavitt (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults). This dark, realistic story, loosely based on actual events, illuminates the grim nature of life on the street. Angel is trapped by her addiction to drugs, her work as a prostitute and her dependence on Cal, her pimp. She finds her purpose in protecting young Melli from a similar future. Already told in verse, Leavitt’s writing is exceptionally spartan; highlighting the misery of Angel and street people who work to stay alive.

seeing emily joyce lee wongSeeing Emily by Joyce Lee Wong is a book I feel I rescued from the catalog. It has an incredibly dull summary that belays the descriptions of visual art Emily makes as well as the edible delights her parents create at their Chinese restaurant. It is definitely a novel for the senses. As the daughter of immigrants, Emily feels the dual pressures of conforming to American culture and honoring her family’s heritage. Can she be both Chinese and American enough to satisfy herself, her parents and her peers? Lee Wong’s approach to the story is light, the plot building in layers like flavors in a recipe or paint on a canvas. Students who don’t fit in any one social group will feel catharsis for Emily’s attempts to define herself beyond a generic Asian stereotype.

love and leftovers sarah tregay coverLove and Leftoversby Sarah Tregay (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults) is a unique novel, not only for its in verse format but also for its content. Marcie’s father reveals he is bi-sexual and begins to date other men. Moving to New Hampshire from Idaho, Marcie has to navigate the town and her teen identity without the guidance of her mother, who is lost in her own depression. Fans of Sarah Dessen will enjoy this realistic, hyper-detailed family drama. The dysfunction is compounded by everyone’s inability to communicate clearly or at all. It was amazing how many issues could have been resolve by people stating their needs clearly.

While writing this post I discovered another novel in verse, The Language Inside by Holly Thompson. It was just released in May. Again, from NoveList: “Raised in Japan, American-born tenth-grader Emma is disconcerted by a move to Massachusetts for her mother’s breast cancer treatment, because half of Emma’s heart remains with her friends recovering from the tsunami.” I’ll be reading that next.

Searching for a story that isn’t so long winded?

Need a book that doesn’t beat around the bush?

Novels in verse explore our changing identities, our need for a place to call home, and all the emotions in between. Try one of these newer novels or peruse my previous post for perennial favorites.

— Laura C. Perenic, currently reading Ruby Redfort: Take Your Last Breath by Lauren Child

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Laura Perenic