Stock Your Shelves: Class Library Must-Have Titles

The start of a new school year is just around the corner, although for many of you it’s already started.  Whenever this time of year approaches I’m always making a list of books I need to buy for my classroom library.  I figured I’m not the only one, so I decided to make a list of books that I want to buy and that I recommend for a classroom library.  If you’d like additional title recommendations feel free to leave a comment.

Summer/Fall Releases:

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle (Goodreads)–This releases on August 20th August 27th (edited on 8/20, sorry for the mistake!), so I’ll have a review up shortly. Basically, this is all-around wonderful.

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (Goodreads)–This releases on Sept. 24th. I’ll have a review up on the Nerdy Book Club blog before the release and that same review will post here on the release date.  Trish Doller writes magic, people.

Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon (Goodreads)–Think The Fault in Our Stars from a funny guy’s point of view, yet totally standing apart from John Green’s hit. I know that might be confusing. This releases on Sept. 3rd.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider (Goodreads)–It’s an awful lot like Looking for Alaska, but not as sad (or at least I didn’t think so). Still, it has a different kind of voice and will appeal to teens.  This releases on August 27th.

Books with Guy Appeal:

Winger by Andrew Smith (Goodreads)–I want to buy multiple copies of this.

Swim the Fly by Don Calame (Goodreads)–A lot of my boys really like this book and the companion books. It’s a really funny, quick read.

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads)–I’ve been raving about this book since before it was released in 2011.

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker (Goodreads)–I still haven’t read this, but I have multiple copies because my boys in class LOVE it.

Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman (Goodreads)–This is a fantastic and realistic book about a boy in juvie.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (Goodreads)–This is mysterious, funny, and features the son of a serial killer trying to help the police find a serial killer. Yep, it’s a hit with all of my students.

Verse Novels:

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder (Goodreads)–I recommend buying all of her books. This and Chasing Brooklyn are two of the most popular books in my room.

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones (Goodreads)–This title has been around for a while. Every year it becomes a new favorite for many of my students.

Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams (Goodreads)–This is a great title to recommend to your Ellen Hopkins fans.

Ellen Hopkins–ALL of her books are huge hits with my students.

Oldies by Goodies:

Unwind by Neal Shusterman (Goodreads)–This released in 2007 and became popular again when its sequel Unwholly released last fall. The final book in the trilogy, UnSouled, releases on November 7th.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)–Every time this releases with a new cover I buy it. It should be in every library.

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (Goodreads)–This originally published in 1974 and I hook some pretty reluctant readers with it.

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (Goodreads)–This was my first Sara Zarr book and my favorite until I read How to Save a Life. Sara Zarr writes wonderfully realistic stories.

Forever by Judy Blume (Goodreads)–For many of my girls, this is the book that turns them into readers.

Sci-Fi/Dystopian:

The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman (Goodreads)–Time travel, ghosts, and so much more. This is science fiction at its best.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Goodreads)–I recommend this every year, multiple times a year. It’s amazing.

Legend by Marie Lu (Goodreads)–I love that this has two points of view and appeals to guys and girls. I’m planning on reading it to my seniors while we read 1984.

Insignia by S.J. Kincaid (Goodreads)–Gamers will love this.

“Quiet” YA:

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner (Goodreads)–This wonderful book may not have received a lot of hype from its publishers, but so many of its readers love it. Plus it pairs perfectly with Of Mice and Men.

Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia (Goodreads)–The main character is pregnant, but it’s more than a book about a pregnant teenager.

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard (Goodreads)–This book will resonate with so many teenage girls. It’s fantastic.

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson (Goodreads)–All it took was one of my girls to read this and rave about it for it to become an instant hit in my classroom.

So. Much. Hype!:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Goodreads): I’ll admit it, I didn’t want to like this. But I really did and my students adore it. My students who didn’t like Looking for Alaska at all loved this.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Goodreads): I’ve replaced this book multiple times because it’s gone “missing” so often.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (Goodreads)–One of my boys in class read this and loved it; one of my girls who reads “edgy” books read this and loved it. It’s an all-around winner.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Goodreads)–I haven’t finished reading this yet, but it went around my room a couple times before the school year ended. The boys who read it said it’s awesome.

Student Book Review: October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman

A large part of my Young Adult Literature II class requires my students to write book reviews.  They’ve been looking at multiple reviews, written by multiple bloggers to help find a style that suits them best.  Today’s student book review was written by one of my seniors, Sara.  I’ll try to post their reviews on a regular basis until the end of the school year.

October MourningTitle: October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard

Author: Lesléa Newman

Student Reviewer: Sara

Summary (From Goodreads):

WINNER OF A 2013 STONEWALL HONOR!

A masterful poetic exploration of the impact of Matthew Shepard’s murder on the world.

On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay twenty-one-year-old college student named Matthew Shepard was lured from a Wyoming bar by two young men, savagely beaten, tied to a remote fence, and left to die. Gay Awareness Week was beginning at the University of Wyoming, and the keynote speaker was Lesléa Newman, discussing her book Heather Has Two Mommies. Shaken, the author addressed the large audience that gathered, but she remained haunted by Matthew’s murder. October Mourning, a novel in verse, is her deeply felt response to the events of that tragic day. Using her poetic imagination, the author creates fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to, the stars that watched over him, the deer that kept him company, and Matthew himself. More than a decade later, this stunning cycle of sixty-eight poems serves as an illumination for readers too young to remember, and as a powerful, enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard’s life.

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman is the best verse novel I have ever read.

This novel is based off of the, unfortunately, true story of a 21 year old, homosexual college student named Matthew Shepard. Matthew is out at the bar one night in October of 1998, in Wyoming. He is tricked by two men, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. They convince him that they are gay as well and take him out to their truck. After he is in their truck, they drive in to a desolate place and beat the tar out of him. They beat him within an inch of his life and then left him to die, hung on a fence by a clothes line.

When I picked up this novel I thought, “This is going to be a boring documentary about a murdered man.” Boy, oh boy, was I wrong! It was indeed, about a man who was murdered but it’s not even close to being boring. This novel was the most attention grabbing, emotion jerking, amazing verse novel I have ever read, by far my favorite. It is beautifully written and it will make you feel something deep in your heart for Matthew Shepard, and all of the other people who have been brutally murdered for being gay.

This book is written in many different points of view and at first it confused me and I didn’t quite like it, but after I read the first 5 or 6 pages, I began to understand and then went back and read it again, this time understanding fully and I fell in love with the way that it’s written. I absolutely love how well all of the words just flow together and how she manages to capture every single emotion and thought of every object, person, and animal that she uses.

October Mourning: A song for Matthew Shepard is a very quick read; I finished it within an hour. But even though it’s a quick read, this chilling story will stick with you forever. I don’t think I will ever forget the descriptive, amazing poems in this novel. I will never forget the emotions I felt while reading this book, and I will never forget Matthew Shepard. His story will stick with me through out all of my life. I could read this book over and over and over again.

My favorite excerpt from this novel is as follows:

“THE FENCE
(that night)

I held him all night long
He was heavy as a broken heart
Tears fell from his unblinking eyes
He was dead weight yet he kept breathing

He was heavy as a broken heart
His own heart wont stop beating
He was dead weight yet he kept breathing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood

His own heart wouldn’t stop beating
The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood
I tightened my grip and held on

The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
We were out on the prairie alone
I tightened my grip and held on
I saw what was done to this child

We were out on the prairie alone
Their truck was the last thing he saw
I saw what was done to this child
I cradled him just like a mother

Their truck was the last thing he saw
Tears fell from his unblinking eyes
I cradled him just like a mother
I held him all night long.”

Waiting on Wednesday–The Language Inside by Holly Thompson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

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If you know me and/or follow my blog, then you know that I LOVE verse novels.  This one has me a little hesitant, however, since it’s dealing with cancer, but I still want to read it.

The Language InsideTitle & Author: The Language Inside by  Holly Thompson

Release Date: May 14th, 2013

Publisher: Delacorte

Summary (From Goodreads):

A nuanced novel in verse that explores identity in a multicultural world.

Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it’s the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma’s family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with Emma’s grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.

Emma feels out of place in the United States.She begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother’s urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena’s poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return home early to Japan.

“With beautiful language and deep sensitivity, Holly Thompson explores the courage it takes to find your own voice.” —Patricia McCormick, author of National Book Award finalist Never Fall Down

“Thompson’s eloquent novel speaks to us, carrying us along with Emma as she embarks on a life-altering journey from Japan to America. But it’s Emma’s inner journey that’s the true adventure—pulsing with pain and passion, with humor, heart, and hope.” —Sonya Sones, author of What My Mother Doesn’t Know and To Be Perfectly Honest

Book Trailer Thursday (82)–Tilt by Ellen Hopkins & Every Day by David Levithan

I love both of these authors big time.  Really, they’re two of my all-time favorite authors.  I love everything they write, and I’ve read positive review after positive review for both Tilt and Every Day, so I know I’ll love both books.  Have you read either of them?  What do you think of these two titles?

Summary of Tilt (From Goodreads): Love—good and bad—forces three teens’ worlds to tilt in a riveting novel from New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins.

Three teens, three stories—all interconnected through their parents’ family relationships. As the adults pull away, caught up in their own dilemmas, the lives of the teens begin to tilt….

Mikayla, almost eighteen, is over-the-top in love with Dylan, who loves her back jealously. But what happens to that love when Mikayla gets pregnant the summer before their senior year—and decides to keep the baby?

Shane turns sixteen that same summer and falls hard in love with his first boyfriend, Alex, who happens to be HIV positive. Shane has lived for four years with his little sister’s impending death. Can he accept Alex’s love, knowing that his life, too, will be shortened?

Harley is fourteen—a good girl searching for new experiences, especially love from an older boy. She never expects to hurdle toward self-destructive extremes in order to define who she is and who she wants to be.

Love, in all its forms, has crucial consequences in this standalone novel.

Summary of Every Day (From Goodreads): In his New York Times bestselling novel, David Levithan introduces readers to what Entertainment Weekly calls a “wise, wildly unique” love story about A, a teen who wakes up every morning in a different body, living a different life.

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.
It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

With his new novel, David Levithan, bestselling co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day.

Top Ten Tuesday: Posts That Describe Me Best

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday post is fun because it prompts us to choose ten posts that describe us best and that we wish all readers (and potential readers) would read.  I hope this post helps you get to know me as a teacher and reader! :)

1. The importance of creating a classroom library was instilled by the best professor I’ve ever had, Dr. Susan Steffel.  After some requests from a few Twitter followers, I wrote a post on how to create and manage a classroom library based on what I’ve been doing for the past five years that I’ve been teaching.  I’m crazy passionate about my class library and adding to it on a regular basis, so I hope you gain something from that post!

2. Besides being known by students for all the books I read, they also know that I read to them every day at the beginning of the hour.  Again, I learned this practice from Dr. Steffel.  Reading out loud to my students is one of my favorite things to do, especially when we get to the good parts in a book or when a chapter ends with a cliffhanger; their reactions are priceless.  I’ve had some major successes with books and some major hiccups, so I put together a list of my favorite books to read aloud to my high school students.

3. I love to find out what my students think about books/reading/covers/etc. so I try to poll them on different topics a few times throughout the year.  One survey that my students really liked was this one about their opinions on book covers.  I found out that they have strong opinions about book covers and could discuss them for a lengthy period of time.

Dr. Steffel and me at NCTE 2011

4. Censorship and book banning tends to get me fired up, so every year I put together a Banned Books Week display in my classroom.  During that week I devote my blog to posting about different books on the list.  I include where/why they were banned, my thoughts about it, and I also include what my students think.  I teach a YA Lit class and one of the most popular project choices is the banned books project.  Unfortunately, Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler has been banned, but fortunately it’s one of the most popular books in my classroom.

5. Another part of my  YA Lit class is requiring my students to write book reviews for a couple of the books they read for their project.  Within the last year or so I’ve started posting their book reviews on my blog.  This is an example of a student book review that I loved.

6. My students and I love book trailers, so every Thursday I feature a book trailer or two on my blog.  This is one of my students’ favorite book trailers, especially since I read this book to my YA Lit students.  Every other day they’d make me show the trailer again to see if they understood another part of the trailer based on what we read.

7. I love verse novels.  Every time I find out about a new one, I have to get my hands on it.  Here’s a list of a few verse novels I recommend reading.

8. Starting this blog and reading other blogs has opened me up to so many books I probably would have never known about or thought about reading.  A past Top Ten Tuesday post prompted us to write about books we’ve read because of other bloggers.  Keep the recommendations coming, bloggers and readers!

9. Finding great books with guy appeal is really important to me because I’ve found that it’s usually harder to get my reluctant male students to read than it is getting my reluctant female students to read.  Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach is one of my all-time favorite books with guy appeal.

10. This book surprised me and moved me to the point that it’s one of my absolute favorites.  I really need to get a signed copy of it one of these days…

Flash Reviews (15)

Title: Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath

Author: Stephanie Hemphill

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): On a bleak February day in 1963 a young American poet died by her own hand, and passed into a myth that has since imprinted itself on the hearts and minds of millions. She was and is Sylvia Plath and Your Own, Sylvia is a portrait of her life, told in poems.

With photos and an extensive list of facts and sources to round out the reading experience, Your Own, Sylvia is a great curriculum companion to Plath’s The Bell Jar and Ariel, a welcoming introduction for newcomers, and an unflinching valentine for the devoted.

Flash Review: I didn’t know anything about Your Own, Sylvia until I decided to have my upcoming sophomores reading Printz novels as their summer homework.  I bought quite a few of the winners and honor books so my students could borrow them over the summer, so of course I’ve been reading them as well.  I’m so, so happy I bought Stephanie Hemphill’s novel.

I haven’t read all of The Bell Jar (I read portions in college), but after reading Your Own, Sylvia I’ll be reading it for sure.  I know the story of Sylvia Plath, but Stephanie Hemphill made me feel like I knew Sylvia Plath personally.  At times I felt like I was struggling and suffering and rejoicing right along with her.  The verse is stunning.  Many of the sections of Your Own, Sylvia are written to mimic different poems written by Plath.  Another thing I love about this novel is the footnotes which add more information about Plath and her life.  The author added an additional twist by writing this book from varying perspectives.  Some sections are supposed to be from Sylvia’s mother’s point of view, or a roommates’, or even her husband’s point of view.  The reader is given a full-circle view of who Sylvia Plath was.  It’s a beautiful portrait of her life and I couldn’t get enough of it.  It even brought me to tears.  It receives my highest recommendation.

Title: Deadly Cool

Author: Gemma Halliday

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): Hartley Grace Featherstone is having a very bad day. First she finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her with the president of the Herbert Hoover High School Chastity Club. Then he’s pegged as the #1 suspect in a murder. And if that weren’t enough, now he’s depending on Hartley to clear his name. Seriously? Not cool.

But as much as Hartley wouldn’t mind seeing him squirm, she knows he’s innocent, and she’s the only one who can help him. Along with her best friend, Sam, and the school’s resident Bad Boy, Chase, Hartley starts investigating on her own. But as the dead bodies begin to pile up, the mystery deepens, the suspects multiply, and Hartley begins to fear that she may be the killer’s next victim.

Flash Review: Deadly Cool is written in such a way that it appeals to a wide variety of readers.  If you like murder mysteries, then Hartley’s story is right up your alley.  If you’re unsure about murder mysteries and normally look for books on the lighter side, you’ll probably enjoy Deadly Cool because Gemma Halliday managed to make murder scenes awkward and funny.  I know, that sounds impossible, right?  Hartley is sarcastic, but not overly so, and has a way of looking at situations that will make readers laugh.  Who trips over a dead body? That would be Hartley.  The humor is just right and not overdone.

Deadly Cool isn’t on my favorites list, but it’s good enough to read the next book in the series.  It’s a book I’ll feel comfortable handing to my reluctant readers, as well as my students looking for something mysterious or funny.  I love it when a book covers so many bases.

 

As always, thank you for the Flash Reviews idea, GreenBeanTeenQueen!

Review: Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams

Title: Glimpse

Author: Carol Lynch Williams

Publisher: Paula Wiseman Books (Simon & Schuster imprint)

Release Date: May 1st, 2012 (paperback edition)

Interest: Verse Novel

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

This stunning and PEN Award–winning novel of triumph over trauma is a “page-turner for Ellen Hopkins fans” (Kirkus Reviews).

In one moment it is over.  In one moment it is gone.    

Twelve-year-old Hope’s life is turned upside down when her older sister, Lizzie, becomes an elective mute and is institutionalized after trying to kill herself. Hope and Lizzie have relied on each other from a young age, ever since their dad died. Their mother, who turns tricks to support her family, is a reluctant and unreliable parent—at best. During the course of this lyrical and heartbreaking narrative, told in blank verse from an exceptionally promising YA voice, readers will discover the chilling reason why Lizzie has stopped speaking—and why Hope is the only one who can bring the truth to light and save her sister.

Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams is gripping and intense.  On the very first page Hope walks in on her sister Lizzie holding a shotgun, her finger on the trigger.  Not since reading Burned and Identical, both by Ellen Hopkins, have I read a verse novel so raw with emotion and suspense.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have a sister, but I love reading stories about sisters and their relationships.  Hope and Lizzie are as close as sisters can be, so it’s an absolute shock when Hope walks in and finds Lizzie this way.  Carol Lynch Williams has done a fantastic job portraying the bond between these two sisters.  Hope is slow to realize why her sister wants to kill herself, and part of that reason is because Lizzie has been committed to protecting and sheltering her sister.  What I like about Glimpse and the dynamics between Hope and Lizzie is that we see first hand how concerned, conflicted, and confused Hope is about her sister.  Hope doesn’t understand what’s going on between Lizzie and her mother, but she knows it’s making her jealous.  While feeling jealous, however, Hope gets the feeling that Lizzie is hiding something important from their mother, so she tries her best to protect Lizzie and her secrets.  Their relationship rides a fine line, but it leans mostly to the side of caring and protecting rather than jealous and malicious.

I’ve become critical of verse novels, and while some of the free verse felt choppy, the writing as a whole worked for me.  Some of the choppy lines came from sections where Hope repeats random sentences or words.  I’m sure it’s for effect and drama, but those few lines were more distracting than anything else.  The majority of the verse, however, is lyrical and smooth.  I say this often in my reviews of verse novels, but I’m so impressed when an author is able to convey strong emotions and paint vivid scenes and characters with so few words.  Carol Lynch Williams does an excellent job doing both.

Carol Lynch Williams tackles some mature issues in Glimpse, but she does with subtlety and grace.  As I began figuring out what was happening I grew nervous because I was wondering how it was going to be handled later in the story.  The revelation is clear, but it’s not overdone or graphic.  It’s enough to gain understanding and break your heart at the same time.  Glimpse is a powerful book and one not to miss.

Students Want to Know Sarah Tregay

Sarah TregayI have **THIS MUCH** love for Sarah Tregay’s debut Love and Leftovers, so I was beyond excited when she volunteered to be interviewed by my students.  And I may be biased since these are my students, but I think they asked some pretty good questions :)

Summary (From Goodreads):

My wish
is to fall
cranium over Converse
in dizzy, daydream-worthy
love.

(If only it were that easy.)

When her parents split, Marcie is dragged from Idaho to a family summerhouse in New Hampshire. She leaves behind her friends, a group of freaks and geeks called the Leftovers, including her emo-rocker boyfriend, and her father. By the time Labor Day rolls around, Marcie suspects this “vacation” has become permanent. She starts at a new school where a cute boy brings her breakfast and a new romance heats up.

But understanding love, especially when you’ve watched your parents’ affections end, is elusive. What does it feel like, really? Can you even know it until you’ve lost it?

** Sarah Tregay’s Website **
** Like Sarah Tregay on Facebook **
** Love and Leftovers is available in stores! **

Allison:

  • Was writing in verse difficult or do you prefer it?
    Marcie’s character fit well with the verse format, as did her story, so writing LOVE AND LEFTOVERS in verse felt very natural.
    Verse has some challenges, but that’s what makes it interesting to write. For instance, when I went from 8.5×11 paper (for the manuscript) to the smaller page size (for the book) I had to edit some lines so they’d fit. On the other hand, verse can be easier than prose in the rewriting/revising stages because you change the order of the poems without much editing. I enjoy writing—and reading—novels in verse.

Delia:

  • Why did you choose to write a long distance love story?
    Before I wrote LOVE AND LEFTOVERS, I had written a handful of manuscripts that didn’t sell. My friends said these stories were “too quiet.” (They were nice enough not to call them boring.) So When I was thinking about LOVE AND LEFTOVERS, I made a list of very bad things that could happen to my main character because I wanted the stakes to be high and the story interesting. Being away from friends was on that list, and Marcie being away from her boyfriend, Linus, added to her loneliness and upped the stakes.

Sarah W:

  • Do you plan on writing more books?  If so, are they going to all be in verse?
    I’m working on another novel or two, but they may not end up in verse. My editor asked for me to try one of them in prose instead. It’s an experiment, so I guess we’ll have to see how it goes.

Morgan:

  • Why are some of the kids called leftovers?  Were you considered a leftover?
    The Leftovers are a group of friends that don’t fit into the usual cliques in their high school, for example, one is an athlete who also gets good grades, another is a girl scout, and three are in a band. My friends at my lunch table in high school didn’t call ourselves “leftovers”, but we were a hodgepodge mix of AP students and students who were scraping by with Cs, field hockey players, photographers, and musicians.

Jordin:

  • How do you manage to say and mean so much with so little written (referring to verse)?
    I think with verse a writer can lean on the reader a little more than in prose. Each reader brings their own feelings and experiences with them when they read a book and an author can tap into these emotions without explaining every minute detail by using word choice, turns of phrase, and even white space. Verse definitely has the “read between the lines” aspect where a reader uses a combination of their own experiences and imagination to fill in the spaces. So in some ways, reading a novel in verse is a collaboration between the author and the reader.

In Honor of National Poetry Month: Verse Novels Worth Reading

We’re nearing the end of National Poetry Month, so I found it fitting to write a post featuring my favorite verse novels.  If you haven’t read many verse novels, or any at all, you might want to view this post as a verse novels starter kit.  I’ll admit verse novels aren’t for everyone, but when they’re done well it might surprise you when you find yourself attached to a character or moved by the imagery created through so few words.

My first novel in verse was Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff (Goodreads), which I read for my college Young Adult Lit class.  It’s been a few years since I’ve read that book, but I still love it and remember it vividly.  From there I started reading Ellen Hopkins’ books which began with Crank (Goodreads).  I moved on to Sonya Sones (her books on Goodreads) next.  Once I started reading verse novels I was on a mission to find more, not only because I adore them, but because they soon became very popular in my classroom.  For struggling readers, being able to conquer one of Ellen Hopkins’ books is like a point of pride because they’re “such big books.”  And I don’t say that to demean their experience; I say that because her books, along with other verse novels, create more confident readers.

The list I’m providing is here because I love these novels and want to promote them.  It’s also here because I hope more readers will give verse novels a chance.  This list will also help fill in some gaps for those who already read and love novels in verse.  If you have some recommendations please share them in the comments! :)

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder (Goodreads) (My Review): This was the first book I read by Lisa Schroeder.  I read it in one sitting and was completely awed by her writing.  I still need to read Far From You, but I’ve read all of her other books.  I’ll continue to read every book she writes because she’s so incredibly talented.

Sold by Patricia McCormick (Goodreads): I read Sold before I started teaching, so I don’t have a review for it.  Patricia McCormick is one of my favorite authors because she spends so much time researching the topic for her novels.  Consequently, she creates powerful novels that stick with you for some time after finishing one of her books, much like Sold did.  It’s written in vignettes and packs a quite the emotional punch.

Love & Leftovers by Sarah Tregay (Goodreads) (My Review): What a debut!  I hope Sarah Tregay writes more novels in verse because I adored Love & Leftovers, and if the fact that I haven’t seen it in my classroom for months means anything, my students love this debut as well.  Sarah Tregay took a familiar topic (exploring love and friendship) and created it into a verse novel that’s both humorous and touching.  Love & Leftovers has been featured all over my blog via my review, a student review, and more so I really hope you read this one.

Exposed by Kimberly Marcus (Goodreads) (My Review): This novel is hard to discuss without spoilers.  I can say, however, that when I read Exposed I often thought of different books written by Ellen Hopkins.  I’ve handed Kimberly Marcus’s debut to my Hopkins fans and received positive feedback.  I’ve also used Exposed as a stepping stone to Ellen Hopkins which has gone over well also.  Regardless, it’s a fantastic and powerful novel about friendship, family, and loyalty.

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai (Goodreads): Thanhha Lai has received some well-deserved recognition including the National Book Award and as a Newberry Honor Book.  Inside Out & Back Again is a story of overcoming adversity, discovering a new world, and the importance of family.  It’s a book that both middle grade and young adult readers will appreciate because despite the age and circumstance of the main character, many of us have felt different and misunderstood.  It’s a beautiful novel and certainly one worth reading.

** More Verse Novels Worth Reading **

The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan (Goodreads)

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Goodreads)

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose (Goodreads)

Student Book Review: Love & Leftovers by Sarah Tregay

I always love my Young Adult Lit students and my current group fits right in.  They’re excited about reading, discussing, and participating in general.  I also have a talented group of review writers!  I’ve been sitting here going through their Goodreads reviews trying to decide which student review to feature today because I’m so impressed by them.  I’ve decided to create a list so I can feature as many of my students as possible.

Today I’m featuring Brittany’s review of Love & Leftovers by Sarah Tregay.  It’s the first book she read for this class and it’s what she based her project choice on (love and long-distant relationships in YA).  Brittany also wrote an excellent review of Anna and the French Kiss, but since I’ve already posted a student review of that one, I decided on this review by Brittany.  Enjoy! :)

**I only altered her text to make some words bold**

Title: Love & Leftovers

Author: Sarah Tregay

Student Reviewer: Brittany

Summary (From HarperTeen):

My wish is to fall cranium over Converse in dizzy daydream-worthy love.

(If only it were that easy.)

Marcie has been dragged away from home for the summer—from Idaho to a family summerhouse in New Hampshire. She’s left behind her friends, a group of freaks and geeks called the Leftovers, including her emo-rocker boyfriend, and her father.

By the time Labor Day rolls around, Marcie suspects this “summer vacation” has become permanent. She has to start at a new school, and there she leaves behind her Leftover status when a cute boy brings her breakfast and a new romance heats up. But understanding love, especially when you’ve watched your parents’ affections end, is elusive. What does it feel like, really? Can you even know it until you’ve lost it?

Love & Leftovers is a beautifully written story of one girl’s journey navigating family, friends, and love, and a compelling and sexy read that teens will gobble up whole.

Student Review:

Love and Leftovers is a very cute book. It is about a girl named Marcie who is sixteen years old. She is swept away from her house in Idaho when her parents split up. Her mom takes her away from her group of friends called the Leftovers and her boyfriend that is also in that group, to a summer home in New Hampshire. Her mom is suffering from depression and this summer home becomes their real home. This book is about Marcie starting school in New Hampshire without any friends and how she handles the attention she is getting from a guy at the school. She is weighing the choices between this new guy or her old boyfriend back in Idaho.

I absolutely loved this book! I didn’t know anything about this book when I first wanted to read it. I saw the cover and thought it looked cute so I figured I would give it a try. I had never read a book that was written in verse and at first I didn’t think that I would much care for it, but I ended up loving it. It makes the book so easy to read and I never wanted to put it down. I have always felt that I am a slow reader, but not with this book. I ended up finishing it in two days. I am a sucker for cute love stories and that is exactly what this book is. Tregay did a very good job at developing characters. They all seem very realistic and are easy to relate to.

This is a book that many people would love, especially teenage girls. Anyone who likes a love story would be interested in this book. It doesn’t even have to be girls; some guys are suckers for cute books. Also, this would be a good book for people who like to read in verse.

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