All in Verse Week

Recommendation Tuesday: Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Recommendation Tuesday started as a joke and is now an official thing. If you've got a book to recommend on this or any Tuesday, tweet me at @FullShelves and I'll help spread the word.

This week's Recommendation Tuesday is part of our Verse Novel Week celebration! View all of the past recommendations over here. 

And the pomegranates,
like memories, are bittersweet
as we huddle together,
remembering just how good
life used to be.

— Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

When I get ready to put together Verse Novel Week each year, I always try to (rather foolishly) get caught up on verse novels I've missed and check out as many as I can find from the library. This year, my pile reached fairly ridiculous proportions, but at the top was Guadalupe Garcia McCall's Under the Mesquite, which came highly recommended by Nafiza, who has excellent taste. 

Under the Mesquite is one of those books that will just suck you into its words and rhythm, and the verse format adds so much to that feeling as Garcia McCall weaves together Mexican American immigrant Lupita's story of family, loss and hope. 

Why Verse Novels Can Be About Anything, by Stasia Ward Kehoe (Guest Post)

Being verse novelist can make one feel defensive.  The form is subject to a lot of questions, such as:

WHAT is a verse novel?

HOW can you tell a story in poems?

WHY don’t you just write “normally”?

Imagine someone wanting Eminem to define “rap.” Demanding of Joss Whedon, “How come you don’t write stage plays instead of screenplays” or of dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, “How can you express narrative through movement without words”? What might the late Andy Warhol have said to somehow who asked why he didn’t just paint “realistically”?


Review: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, Guest Post by Allie of In Bed with Books

Kwame Alexander's newest novel, THE CROSSOVER, is a verse tour de force. It's told through poems by the main character, Josh Bell a.k.a. Filthy McNasty. He and his twin brother Jordan (JB) are talented basketball players, but jealousy threatens to split them apart when JB gets a girlfriend.

I love how many levels of story are woven into this novel. 

THE CROSSOVER is the kind of book I never would've picked up when I was younger because I didn't like sports. There is the sports story promised by the cover, all leading up to a big championship game, but it is far from the only plotline. Nor is it the most important plotline. That's reserved for all the family stuff.


Kicking Off 3rd Annual Verse Novel Week!

It would be impossible to be more excited about kicking off a third celebration of verse novels on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves. We conceived of this project in our first year as a way to shine a light on a format we loved, but I am certain that we never thought that it would grow and become our one big tradition here on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves.

To folks who aren't verse novel enthusiasts, it may seem strange that we devote so much page space, as well as time and effort, to spreading the word about a specific format of novel. And, I guess, it kind of is weird. 

Verse novels are often the red-headed stepchildren of book formats. If you peruse the Goodreads reviews for verse novels, they're peppered with complaints about the very existence of the format, and many readers seem to expect verse novels to prove themselves at a higher level than those written in prose. 

3rd Annual Verse Novel Week!

It's hard to believe, but we're getting ready for our 3rd Annual Verse Novel Week! This year's week of celebrating all of the awesomeness of our beloved verse novels will once again take place in the last week in April, starting on April 28th.

We've already got an extra-special podcast episode planned with an extra-special Guest of Awesome and we're spotlighting some wonderful verse novels from a number of genres. As we did last year, we're opening up Verse Novel Week for guest contributions. 

So, if you'd like to write about your favorite verse novel, sign up to read a verse novel for the first time or if you're a verse novelist, fill out the form below and we'll be in touch to coordinate!

Verse Week: I <3... Lisa Schroeder

Not long after the experience of reading Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay, I frantically hunted down as many verse novels as I could. Apparently, a lot of other people in the Fort Vancouver Regional Library system felt the same way, because none of them were available, thereby forcing me to add them to my library hold list in what felt like a holy test of my (notorious lack of) patience. And add to my list I did. Juvenile, YA, Middle Grade, whatever. Like a drug addict desperately in search of a fix, I was willing to read any category, any genre -- as long as it was a novel-in-verse.

The first book to become available was Far From You by Lisa Schroeder. Everything about it looked promising, from the snowflakes on the cover (since I love snow) to the jacket bio informing me that Lisa Schroeder is a local author, both of which would have been ample reasons for me to award bonus stars to my final book rating.

Turns out I didn’t need them.

So engrossed was I by Far From You that I finished the book in one frantic sitting, when I had originally intended to sneak in just a few pages while my SHO showered and got ready for our outing to the local Farmer’s Market.

So captivated was I by Lisa Schroeder’s verse that I gobbled up the rest of her then-published YA novels, all of which were in verse, within three months.

So enthralled I am with Lisa Schroeder’s storytelling that I (a lazy person who does not enjoy leaving the house or driving) drove to a Barnes and Noble 25 miles away from my house to snag a copy of her most recent book, a prose novel with strong poetic elements, when I found out it had been released into the wild at that particular bookstore a few days before the official release date.

And so obsessed I am with Lisa Schroeder’s books that when it comes to her novels, I simply cannot adhere to my policy of keeping one book by a treasured author unread as an emergency reserve for those times when I desperately need to read a book I know I will love.

To ease the hardship of not knowing when I will get to read another new Lisa Schroeder book, and in celebration of our Novels-in-Verse week here at CEFS, I decided to pull all of her books off of my shelves (oh yes, I have hard copies of them all) and reflect on just why I heart Lisa Schroeder.

Verse Week List-O-Rama: For the Verse Averse

We know despite our saying over and over again that verse novels are absolutely nothing to fear, some of you may still be nervous about trying out a verse novel.

As a result, I thought I'd point those of you who may want to ease into verse to some traditional novels with poetic or verse elements. Similarly, easing into verse novels with books for the younger set can be a fun way to test out the form without committing to a long, complex verse novel for teens or adults.

Once you've tried a few of these on for size, head over and give our Verse Week 2013 podcast a listen for more first-verse recommendations.

Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder | Simon Pulse (2013)

Lisa Schroeder is well known for her verse novels, but her most recent YA novel, Falling for You, is told in prose format, but contains loads of poems (the narrator is a teenage poet) that are key to the story. I really, really enjoyed this book, but I will warn you that the summary, cover and title aren't particularly related to the actual story. This is really a novel about finding family where you least expect it.

Review | Amazon | Goodreads

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley | Knopf Books (2012)

Graffiti Moon is one of my favorite all-time books, it just so perfectly captures that type of night that can only happen the summer after high school. Told from multiple points of view, Graffiti Moon includes a perspective entirely in poems. Some of my favorite moments are the poems evoking the Melbourne night--they're absolutely vivid.

Review Amazon | Goodreads

Verse Week Guest Post: Gabrielle Prendergast on Backstory & Writing in Verse

We're halfway through our annual Novel in Verse Week celebration here on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves and today we have verse novelist Gabrielle Prendergast who shares an inside glimpse on the challenges of creating backstory with the verse format. Enjoy! ~Sarah

One of the challenges for any author, particularly one who writes contemporary novels for teens, is the task of revealing backstory. Because I started out as a screenwriter, backstory, as it is frequently revealed in contemporary young adult books, does not come naturally. I tend to still see my stories as screenwriters do, as a series of scenes in a mostly linear narrative, so diversions into reminiscence feel awkward to write.

But backstory is critical, and in contemporary first person narrated young adult novels, it plays a huge role in getting to know the main character through their past actions and experiences. “Show don’t tell” is the mantra. Delving into the past allows us to see how the characters became who they are rather than them having to tell us.

Writing in verse, while it shares the conciseness and imagery of screenwriting, nevertheless is antithetical to screenwriting when it comes to inner life. In screenwriting it is a never ending struggle to reveal a character’s inner life, never mind their past, without resorting to flashback or voiceover. In verse novels techniques that are analogous to flashback and voiceover are essential. 

Verse Week List-O-Rama: Got History?

While novels in verse tend to focus on contemporary settings and situations, historical novels in verse, like May B--which Sandra reviewed earlier today, historical fiction has a pretty strong hold in the verse format as well. 

Let's take a look at a few.

Crossing Stones by Helen Frost | Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2009)

Laura highly recommends this novel in verse by Helen Frost which chronicles the experiences of two families during World War I. ​The main character, 18-year old Muriel, becomes interested in the women's suffrage movement, so it's a good choice for folks who are also interested in women's history.

Amazon | Goodreads

Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards | Knopf Books (2010)

I recently bought this slim novel in verse which focuses on two teens in the late-1800s who cross class barriers to forge a friendship, and eventually a romance. Their happiness is threatened when the Johnstown flood sends 20 million gallons of water into Johnstown, Pennsylvania. ​This definitely falls into the "poetic" side of the verse novel spectrum.

Amazon | Goodreads

Verse Week Review: May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

Before putting my fingers to the keyboard to write my review of May B., a middle grade novel in verse by Caroline Starr Rose, I went to the Poetry Foundation's website to see if my confusion between poetry and prose could be clarified. The answer I found didn't particularly surprise me.

To put it in the simplest of terms, it's all about snobbery. Poetry, according its aficionados, stands several rungs above verse. Verse does not--according to them--employee the sophisticated use of language that poetry does.

Alrighty then...

Keats apparently writes poetry and Robert Service apparently writes verse. What's the difference? I've yet to answer that one but I will say that I read Service for pleasure, for the joy of his playful and often robust use of language. Keats I read as assigned work in my studies at the universities where I earned my degrees. I enjoy and appreciate Keats, so I am not picking on his work, I promise. My point is about the joy of language, pure and simple.

Novel in Verse Week 2013

Remember last year when we bombarded you with a week of posts about the awesomeness of novels in verse?

This year, we're hoping to make it bigger and better and awesomer!

Like last year, 2013's will be that last week in April, beginning on April 21. We'll be posting features about verse novels and their authors, but some folks have also reached out to us and asked if they could get involved. (It is so weird to me that people want to collaborate with us, but it's also extremely awesome.)

We’ve spent the last week evangelizing* about the awesomeness of novels in verse, in case you haven’t noticed. Since we’re sure we’ve convinced you that you have to pick up your first novel in verse righ now, we thought we’d give you a few suggestions about where to start. 

Love & Leftovers by Sarah Tregay

Love & Leftovers was Laura’s introduction to novels in verse and you really cannot go wrong with this one. It’s a fantastic story and the writing is spectacular! I dare you not to love it. 

{Sarah’s Review}

{Buy it at Amazon | Book Depository}

{Add it on Goodreads}


I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder

To be honest, any Lisa Schroeder would be a great novel in verse first read, but this one has a different take a ghost story and is very, very readable if you’re nervous about trying verse. It’s also very short, which can be nice when you’re trying something new.

{Buy it at Amazon | Book Depository}

{Add it on Goodreads}


Exposed by Kimberly Marcus

It’s the fall of senior year.

Elizabeth Grayson is focused.

On her camera.
Her portfolio.
Her art school applications.

Her life.
Her photos.

Are clear.

She’s focused along with Kate, touchingly dubbed by Liz as, 
The straight line to my squiggle, 
my forever-best friend.

But everything changes after one night at their monthly sleepover, when the cloudiness of life and the people Liz thought she knew, is exposed.

At first assuming Kate’s ensuing distance to be the result of an argument about Kate’s future that occurred during their sleepover, Liz repeatedly attempts to apologize. However, as Kate’s distance from Liz continues, Liz begins to unravel the events of the evening, which results in a stunning accusation.

The fallout sharply veers Liz’s life out of focus in every way.

Verse author Gabrielle Prendergast left the most awesome comment in the (not-so-long) history of Clear Eyes, Full Shelves, 

This post
Like lemonade popsicles
I search for them
In freezers
and dingaling ringing ice cream trucks
At the water park on hot summer days
But only ever find them
Dripping sweet white
Icy cold summer
On my fingers

Gabrielle Prendergast

So, naturally, when she inquired about getting involved in our little celebration of novels in verse, we jumped on the chance to chat with her about why she loves the format and, um, Tim Riggins…

Gabrielle is the author of the middle grade novel Hildegarde (Harper Collins Australia), which was also made into a feature film, starring Richard E Grant. Her middle grade sports novel Wicket Season was published by Lorimer Publishers in March 2012. She lives in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and daughter.

Why do you write in verse?