The Center for Children's Books

Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
YA Novels in Verse - May 2014

Selected and annotated by Caitlin Stamm

Bingham, Kelly. Formerly Shark Girl. Candlewick, 2013. 341p. Gr. 7-10.
Jane is making slow but steady progress in recovery from her loss of an arm to a shark attack (in Shark Girl), and her experiences with the caring medical staff have left her with the desire to help others. Because she still dreams about being an artist, however, she feels torn between doing what she wants and doing what she thinks she should do. Meanwhile, she deals with figuring out a potential relationship with Max, a guy she had formerly thought out of her reach.

Clark, Kristin Elizabeth. Freakboy. Farrar, 2013. 448p. Gr. 9-12.
Brendan has no idea what to make of the way he feels about his body: he’s jealous of girls but happy about his relationship with Vanessa, the girl he loves. He doesn’t identify with many of the flamboyant trans* kids at the LGBTQ teen center, nor is he like the quieter Angel, who has always known she was meant to be a girl despite her sex at birth. Clark offers three perspectives—Brendan’s, Angel’s, and Vanessa’s—in the discussion of the ways that gender dysphoria can manifest itself.

Dean, Carolee. Forget Me Not. Simon Pulse, 2012. 378p. Gr. 7-10.
Ally finds herself in her school’s haunted hallway with a number of curious and mysterious people, including a perpetually knitting nun, a couple that is always kissing, and an angry and bossy boy. She thinks she’s hiding there to escape gossip about a naked photo of her texted to the whole school, but Elijah, who is in love with Ally, knows that the people in the hallway have all died on the school grounds and that Ally is there because she is actually in a coma after jumping off the school’s roof. Can he convince her to come back?

Engle, Margarita. Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck. Holt, 2011. 160p. Gr. 7-10.
This free-verse novel that combines history and legend describes the first shipwrecked pirate ship in the Caribbean and the fate of its survivors. Based on an early sixteenth century shipwreck and on Cuban legend of forbidden love, it combines gripping adventure with history, exploring the consequences of European and Caribbean contact.

Farish, Terry. The Good Braider. Cavendish, 2012. 222p. Gr. 9-12.
In 1999, Viola, a girl in Sudan, witnesses the murder of a young man by a soldier who then rapes her. Her family is shamed by the event, so they make a difficult and winding way out of the country, eventually ending up in Portland, Maine, where Viola struggles with the psychological effects of her attack and her mother resorts to abuse to restrict Viola to Sudanese tradition. Viola’s narration, in spare text, conveys the horrors of her experience and her confusion about calling a new place “home.”

Frost, Helen. Crossing Stones. Foster/Farrar, 2009. 184p. Gr. 7-10.
The Normans and the Jorgensens live across from each other amicably on Crabapple Creek at the onset of World War I. As some characters go off to war and others stay behind, while others are caught up in the suffragette movement, the storyline explores the many turbulent events occurring in the early 1900s through a close view of two close-knit families. The effect is enhanced by a variety of formal elements that give each character a unique poetic voice.

Kehoe, Stasia Ward. The Sound of Letting Go. Viking, 2014. 400p. Gr. 7-10.
Daisy’s autistic younger brother, Steven, has transformed from an unresponsive little boy to a threatening manchild, leaving her family tense. She knows that her success in music is limited, since noise aggravates her brother. This honest book describes the entirety of Daisy’s experience, including her family’s financial strain and her isolation, as the often overlooked sibling of a troubled child.

Koertge, Ron. Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses; illus. by Andrea Dezso. Candlewick, 2012. 96p. Gr. 7-10.
Koertge retells twenty-three fairytales in free verse, including “Bluebeard,” “Thumbelina,” and “Hansel and Gretel.” Drawing on the unvoiced sides of these stories, Koertge focuses on adolescent concerns. The accompanying illustrations, which add a grisly edge, extend the meaning of Koertge’s stories.

Koertge, Ron. Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs. Candlewick, 2010. 176p. Gr. 6-9.
After the death of his mother, Kevin Bolan, a baseball-playing middle-schooler, begins a new poetry journal that details his life as he explores dating and figuring out feelings for two girls with very different personalities. Readers will find resonance in Kevin’s conflicted emotions and the deft use of poetry in the novel.

Herrick, Steven. Kissing Annabel: Love, Ghosts, & Facial Hair and A Place Like This. Simon Pulse, 2009. 137p. Gr. 7-10.
This book contains two verse novels previously published separately in Australia. In the first book, Jack comes to terms with the death of his mother, who battled breast cancer; he’s helped by Annabel, who accepts the fact that Jack talks to his mother’s ghost. In the second book, Jack and Annabel forego college to spend a year driving around the country. However, after two days, they run out of gas and are picked up by a farmer, who needs their help on his apple orchard, where they discover what they really want out of life.

Leavitt, Martine. My Book of Life by Angel. Ferguson/Farrar, 2012. 246p. Gr. 9-12.
After Angel’s mother dies, she escapes to the mall where she meets Call, who has “candy” to help her feel better, and then uses her addiction to trap her into sex work. Angel stays in this broken world because she is too ashamed to go home. In its haunting and spare language, this novel links Angel’s story to the loss of innocence in Paradise Lost, which she reads aloud to one of her clients.

Newman, Lesléa. October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard. Candlewick, 2012. 128p. Gr. 9 & up.
This novel in verse explores perspectives of various people surrounding the Matthew Shepard tragedy, including attackers, police, parents, and inanimate witnesses. Newman covers the attack, the investigation, vigils, and the aftermath of the event and includes extensive endnotes that discuss the inspiration and factual references for each poem.

Richards, Jame. Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood. Knopf, 2010. 304p. Gr. 7-10.
Celestia and Estrella are spending their summer at a Pennsylvania fishing and hunting club in the nineteenth century. Both girls end up in tumultuous relationships and must deal with the social stigmas that were attached to young women of ill repute in the nineteenth century. A fast-paced description of personal and natural disasters, this is perfect for fans of historical romance.

Tregay, Sarah. Love & Leftovers. Tegen/HarperCollins, 2011. 464p. Gr. 7-10.
When Marcie’s dad leaves her mom for another man, Marcie’s mom decides they will leave Idaho to spend the summer in New Hampshire. They stay through the fall, and Marcie finds herself at a new school, where she reinvents herself, becomes popular, and meets a new boy. While Marcie’s mom battles depression, Marcie finds herself sorting out her tumult of emotions on her own. When they return home, Marcie finds out that she cannot just pick things up where she left off.

Wolf, Allan. The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic. Candlewick, 2011. 480p. Gr. 7-10.
Wolf recreates the sinking of the Titanic in poetry, giving voice to a number of real life passengers. The novel allows readers to experience the tragedy from all decks, including among the lesser known passengers and crew. The commentary of an undertaker, John Snow, closes each chronological section and is particularly chilling in its objectivity. Wolf includes information on the specific characters detailed in the book and a bibliography of resources to help readers find where to start for further research.