I was going to introduce this amazing lineup of diverse books in narrative verse in free verse of my own, but I thought I’d spare you. Who needs my weak verse when you have real poets telling amazing stories? Novels in verse are a refreshing genre for many reasons, whether it’s because you’ve been doing dense reading for school and need a break, or because you are in the mood to be inspired by the skill of writers who manage to say so much in so few words. Here are some recent and forthcoming verse novels to add to your TBR right now.
Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds
It takes 320 pages to get from the top of the elevator to the bottom, but you’ll tear through this one in a single sitting. Will is on his way down to find his brother’s killer and get revenge. But the elevator is stopping at every floor, picking up people connected to Will’s past and present. What unfolds is a clearer picture of the reason he’s out for vengeance, giving us the backstory, Slumdog Millionaire-style. It’s Jason Reynolds, so you know it’ll be gritty and heart-wrenching at the same time.
Loving vs. Virginia, by Patricia Hruby
This is YA for all ages, and it’ll especially grab the history buffs, pre-law majors, and us biracial folks. In a documentary style, Hruby imagines the voices of both Mildred and Richard Loving, a couple who broke miscegenation (interracial marriage) laws in Virginia and were banished from the state—not that that stopped them, exactly. After going to jail multiple times for the crime of loving each other, they became the eponymous couple in a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court and led to the end of anti-miscegenation across the United States.
Ronit and Jamil, by Pamela L. Laskin
Yeah, yeah, you say, yet another Romeo and Juliet. Big whoop. Think again. This book is timely—the Capulets and Montagues here are one Palestinian and one Israeli family. It’s also indebted to, and respectful of, its source material, with Laskin weaves in lines from the play as well as the works of other poets. The book is told from the perspectives of both Ronit and Jamil, so you can fully appreciate the complexities of their romance and the Palestine-Israel conflict.
This Impossible Light, by Lily Myers
Verse seems like a great choice to explore what it feels like to fall into your own mind and wrestle with the disabling effects of an eating disorder. Ivy seeks to control something in her upheaved life, and the thing she chooses is her weight. Meanwhile, her mother is suffering from depression, and the two are as out of touch with each other as they are with themselves. The poetry follows Ivy from breakdown to slowly learning how to take care of and love herself.
Vanilla, by Billy Merrell
What is it about verse novels that makes them so perfect for multi-POV narratives? In this one, we have boyfriends Hunter and Vanilla, whose relationship is splintering because their orientations are compatible, but their sexuality is not. Vanilla identifies as asexual, and Hunter has difficulty accepting this—sometimes to the point of being plain intolerant. Similarly to many Ellen Hopkins books, Vanilla features multiple characters working out their questions about their identities in different typefaces.
Solo, by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess
Poor little rich boy Blade wants nothing to do with his father, a washed-up rockstar. His father’s drug-addled past is what keeps his girlfriend’s parents from letting them be together. The only thing the father and son have in common is music, and even that’s not enough when a shocking family secret is revealed. You already know how talented Alexander is from his Newbery-winning and highly acclaimed other books, but this book with a new co-author ups the ante with song lyrics in addition to the free verse.
The Way the Light Bends, by Cordelia Jensen
This upcoming novel in verse is told from the point of view of Linc, the white “twin” sister of Holly, adopted from Ghana and the star child in the family. Linc is struggling with the things most teens do—her place in her family, how she’s doing in school, and her developing hobbies and passions. But she’s also working through her relationship with her sister and parents and learning how to be mindful of her sister’s experience as a black daughter in a white family.
Miguel’s Brave Night: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote, by Margarita Engle and Raúl Colón
Engle strikes again with her signature genre, fictionalized biographies in verse. This time she moves away from her usual setting of Cuba and heads to Spain. This story of Miguel de Cervantes may be for middle grade readers, but it should pair well with high school readers of Don Quixote. The book came out this month in English, and it will follow in Spanish in spring of 2018, so tell your AP Spanish teacher!