Line by Line: Poetry in Teen Fiction

Poetry in YA

Poetry has been figuring in a lot of teen literature lately. Have you noticed? I don’t mean novels in verse, quality as some recent titles have been. Nor do I mean poetry collections for teens (a la Poisoned Apples or Paint Me Like I Am). The Guardian noticed this poetry trend, too, pointing out a few examples in a recent article, and asked its readers for more.

I liked how the article noted authors’ uses of poetry, such as Meg Cabot beginning the chapters of Avalon High with stanzas from The Lady of Shalott. These stanzas just happen to give a clue about the characters’ identities. The article also mentioned a similar use of poetry in Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare: the lines that open the chapters are all from poets who lived in the time of the novel’s setting, late-19th century London. Continue reading Line by Line: Poetry in Teen Fiction

Jukebooks: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

And We StayEmily Bean hesitates to call herself a poet, despite the fact that her brain is always composing poems, more so since her life has been shattered by tragedy. Emily’s boyfriend shot himself in the library of their high school after she breaks up with him. To remove her from the painful aftermath, Emily’s parents send her to the Amherst School for Girls. Plunging into a new environment has its own stresses, but it is the hometown of Emily Dickinson.

In the book, Emily Bean is drawn into the solitary world of the other Emily. The Dickinson family was very invested in Amherst College, and Emily herself attended the Amherst Academy from Emily Dickinson home1840-1847. Her home still stands in the center of town. Becoming immersed in the culture of Amherst and the proximity of all things Dickinson, Emily Bean finds a way to express her own voice. Poems pour from Emily Bean’s pen, articulating all the pain and wisdom inside.

At one point in the book, Emily is asked what sort of music she likes. As the book is set in 1995, her choices reflect another time. “Shawn Colvin, Indigo Girls, stuff like that.” And, indeed, the Indigo Girls’s song, All We Let In, seems to speak directly to Emily Bean:

Lost friends and loved ones much too young
So much promises and work left undone
When all that guards us is a single centerline
And the brutal crossing over when it’s time

-Diane Colson, currently reading Steal the North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom