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Updated by Jen Blair on May 01, 2020
Headline for Novels in Verse - Spring 2020
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Novels in Verse - Spring 2020

I'm calling it "Short Attention Span Theater."
I can't focus on reading for long periods of time right now. Maybe you aren't able to either? Here is a list of middle and high school books that are written in verse. Fewer words on the page. This is a format we can all enjoy right now.

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Blood Water Paint - Joy McCullough

One of the most beautiful and powerful books that I read last year. #MeToo in the Renaissance Era.

From the publisher:
In Renaissance Italy, Artemisia Gentileschi endures the subjugation of women that allows her father to take credit for her extraordinary paintings, rape and the ensuing trial, and torture, buoyed by her deceased mother's stories of strong women of the Bible.

Booked by Kwame Alexander

Booked / Crossover / Rebound - Kwame Alexander

Because Kwame is the master. No no one combines sports, humor, and POETRY like Kwame. Read them all. Then read them again.

Just listen:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming - Jacqueline Woodson

From the publisher:
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Clap When You Land - Elizabeth Acevedo

Acevedo is the one of my favorite authors for a reason. A brilliant book about fathers, family, and the meaning of home.

From the publisher:
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen

Every Shiny Thing - Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison

From the publisher:
Seventh-grader Lauren begins stealing to help children who, like her brother, are on the autism spectrum, and Sierra, in foster care in Lauren's neighborhood, fears she will enable Lauren's lawbreaking. Told half in prose, half in verse.

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton

Full Cicada Moon - Marilyn Hilton

This is seriously one of my favorite books of all time. Unloved and unsung, this story of a girl of mixed heritage fighting to be HEARD should jump to the top of your reading list. Go. Right now. I'll wait.

From the publisher:
It's 1969, and the Apollo 11 mission is getting ready to go to the moon. But for half-black, half-Japanese Mimi, moving to a predominantly white Vermont town is enough to make her feel alien. Suddenly, Mimi's appearance is all anyone notices. She struggles to fit in with her classmates, even as she fights for her right to stand out by entering science competitions and joining Shop Class instead of Home Ec. And even though teachers and neighbors balk at her mixed-race family and her refusals to conform, Mimi's dreams of becoming an astronaut never fade-no matter how many times she's told no.

House Arrest (House Arrest, #1) by K.A. Holt

House Arrest / Knockout - K.A. Holt

Companion stories of two brothers. You can read one without the other.

From the publisher:
House Arrest: Timothy, sentenced to house arrest for stealing, keeps a journal into which he documents his fears and frustrations.
Knockout: When formerly medically fragile Levi discovers his love for boxing, he finds himself in the ring with those who love him most. He knows he's strong enough to fight for his life but can he convince everyone else to believe in him, too?

I Don't Want To Be Crazy by Samantha Schutz

I Don’t Want to Be Crazy - Samantha Schutz

From the publisher:
This is a true story of growing up, breaking down, and coming to grips with a psychological disorder. When Samantha Schutz first left home for college, she was excited by the possibilities -- freedom from parents, freedom from a boyfriend who was reckless with her affections, freedom from the person she was supposed to be. At first, she reveled in the independence . . . but as pressures increased, she began to suffer anxiety attacks that would leave her mentally shaken and physically incapacitated.

I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain by Will Walton

I Felt a Funeral in My Brain - Will Walton

After the death of his grandfather, this is a novel about grief, love, family, legacy, and ultimately, connection.

From the publisher:
For most of his young life Avery has dealt with his alcoholic mother with the help of his grandfather Pal--he immerses himself in poetry and popular music, and now that high school is over for the summer, he makes out with his best friend Luca (who understands about alcoholic mothers), but the death of his grandfather creates a hole in his life that he can not seem to crawl out of.

Kent State by Deborah Wiles

Kent State - Deborah Wiles

Truth is stranger than fiction. This will blow your mind.

From the publisher:
Told from different points of view--protesters, students, National Guardsmen, and "townies"--recounts the story of what happened at Kent State in May 1970, when four college students were killed by National Guardsmen, and a student protest was turned into a bloody battlefield.

Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood

Lifeboat 12 - Susan Hood

From the publisher:
Based on real life events. In 1940, a group of British children, their escorts, and some sailors struggle to survive in a lifeboat when the ship taking them to safety in Canada is torpedoed.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down - Jason Reynolds

Because I've read this twice (so far) and I keep reinterpreting the ending. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

From the publisher:
As Will, fifteen, sets out to avenge his brother Shawn's fatal shooting, seven ghosts who knew Shawn board the elevator and reveal truths Will needs to know.

Manning Up by Bee Walsh

Manning Up - Bee Walsh

From the publisher:
Jack is at the top of his game. He's a senior running back on the football team, dominating every opponent in his way. To everyone else, Jack is totally in control. In reality, he struggles with an eating disorder that controls every aspect of his daily life. When Jack starts using steroids, he feels invincible, but will the steroids help him win the big game, or will he lose everything he's ever worked for?

On the Horizon by Lois Lowry

On the Horizon - Lois Lowry

Based on real life events and experiences from the author's childhood spent in Hawaii and Japan, this is the latest novel from Lois Lowry.

From the publisher:
_On the Horizon _tells the story of people whose lives were lost or forever altered by the twin tragedies of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. Composed of poems about individual sailors who lost their lives on the Arizona and about the citizens of Hiroshima who experienced unfathomable horror.

The Opposite of Innocent by Sonya Sones

The Opposite of Innocent - Sonya Sones

From the publisher:
A novel in verse follows the experiences of fourteen-year-old Lilly, as an innocent flirtation turns into sexual abuse by a friend of her parents and she is tormented by her abuser's threat to ruin her family and her own desperate need for help.

Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes

Ordinary Hazards - Nikki Grimes

This memoir won a Printz Honor Award this year because it is BRILLIANT. A harrowing childhood becomes a tale of triumph. In my top ten from last year for a reason!

From the publisher:
Growing up with a mother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and a mostly absent father, Nikki Grimes found herself terrorized by babysitters, shunted from foster family to foster family, and preyed upon by those she trusted. At the age of six, she poured her pain onto a piece of paper late one night - and discovered the magic and impact of writing. For many years, Nikki's notebooks were her most enduing companions. Nikki shows how the power of those words helped her conquer the hazards - ordinary and extraordinary - of her life.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Other Words for Home - Jasmine Warga

See America through Jude's eyes. We are all more the same than we are different.

From the publisher:
Jude never thought she'd be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives. At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven't quite prepared her for starting school in the US --and her new label of 'Middle Eastern,' an identity she's never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises--there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude just might try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X - Elizabeth Acevedo

Seriously? You haven't read this yet? If nothing else, find the audiobook. You will never be the same.

From the publisher:
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt

Redwood and Ponytail - K.A. Holt

From the publisher:
Told in verse in two voices, with a chorus of fellow students, this is a story of two girls, opposites in many ways, who are drawn to each other; Kate appears to be a stereotypical cheerleader with a sleek ponytail and a perfectly polished persona, Tam is tall, athletic and frequently mistaken for a boy, but their deepening friendship inevitably changes and reveals them in ways they did not anticipate.

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Shout - Laurie Halse Anderson

One of the most perfect books you will ever read. This memoir in verse is Anderson's real life inspiration for the story of Speak. Let her inspiration be yours.

From the publisher:
A memoir in verse that shares the author's life, covering her rape at thirteen, her difficult early childhood, and her experiences surrounding her publication of Speak. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven among deeply personal stories from her life that she's never written about before.

Solo by Kwame Alexander

Solo - Kwame Alexander

From the publisher:
Seventeen-year-old Blade, who endeavors to resolve painful issues from his past to navigate the challenges of his former rockstar father's addictions, scathing tabloid rumors, and a protected secret that threatens his own identity.

Swing by Kwame Alexander

Swing - Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess

From the publisher:
Noah and his best friend Walt want to become cool, make the baseball team, and win over Sam, the girl Noah has loved for years. When Noah finds old love letters, Walt hatches a plan to woo Sam. But as Noah's love life and Walt's baseball career begin, the letters alter everything.

Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

Three Things I Know Are True - Betty Culley

OMG this BOOK! I am still sweeping up the pieces of my heart off the floor. The most vivid characters. The most heartbreaking story. This book shot to the top of my list of all-time favorites.

From the publisher:
Life changes forever for Liv when her older brother, Jonah, accidentally shoots himself with his best friend Clay's father's gun. Now Jonah needs round-the-clock care just to stay alive, and Liv feels like she's the only person who can see that her brother is still there inside his broken body.

With Liv's mom suing Clay's family, there are divisions in the community that Liv knows she's not supposed to cross. But Clay is her friend, too, and she refuses to turn away from him--just like she refuses to give up on Jonah.

Turtle Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario

Turtle Under Ice - Juleah del Rosario

From the publisher:
Told in two voices, sisters Row and Ariana are frozen by grief over their mother's death, years before, until Ariana leaves for reasons Row does not understand.

What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

What I Leave Behind - Alison McGhee

Not really a novel in verse, but the story of Will told in 100 chapters of 100 words each. Almost a puzzle as you try and put the stories together.

From the publisher:
Since his father's suicide, Will, sixteen, has mainly walked, worked at Dollar Only, and tried to replicate his father's cornbread recipe, but the rape of his childhood friend shakes things up.