All in Verse Week

Five Recommended Verse Novels

Stories well told have the power to open our eyes and enlarge our hearts. They’re kind of magic that way. We wander into the world of a story and emerge changed—sometimes in small ways, and sometimes big, with lasting impressions that shape how we think and feel about the world and our experiences in it.

Sandra's Favorite Verse Novels & Some Reflections

Novels in verse come from a tradition of putting stories into language that flows with the magic of poetry. The Iliad and the Odyssey is something that any freshman high school student can tell you about. Verse novels stem from this oral tradition dating from 1600-1100 BC; the power of verse flows like music with the beauty of epic and poetic language.

Not to neglect Old English and Geoffrey Chaucer’s raucous and rowdy tales of those on a pilgrimage, I must mention those monks of olden days who told tales that to this day make us smirk and smile. In verse, Chaucer painted tales of the good folk who laughed about and flaunted their rowdy and raucous adventures.

Give Verse a Chance by Marie Jaskulka

So many people claim they don't "get" poetry, then they quote some lyrics from their favorite songs. 

I understand this prejudice, this preconception that poetry is difficult. I understand it, but I disagree. I think poetry takes a big, emotional idea and distills it into a few potent stanzas. It packs a lot of force in its compressed punch, and therefore, it hits the readers' feels hard.

While fiction is a meandering walk, poetry is a sprint. When it's good, at the end, you should feel breathless and sweaty. Your heart should beat wildly.

Guest Review: Tricks by Ellen Hopkins (Allie of In Bed with Books)

Full confession: before Tricks, I had never read an Ellen Hopkins' novel. Novels in verse are right up my alley, but I just couldn't get over my perception of Hopkins as the drug writer. 

Reading about people getting hooked on drugs and terrible things happening seemed about as interesting as listening to a friend tell you about that totally awesome trip they had once.  But I saw her speak at the Montgomery County Book Festival, and she spoke very passionately and personally about the books she writes.  I chose to read her 2009 release, Tricks, because the sequel, Traffick, is coming out this November.

Audiobooks: How I Came to Love Verse Novels by Molly Wetta

I’ve always loved poetry; I used to hate reading novels in verse. 

Part of my aversion to verse novels can be attributed to my first experience, which was Crank by Ellen Hopkins. The angsty, dramatic, dark story of addiction that is perennially popular with teenagers didn’t appeal to me at all. 

The sentences
just seemed so 
The line breaks

Shari Green's Favorite Verse Novels

When I offered to write a post for verse novel week, I thought I’d review three of my favorite verse novels. Easy, right? And then … I flipped through my reading journals to choose which books I wanted to highlight, and I realized how hard it was going to be to narrow it down to three!

(Granted, this is a very good problem—so many great verse novels out there!) 

So, no top three. Maybe I could focus on a single stand-out? Or maybe go for something old and something new (something borrowed? --thanks, Vancouver Island Regional Library--something blue?).

The Raw Emotion that Comes with Fewer Words… {Or,} Why I Felt Naked after Writing A Verse Novel by Stefanie Lyons

First, the caveat: 

I’m not saying prose novels can’t deepen emotion, of course they can—and do. I’m just saying this was my experience in the verse novel writing process.

Okay, I feel better getting that off my chest. Now, let’s talk about exposure. Say, for instance, you wrote a verse novel. One that started out more prose-like. Perhaps it had a particular voice that you explored while getting your masters in creative writing, if you will. And let’s imagine that as you combed through the scenes and fine-tuned the story, you pared back the language—just playing around during your time in Higher Education. It could happen. And, maybe as you dabbled in voice and tone, words fell away. A sparseness happened. What’s that all about? You thought, while typing away in your writer cave. What just happened to my story?

The Nakedness. That’s what.


Verse Novels: The Last Five Years by Stasia Ward Kehoe

When Sarah asked if I’d like to write a post for her fourth VERSE NOVEL celebration, I started reflecting on how the genre has fared between the publication of THE SOUND OF LETTING GO this past February and 2011, when I launched my YA debut, AUDITION. Here are a few of my personal thoughts and observations:

Using Verse for “Adult” Content, by Gabrielle Prendergast (Guest Post)

Anyone who writes in verse gets used to answering this question: “Why do you write in verse?” There are a lot of reasons of course, but one that I often talk about concerns the depiction of edgier material in books aimed at young readers.

Like it or not, our kids take drugs, self-harm, think about suicide, get abused, suffer from mental illness, are victims and perpetrators of violence, and lose friends. All of these dark topics are suitable for young readers, but may need to be presented in subtler ways than in adult literature. Verse is a way of achieving that. Its reliance on metaphor, sparse language, and contained form allow these issues to be explored without overwhelming the readers with heaviness.

Take sex for example. Not a dark theme (it’s fun and healthy!) but one that frequently raises eyebrows in relation to books for young readers. But again, like it or not, young people, teenagers, even pre-teens have sex drives and sex lives. Many YA books have a “fade to black” policy when it comes to sex. Characters might have sex, but rarely are the scenes depicted in any detail.

Verse Novel Throwback Thursday: Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff, by Racquel of The Book Barbies (Guest Post)

You ever laughed so hard
nobody in the world could hurt you for a minute,
no matter what they tried to do to you?

Make Lemonade by Virgina Euwer Wolff is an oldie (a 1993 release) but certainly a goodie novel. I read it during the 7th grade when I was learning English and I had zero idea what a verse novel is.  At the time, I figured I either stumbled upon 1) a novel that’s meant for my basic and simple reading level or 2) a poetry book. Seven years and definition of a verse novel later, I’ve now learned what a verse novel and read other verse novels but Make Lemonade remains special.

Viginia Euwer Wolff's groundbreaking novel, written in free verse, tells the story of fourteen-year-old LaVaughn, who is determined to go to college--she just needs the money to get there.

When she answers a babysitting ad, LaVaughn meets Jolly, a seventeen-year-old single mother with two kids by different fathers. As she helps Jolly make lemonade out of the lemons her life has given her, LaVaughn learns some lessons outside the classroom.

Accidental Inspiration (Or What Happened When a Wrench Landed in My Verse Novel), by Sarah Tregay

My next book, Fan Art, will hit shelves on June 17th. Like Love and Leftovers, it is a contemporary young adult romance, and unlike Love and Leftovers, it is written in prose.

Fan Art didn’t start off that way. It began as a short story in verse, and later turned into a proposal for a novel. But the day after my editor said, “Yes, we’d be interested,” I received a second phone call. In order to reach more readers, Fan Art was not to be a novel in verse. I understood. A LGBT love story and a verse novel was narrowing the market too much.

diVERSEity: Verse Novels with People of Color as Main Characters, by Skila Brown (Guest Post)

As we celebrate verse novels all this week, let’s take a moment to highlight those stories that feature a person of color as the main character. This is not a complete list, but a list of some of the best.

If you have favorites not listed below, tell us about them in the comments! 

The Good Braider by Terry Farish

Viola leaves war-torn Sudan for a new life in the United States. Such a great story of strength and loss of innocence. Beautiful cover! Beautiful writing!