Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Pretty Prose - Why should I bother reading YA Novels in Verse

By Emily Simpson

I stumbled across my first YA novel in verse completely by accident (as often happens with good books), when trawling through my Kindle for cheap/romantic/creepy looking titles. When I spotted Lisa Schroeder’s, I Heart You, You Haunt Me, I was sold on the title alone and downloaded it straight away. As I began to read the first poem I thought it was an epigraph, but I soon began to realise the whole book was a story broken into a series of poems. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Part of me was instantly put off, recalling my fear of the epics (The Iliad…Paradise Lost…anyone?), but I’ve since learned that verse novels take an entirely different approach to poetry. They aren’t necessarily driven by rhyme or metre; they are stories, first and foremost, just told in a poetic style.

Verse novels are currently booming in the YA industry; there’s something about their lyrical tone that effectively reflect a young adult’s thought process.

Here are some other reasons why you should give verse novels a chance:
  1. You can read them in a single sitting. Verse novels tend to be broken into standalone poems - that still advance the overall plot - but have unique titles and explore different themes/voices, so you can take delicious, manageable bites out of the book, without feeling overwhelmed. Or, if you’re anything like me, you’ll get carried away with the lyrical flow of the poetry and finish the book before your tea’s gone cold.
  2. It’s a visual reading experience. Authors of verse novels often play with the shape of the poems to give added layers of emphasis. Sentences can be strung out, shortened, or staggered to reflect emotion (like tears), or the weather (rain or thunder), or even fireworks.
  3. You get the best of both worlds. Whether you favour poetry or prose, you can get a taste of both. Authors of verse novels work doubly hard to select language that contributes to both the overall plot of the book and standalone poems. And if you’re not a fan of poetry, verse novels can seem like a more accessible way of exploring the mode. 

Some recommended YA Novels in verse:

I Heart You, You Heart Me, Lisa Schroeder
Crank, Ellen Hopkins
Sold, Patricia McCormick (read Leena’s book review for more info!)
Make Lemonade, Virginia Euwer Wolff

Let me know if you have any more recommendations!

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