Novels in Verse for Poetry Month
You are aware, I’m sure, that April is National Poetry Month. This brainchild of the Academy of American Poets has been celebrated since 1996, and the Academy’s website has a plethora of great ideas ideas of ways to celebrate, but why not celebrate by simply reading more poetry?
What’s that? Poetry is “too hard?” Do not fear iambic pentameter, sestinas, or villanelles! But if you would rather not attempt a sonnet, a haiku, or even a limerick, there is a great way to ease yourself into the world of poems: novels written in verse. The tales are so compelling and the verse so subtle, you won’t even realize you are reading poetry. Quite often, novels in verse tackle very hard subjects. It can be astonishing how authors cover deep, dark topics with just a few, perfectly chosen words.
Here are a few to get you started:
My Book of Life By Angel – Martine Leavitt
Angel is sixteen when Call gives her “candy” that makes her fly, and asks her to start sleeping with his friends. Soon, Angel is hooked on drugs and is working the streets as a prostitute. When Call brings home an even younger girl, Angel plans to escape this life she’s found herself in, and take young Melli with her. Leavitt’s books have appeared on multiple Best Books for Young Adults lists, and after reading her work, you will understand why.
Freakboy – Kristin Clark (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)
Brendan seems to be a guy’s guy. He’s a wrestler, has a lovely girlfriend, and loves video games, but deep inside, he wants long hair and soft skin and a curvy body. Brendan is transexual and he’s trying to figure out who he is. He has never met anyone else who is like him, and he is frightend that he is “not normal”, whatever that means.
To Be Perfectly Honest – Sonya Sones
Author Sones has had her work appear on many Young Adult Library Services Association awards lists. Her latest novel features Colette, daughter of a famous movie star. Colette is a self professed liar, so readers are warned right away about the unreliability of this narrator. While on location with her mother shooting a movie, Colette meets a guy who might just get her to stop lying.
Smoke – Ellen Hopkins
The latest book from award winning author Hopkins (she has had many of her novels chosen as Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers), continues the story begun in the novel Burned. It is the story of Pattyn, a young woman who, with her sister, suffered abuse at their father’s hands. Now their father is dead, and Pattyn is on the run, trying to rebuild her life.
Hideous Love – Stephanie Hemphill
Mary Shelley was a teen when she wrote Frankenstein, and her life was almost as unbelievable as her fantastic imagination. Hemphill, a 2008 Printz honor author, describes how Shelley’s wild life in nineteenth century Europe led to the creation of the timeless novel that basically invented the science fiction genre.
Coaltown Jesus – Ron Koertge (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
After his older brother dies, Walker prays, vaguely, to whomever is up there. He is shocked when his prayers are answered and Jesus – yes that Jesus – appears in his home. Jesus is not quite what Walker, or most Christians, expect; he’s witty and a bit irreverent. But he is compassionate, and he does help this young man begin to overcome his grief.
October Mourning – Leslea Newman (2013 Stonewall Book Award honor book)
In the fall of 1998, Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming college student, was killed by two men because he was gay. Newman uses many different types of poetic forms to tell Matthew’s story. She alternates points of view, “speaking” as Matthew, as the fence he was tied to, as the stars above him, even as a deer who stayed near him in the night. The words may be sparse, but the emotions they convey are powerful.
~ Geri Diorio, currently reading Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones