Category Archives: novels in verse

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

71kGvbCnfXLOne of the first books I read in my YA Literature class was Speak. It is, perhaps, the best known of Laurie Halse Anderson’s books. Sadly, that is likely because it has touched the hearts and lives of so many rape victims, many of whom have reached out to let her know that they found solace in reading her book and knowing they were not alone. Though *I’ve* never been raped, I know girls and women who lived this horrible nightmare. And one of the worst parts of their experience, in my opinion, was that most of them were afraid or ashamed to speak up and speak out about what happened to them. Because, far too often, rape victims are blamed and shamed for what was done to them — saying they had not dressed “modestly” enough, or that it was their fault for getting drunk, etc, etc, etc. After all… It’s much easier to blame the victims than to admit that this could happen to any of us at any given time, right?!?

Well, this book is an answer to the victim-blaming and the other aspects of rape culture that perpetuate the problem. It is a reminder that we have to teach our children about consent — spoken, enthusiastic consent — and how necessary it is to seek and continue to reaffirm consent before any and all sexual activities. It is a reminder that staying silent helps no one but the rapists. And it is a call for all victims to not only speak but to SHOUT about what has happened to them.

I really appreciated how Laurie opened up about her own rape, why she stayed silent for so long, and how so much of her life (particularly her adolescence) was impacted by her rape. I think Shout will not only help a lot of victims to see how she found the strength to get past her trauma but also help *everyone* who reads the book to take a deeper look at what we can and must do, as a society, to end rape culture.

Happy Reading!

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

long-way-downWith a gun tucked into the waistband of his pants, Will gets into the elevator of his apartment building and heads down to go and get his revenge.  On whom?  The person who murdered his brother, Shawn, of course.  He knows the rules of the hood.  “No crying. No snitching. Revenge.”  So that is what he sets out to do.  But, he doesn’t take the ride alone.  At each floor, the elevator stops and a ghost gets on to ride along with him.  As each ghost enters, they share their own story and how it relates to Shawn’s death.  These stories help to provide a wider picture of how the cycle of violence in their neighborhood has been perpetuated thus far and, much like the computer’s epiphany in War Games, that the only way to win is not to play this game.  But will this elevator ride be enough to change the heart and mind of a boy who has never known any other way?

Timely, thought provoking, and powerful.  It’s no wonder this book has received so many awards.  

Happy Reading!

The Sky between You and Me by Catherine Alene

sky-betweenRaesha is not the stereotypical girl with an eating disorder from the “after school specials” of my youth.  She isn’t the super-popular girl who is afraid to lose it all if she gains a few pounds, nor is she the unpopular fat girl who thinks that she will finally be accepted by her peers if she loses some weight.  This story is much more realistic, so I think it’s only fair to provide a *TRIGGER WARNING* for people recovering from eating disorders.

While Raesha doesn’t set out to be anorexic, she is so dedicated to making it to (and winning) Nationals that she decides to lose a few pounds.  After all, being lighter will mean that her horse can run faster.  The worst thing is that she isn’t pressured by anyone else to compete in barrel racing but rather competes to honor the memory of her mother.  Between grieving for her mother and her father’s frequent absences (for work), Raesha is often very lonely.  And, with the change in behavior that accompanies her eating disorder, she only drives her boyfriend and her friends further away.  I would recommend this book for Ellen Hopkins fans and readers of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls.

Happy Reading!

Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath

like-water-on-stoneI think this book should be required reading for all teens and adults in America right about now.  All too often, I find myself listening to or reading about people who just don’t understand why America should step up and actually help the Syrian refugees.  Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that people don’t have any concept of what life is truly like for people who are forced to flee their home and country in fear of losing their very lives.  Without a frame of reference, people have no idea what it is that they are turning their backs to.  I am sick of the, “It sucks to be them, but it’s not America’s problem” mentality.  Perhaps, by reading this story [about three children who narrowly escaped the Armenian genocide of 1915], people can begin to understand what these current refugees are experiencing.  And maybe, just maybe, people can put aside their fear long enough to see that there is something we can do.  We can open our hearts — and our borders — to the huddled masses who so desperately need somewhere safe to go.  I think Master Yoda said it best when he said, “Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering.”  So, let’s stop letting our fear get in the way.  In this season of giving, love, and goodwill, let’s do our best to put aside our fear and to actually help out our fellow human beings.

Happy Holidays!