What is the fascination with novels in verse? You probably browse the bookshelves and recently see a resurgence of books written in verse…and this is a beautiful thing. Not only verse storytelling gives a different way of reading a book with diverse characters and writing, but novels in verse are a great way to encourage reluctant readers to want to read more.
I have read great novels in verse over the past years, so I’m always on the lookout for new ones every publishing year, and I am glad that this year is no different. If you are looking for new and upcoming verse reads and don’t know where to look, your search is over! Here are new and forthcoming novels in verse that need to be on your radar:
What About Will by Ellen Hopkins
Twelve-year-old Trace Reynolds has always looked up to his brother, mostly because Will, who’s five years older, has never looked down on him. It was Will who taught Trace to ride a bike, would watch sports on TV with him, and cheer him on at Little League. But when Will was knocked out cold during a football game, resulting in a brain injury–everything changed. Now, seventeen months later, their family is still living under the weight of the incident, that left Will with a facial tic, depression, and an anger he cannot always control, culminating in their parents’ divorce. Afraid of further fracturing his family, Trace begins to cover for Will who, struggling with addiction to pain medication, becomes someone Trace doesn’t recognize. But when the brother he loves so much becomes more and more withdrawn, and escalates to stealing money and ditching school, Trace realizes some secrets cannot be kept if we ever hope to heal. (Credit: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)
African Town by Charles Waters and Irene Latham
In 1860, long after the United States outlawed the importation of enslaved laborers, 110 men, women and children from Benin and Nigeria were captured and brought to Mobile, Alabama aboard a ship called Clotilda. Their journey includes the savage Middle Passage and being hidden in the swamplands along the Alabama River before being secretly parceled out to various plantations, where they made desperate attempts to maintain both their culture and also fit into the place of captivity to which they’d been delivered. At the end of the Civil War, the survivors created a community for themselves they called African Town, which still exists to this day. Told in 14 distinct voices, including that of the ship that brought them to the American shores and the founder of African Town, this powerfully affecting historical novel-in-verse recreates a pivotal moment in US and world history, the impacts of which we still feel today. (Credit: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)
Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds and illustrated by Jason Griffin
Jason Reynolds and his best bud, Jason Griffin had a mind-meld. And they decided to tackle it, in one fell swoop, in about ten sentences, and 300 pages of art, this piece, this contemplation-manifesto-fierce-vulnerable-gorgeous-terrifying-WhatIsWrongWithHumans-hope-filled-hopeful-searing-Eye-Poppingly-Illustrated-tender-heartbreaking-how-The-HECK-did-They-Come-UP-with-This project about oxygen. And all of the symbolism attached to that word, especially NOW.
And so for anyone who didn’t really know what it means to not be able to breathe, REALLY breathe, for generations, now you know. And those who already do, you’ll be nodding yep yep, that is exactly how it is. (Credit: Atheneum Books)
Vinyl Moon by Mahogany L. Browne
When Darius told Angel he loved her, she believed him. But five weeks after the incident, Angel finds herself in Brooklyn, far from her family, from him, and from the California life she has known.
Angel feels out of sync with her new neighborhood. At school, she can’t shake the feeling everyone knows what happened–and that it was her fault. The only place that makes sense is Ms. G’s class. There, Angel’s classmates share their own stories of pain, joy, and fortitude. And as Angel becomes immersed in her revolutionary literature course, the words from Black writers like Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Zora Neale Hurston speak to her and begin to heal the wounds of her past.
This stunning novel weaves together prose, poems, and vignettes to tell the story of Angel, a young woman whose past was shaped by domestic violence but whose love of language and music and the gift of community grant her the chance to find herself again. (Credit: Crown Books for Young Readers)
Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis by Susan Hood and Greg Dawson
When the Germans invade Ukraine, Zhanna, a young Jewish girl, must leave behind her friends, her freedom, and her promising musical future at the world’s top conservatory. With no time to say goodbye, Zhanna, her sister Frina, and their entire family are removed from their home by the Nazis and forced on a long, cold, death march. When a guard turns a blind eye, Zhanna flees with nothing more than her musical talent, her beloved sheet music, and her father’s final plea: “I don’t care what you do. Just live.”
This incredible true story in-verse about sisterhood, survival, and music is perfect for fans of Lifeboat 12, Inside Out and Back Again, and Alan Gratz. (Credit: HarperCollins)
Golden Girl by Reem Faruqi
Seventh grader Aafiyah loves playing tennis, reading Weird but True facts, and hanging out with her best friend, Zaina. However, Aafiyah has a bad habit that troubles her–she’s drawn to pretty things and can’t help but occasionally “borrow” them.
But when her father is falsely accused of a crime he hasn’t committed and gets taken in by authorities, Aafiyah knows she needs to do something to help. When she brainstorms a way to bring her father back, she turns to her Weird but True facts and devises the perfect plan.
But what if her plan means giving in to her bad habit, the one she’s been trying to stop? Aafiyah wants to reunite her family but finds that maybe her plan isn’t so perfect after all. . (Credit: HarperCollins)
Nothing Burns as Bright as You by Ashley Woodfolk
Two girls. One wild and reckless day. Years of tumultuous history unspooling like a thin, fraying string in the hours after they set a fire.
They were best friends. Until they became more. Their affections grew. Until the blurry lines became dangerous.
Over the course of a single day, the depth of their past, the confusion of their present, and the unpredictability of their future is revealed. And the girls will learn that hearts, like flames, aren’t so easily tamed.
It starts with a fire.
How will it end? (Credit: Versify)
And We Rise by Erica Martin
In stunning verse and vivid use of white space, Erica Martin’s debut poetry collection walks readers through the Civil Rights Movement–from the well-documented events that shaped the nation’s treatment of Black people, beginning with the Separate but Equal ruling–and introduces lesser-known figures and moments that were just as crucial to the Movement and our nation’s centuries-long fight for justice and equality.
A poignant, powerful, all-too-timely collection that is both a vital history lesson and much-needed conversation starter in our modern world. Complete with historical photographs, author’s note, chronology of events, research, and sources. (Credit: Viking Books for Young Readers)
Hazard by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Expected Publication Date: May 10
Everybody knows Hazard Stokes has mad football skills. A defensive back, he’s never played dirty (no need for that when you’re as good as he is) so it’s a shock when he makes a bad hit the first game of the season and gets thrown off the field.
Now Coach won’t let him back on the team until a therapist gives the thumbs up. At first, Haz denies there’s a problem, but over time he starts to get it: When your dad’s at Walter Reed Medical Center getting fitted for a prosthetic limb to replace a leg lost in an IED blast (and won’t let you come visit him while he’s there), it might make you angry enough to hurt somebody.
On top of that, Haz discovers his dad’s dealing with wounds that go deeper than the loss of a leg. What happens when a soldier makes a split-second decision that haunts him long after the battle is over?
Through emails, texts, and family interviews, Haz slowly begins to understand how the body keeps score when bad things happen to people you love, and how the anger and confusion you feel can become the violence you commit. Both Hazard and his dad have to come to terms with the suffering they’ve caused other people–and themselves. (Credit: Atheneum Books)
Only On The Weekends by Dean Atta
Expected Publication Date: May 24
Fifteen-year-old Mack is a hopeless romantic–likely a hazard of growing up on film sets thanks to his father’s job. Mack has had a crush on Karim for as long as he can remember and he can’t believe it when gorgeous, popular Karim seems into him too.
But when Mack’s father takes on a new directing project in Scotland, Mack has to move away, and soon discovers how painful long-distance relationships can be. It’s awful to be so far away from Karim, and it’s made worse by the fact that Karim can be so hard to read.
Then Mack meets actor Finlay on set, and the world turns upside down again. Fin seems fearless–and his confidence could just be infectious. (Credit: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen)
The Poet by Louisa Reid
Expected Publication Date: June 9
Bright, promising Emma is entangled in a toxic romance with her old professor – and she’s losing control.
Cruel, charming Tom is idolized by his students and peers – confident he holds all the cards.
In their small Oxford home, he manipulates and undermines her every thought and act. Soon, he will push her to the limit and she must decide: to remain quiet and submit, or to take her revenge. (Credit: Transworld Publishers)
In the Beautiful Country by Jane Kuo
Expected Publication Date: June 14
Anna can’t wait to move to the beautiful country–the Chinese name for America. Although she’s only ever known life in Taiwan, she can’t help but brag about the move to her family and friends.
But the beautiful country isn’t anything like Anna pictured. Her family can only afford a cramped apartment, she’s bullied at school, and she struggles to understand a new language. On top of that, the restaurant that her parents poured their savings into is barely staying afloat. The version of America that Anna is experiencing is nothing like her dreams. How will she be able to make the beautiful country her home? (Credit: Quill Tree Books)
Baby Teeth by Meg Grehan
Expected Publication Date: June 14
Feeds the hunger
That threatens everything
It starts when Claudia offers her a yellow rose.
Immy has been in love before – many times, across many lifetimes. But never as deeply, as intensely as this. Claudia smells like paint and peppermint tea. She wears her hair in a plait, and has a green thumb, and Immy is utterly besotted. Claudia has never been in love like this either. But then, this is her first time with a vampire. But a love like this can’t last. The forbidden thirst for blood runs deep in Immy. And within her mind clamour the voices, of all the others she has been, their desires, and their wrongs. For fans of Elizabeth Acevdeo and Dean Atta. (Credit: Little Island Books)
Slug by Hollie McNish
Expected Publication Date: July 19
From Finnish saunas and soppy otters to grief, grandparents and Kellogg’s anti-masturbation pants, Slug is a book which holds a mirror lovingly up to the world, past and present, through Hollie’s driving, funny, hopeful poetry and prose. Slug is about the human condition: of birth and death and how we manage the possibilities in between. (Credit: Fleet)
- Moonwalking by Zetta Elliott and Lyn Miller-Lachmann (April 12)
- Singing with Elephants by Margarita Engle (May 31)
- The Name She Gave Me by Betty Culley (June 21)
- Only Pieces by Edd Tello (June 16)
- Don’t Call Me A Hurricane by Ellen Hagan (July 19)
- Abuela, Don’t Forget Me by Rex Ogle (September 6)
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