Verse poetry novels cover a wide variety of topics, are a unique reading format, and can be engaging for more reluctant readers. Over the past few years there has been a rise in the amount of really great verse poetry for teens. I compiled a list of some of the best titles I’ve read lately to help with recommendations for students, teachers, and book study projects.
Me: Moth By: Amber Mcbride
A realistic fiction novel that focuses on discovering who you are and who you want to be. Topics discussed throughout are grief and loss, first loves, and the memories that shape us. A recommendation for students who are romance readers or realistic fiction readers that want to explore verse poetry.
Nothing Burns as Bright as You By: Ashley Woodfolk
Realistic fiction novel that discusses friendship turning into love for a pair of young women. A story told in back flashes leading up to a day of a large fire, this novel will keep students guessing where it will end of the two main characters. A recommendation for students who enjoy queer romance novels or realistic fiction novels with suspense.
We Are All So Good At Smiling By: Amber McBride
A magical realism novel that entwines friendship and magic throughout. A teen dealing with depression finds out that she has magic in the marrow of her bones. A recommendation for readers who enjoy fantasy or realistic fiction stories, or books that deal with mental health issues.
Every Body Looking By: Candice Iloh
A realistic fiction novel about coming into who you are and finding out where you fit. Topics discussed include sexual assault and addiction which my be triggering for some readers. A recommendation for readers who enjoy realistic fiction or memoirs that include tough topics and diverse social viewpoints.
Enter The Body By: Joy McCullough
Historical fiction novel told in verse and in a play format. Told through the eyes of Shakespeare’s teen characters who died on stage including Juliet, Ophelia, Cordelia, and Lavinia. Topics of grief and loss, assault, and feminism are a focus throughout the novel. A recommendation for historical fiction readers or readers who enjoy Shakespeare’s works.
Apple: Skin to the Core By: Eric Gansworth
A memoir novel in verse, Eric Gansworth talks about his life as a Onondaga family and a Native American. Discussing topics such as racism, hardships, and growing up. Recommended for students who enjoy nonfiction or memoir novels.
Punching The Air By: Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
Realistic fiction novel about one boys struggle to prove himself innocent after he is accused of a crime he did not do. Social justice themes and racism are a central focus to the novel. A recommendation for students who enjoy reading books by Jason Reynolds or are interested in activism and creating change.
Ordinary Hazards By: Nikki Grimes
The true story of Nikki Grimes life told in poetry. This novel tackles tough topics such as abuse, grief and loss, and mental health topics. A recommendation for readers who love nonfiction memoirs that deal with tough topics and overcome them all.
The Poet X By: Elizabeth Acevedo
Realistic fiction novel about a young girl finding the strength to be herself. Dealing with weighing the expectations of your parents against your own wants and needs, this novel focuses on finding and becoming who you truly are. A recommendation for readers who enjoy realistic fiction stories about growing up and stepping into your own unique self.
Clap When You Land By: Elizabeth Acevedo
Realistic fiction novel about two half-sisters that had no idea the other existed. When their father dies in a plane crash, they learn of each others existence and form a connection. Grief and loss are a main focus of this novel. A recommendation for readers who enjoy realistic stories that cover topics such as loosing a parent.
I also created a printable list for students and staff that could be a sign on a display, on shelving, or a printed handout as well.
Verse poetry is a diverse way to tell a story. Students can immerse themselves in the characters’ feelings in a way that feels different than other novel formats. This list can be a jumping off point for teen readers as they explore verse poetry.
Author: Elizabeth Libberton
Elizabeth Libberton is the library media specialist at St. Charles East High School in St. Charles Illinois. She currently writes book reviews for School Library Journal. She is a member of the ALA Awards Selection Committee. Also, she is a member of the steering committee for the AISLE Lincoln Book Award.
Categories: Collection Development