I am an avid reader. Having worked professionally in the world of books and reading and words, I feel confident saying: Everyone, with the right book in their hands, can be a “reader” too.
In many instances if people don’t discover a love of reading early on, they’re resistant to finding that love. The good news is, there is a wealth of literature in the world and it only takes one really good book to make a reader out of you. Verse novels in particular are an excellent choice if you’re right now thinking, “but I’m not a reader.”
Verse novels encompass all the values of traditional novels while remaining succinct and in a format that is pleasing for a novice reader — they’re basically novel-length poems. Verse novels, IMHO, open the door for new readers. They are often easy reads, highly enjoyable, and the opposite of intimidating. In an effort to encourage reading, I want to share some of my favorite verse novels (which will hopefully become favorites of yours, too).
1. One by Sarah Crossan
Why you’ll love it: Grace and Tippi have been joined for 16 years. They have two legs, share everything in the hip region, and then break apart again with two torsos, four arms, and two heads. Their entire lives have revolved around this one question: are they one person, or are they two?
Crossan writes a beautiful story about what it means to be a twin (conjoined, at that), while simultaneously being an individual.
Most powerful quote: “Here / We Are. / And we are living. / Isn’t that amazing? / How we manage / to be / at all.”
2. Identical by Ellen Hopkins
Why you’ll love it: Identical is about twins Kaeleigh and Raeanne. Kaeleigh is the victim of her father’s misplaced affections, and Raeanne is the victim of herself, having chosen drugs, alcohol, and sex as pain killers.
Although their circumstances are extreme, Kaeleigh and Raeanne’s feelings are ones I believe most teenagers can identify with: they just want to be loved the right way; to be seen as important, individually.
Most powerful quote: “The stars shine, as / they always do. Same / stars. / Same sky. Only I am / different.”
3. Audacity by Melanie Crowder
Why you’ll love it: Audacity is inspired by the real-life story of Clara Lemlich, a young woman who emigrated from Russia to New York at the turn of the 20th century, and fought valiantly for equal human rights. Crowder’s verse is filled with punching one-liners that are sure to make readers think about how they treat others, and for what reasons. Verse is strikingly effective in this novel, as it accentuates individual words, encouraging readers to really digest what is being said.
Most powerful quote: “… The poem is / safe / in my mind / where fists / and fury / cannot shake it free.”
4. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Why you’ll love it: A first-person account of racism in America in the ‘60s, told in free-verse. Woodson so precisely uses the verse style of writing to examine racism: the pointed phrases are singled out, meticulously used to identify wrongs.
The best part: Brown Girl Dreaming is about Woodson’s own childhood. The authenticity is palpable.
Most powerful quote: “… the people / who look like me / keep fighting / and marching / and getting killed / so that today— / February 12, 1963 / and every day from this moment on, / brown children like me can grow up / free.”
5. Fault by Amy Ellis
Why you’ll love it: Ellis tells a poignant story about Liz, a young girl who is drugged and raped at a party. Ellis examines how easy it is for a girl like Liz to be alone in sexual assault. She tells, and no one — not even her best friend — believes her. So…why tell?
Most powerful quote: “Great, I said, trying to hide the ripped underwear / balled up in my hand, the raging hangover, / the urge to vomit on the front porch, / the pain between my legs. It was great.”