April is poetry month, and while we didn’t write a lengthy genre guide to verse novels that month to celebrate, we did write one in May. If you’re curious about the format of YA novels in verse, that should get you set on what it is, why it’s so appealing, and it offers a pretty extensive reading list to titles published in the last few years.
Since I didn’t want to replicate work and write another guide to the genre, I thought it would be worthwhile to talk about the books in 2014 that are verse novels. Some of the titles are out already, while others will be publishing before the end of the year. This list is for titles published by traditional publishers, and it’s very possible that I’ll overlook some, so feel free to jump in with additional titles in the comments. A couple of titles below could easily be middle grade, as they fall into that strange category of being good for readers from age 10 to 14. I’m including them anyway.
All descriptions are from WorldCat, and I’ve included publication dates for titles not yet available. Of course, if you’re a fanatic of verse novels, make sure you check out Verse Novels and that you stay tuned for the third annual verse novels series over at Clear Eyes, Full Shelves, which will take place the last week of April.
Of note: a nice percentage of these titles are diverse.
And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard: Sent to an Amherst, Massachusetts, boarding school after her ex-boyfriend shoots himself, seventeen-year-old Emily expresses herself through poetry as she relives their relationship, copes with her guilt, and begins to heal. **This book is partially in verse and partially in traditional prose.
The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe: At seventeen, Daisy feels imprisoned by her brother Steven’s autism and its effects and her only escape is through her trumpet into the world of jazz, but when her parents decide to send Steven to an institution she is not ready to let him go.
Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeline Kuderick (September 9): After she’s caught in the school bathroom cutting herself with the blade from a pencil sharpener, fifteen-year-old Kenna is put under mandatory psychiatric watch. She has seventy-two hours to face her addiction, deal with rejection, and find a shred of hope. Description via Goodreads.
Two Girls Staring At The Ceiling by Lucy Frank (August 5): Chess, the narrator, is sick, but with what exactly, she isn’t sure. And to make matters worse, she must share a hospital room with Shannon, her polar opposite. Where Chess is polite, Shannon is rude. Where Chess tolerates pain silently, Shannon screams bloody murder. Where Chess seems to be getting slowly better, Shannon seems to be getting worse. How these teenagers become friends, helping each other come to terms with their illness, makes for a dramatic and deeply moving read. Description via Goodreads.
A Time To Dance by Padma Venkatraman (May 1): In India, a girl who excels at Bharatanatyam dance refuses to give up after losing a leg in an accident.
Rumble by Ellen Hopkins (August 26): Eighteen-year-old Matt’s atheism is tested when, after a horrific accident of his own making that plunges him into a dark, quiet place, he hears a voice that calls everything he has ever disbelieved into question.
Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath (November 11): Inspired by a true story, this relates the tale of siblings Sosi, Shahen, and Mariam who survive the Armenian genocide of 1915 by escaping from Turkey alone over the mountains.
Silver People: Voices From the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle: Fourteen-year-old Mateo and other Caribbean islanders face discrimination, segregation, and harsh working conditions when American recruiters lure them to the Panamanian rain forest in 1906 to build the great canal.
Dust of Eden by Mariko Nagai: Thirteen-year-old Mina Tagawa and her Japanese-American family are forced to evacuate their Seattle home and are relocated to an internment camp in Idaho, where they live for three years.
Caminar by Skila Brown: Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet — he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist. Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her … Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.
Poisoned Apples by Christina Heppermann (September 23): Christine Heppermann’s powerful collection of free verse poems explore how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, their friends–as consumers, as objects, as competitors. Based on classic fairy tale characters and fairy tale tropes, the poems range from contemporary retellings to first person accounts set within the original stories. From Snow White cottage and Rapunzel’s tower to health class and the prom, these poems are a moving depiction of young women, society, and our expectations. Poisoned Apples is a dark, clever, witty, beautiful, and important book for teenage girls, their sisters, their mothers, and their best friends. **While not a traditional novel in verse, I’m including this title since verse lovers will definitely be interested.