All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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Novels in Verse

In the past several years, a new format of novel has grown in popularity — the novel in verse. Largely for the tween and young teen audience, the plots can be as varied as prose. Here are some of the best from the last few years.

Long Way Down

Long Way Down

Age Level: 12-14

Fifteen-year-old Will's big brother has been shot and killed. According to the rules that Will has been taught, it is now his job to kill the person responsible. He easily finds his brother's gun and gets on the elevator to head down from his eighth-floor apartment. But it's a long way down to the ground floor. At each floor, a different person gets on to tell a story. Each of these people is already dead. As they relate their tales, readers learn about the cycle of violence in which Will is caught up.

 The Crossover

The Crossover

Age Level: 9-12

The Bell twins are stars on the basketball court and comrades in life. While there are some differences — Josh shaves his head and Jordan loves his locks — both twins adhere to the Bell basketball rules: In this game of life, your family is the court, and the ball is your heart. When life intervenes in the form of a new girl, the balance shifts and growing apart proves painful. Alexander eloquently mashes up concrete poetry, hip-hop, a love of jazz, and a thriving family bond. The effect is poetry in motion. It is a rare verse novel that is fundamentally poetic rather than using this writing trend as a device. There is also a quirky vocabulary element that adds a fun intellectual note to the narrative. This may be just the right book for those hard-to-match youth who live for sports or music or both. (2015 Newbery Medal Winner)

Booked

Booked

Age Level: 9-12

In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel The Crossover, soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read. This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by poet Kwame Alexander bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action, and emotion of a World Cup match!

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba

Age Level: 12-14

Meet Fredrika Bremer, a Swedish suffragette who traveled the world and visited Cuba in 1851. Where other visitors might have been most interested in basking in the luxury of plantation owners, Fredrika sets out to learn about the slaves, free blacks, and poor whites, documenting her experiences in letters and diaries. Margarita Engle has transformed those writings into an intriguing novel written in verse with special attention paid to Cecilia, Fredika's bright young translator, as well as the overlapping struggles to end slavery and expand women's rights. Pura Belpré Honor Award.

Shark Girl

Shark Girl

Age Level: 12-14

This ripped-from-the-headlines story tells of a teenage surfer girl whose arm gets bitten off by a shark. As she recovers, she finds she doesn't like being identified as "the shark girl" and just wants to resume her normal life.

Sharp Teeth

Sharp Teeth

Age Level: Adult

For older, horror-loving teens: a blank-verse horror tale about werewolves in Los Angeles.

Pieces of Georgia

Pieces of Georgia

Age Level: 9-12

This slight novel tells of near 13-year-old Georgia, still grieving the loss of her mother six years before. An anonymous benefactor gives her a museum membership, hoping that her love of art will be the cure for her sadness. Georgia's own journal entries are composed in free verse.

Splintering

Splintering

Age Level: 14-16

After a stranger breaks in and terrorizes a gathering, the family members learn to cope with the aftermath of the crime and their other problems. Told in alternating chapters by Jeremy and his sister Paulie, these poems fit the fast-moving, gripping plot.

Keesha's House

Keesha's House

Age Level: 14-16

At-risk teenagers congregate at a safe house, and we gradually learn what brought each of them there—an unplanned pregnancy, harassment about sexual orientation, and an unloving foster parent. A complicated poetic format (sestinas) doesn't make for a complicated read—the plot is equal to the poetry.

CrashBoomLove

CrashBoomLove

Age Level: 16-18

Mexican-American poet Herrera wrote one of the first novels in verse for the teen audience. Sixteen-year old Cesar is the son of migrant workers, and he shares his coming-of-age experiences.

Crank

Crank

Age Level: 14-16

Hopkins has become the leading author of novels in verse, mainly due to her gritty, unflinching subject matter. Crank, her first novel, deals with Kristina/Bree and her addiction to crystal meth.

Street Love

Street Love

Age Level: 14-16

Damien, the star of the basketball team is headed to college. Junice is trying to hold her family together after tragedy. When these two meet, there is nothing but love, even if Damien's parents are less than thrilled with his choice. As the drama unfolds, each character tells his/her story through verse, leaving the reader to wonder if Damien and Junice be able to rise above the adversity that surrounds them.

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies

Age Level: 12-14

When Ruby's mother dies, she must move to California to live with her movie-star father, who she doesn't really know. Though, she's determined to hate her rich famous father and she misses her old life in Boston, she comes to accept her new life.

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl

Age Level: 14-16

Three different girls share stories of their run-ins with the same boy. The book's frank treatment of sexuality will have immense appeal to teen girls.

Make Lemonade

Make Lemonade

Age Level: 12-14

Studious LaVaughn, 14, decides to earn extra money by babysitting for a child whose mother, Jolly, is only a bit older than LaVaughn herself. LaVaughn gradually comes to respect Jolly and eventually the two become friends.

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