Have you ever read a book written in verse? No? You’re missing out. It is a truly remarkable experience. Every word crackles on the page, every line is a gift to the narrative. And before you know it, it’s over and your left with your breath caught in your throat because it’s finished and your mind is swirling with the imprint it left on you.
Some of my favorite books are written in verse. Worth savoring or devouring, I’ve always finished reading with a new appreciation for the genre. Elizabeth Acevedo’s latest Clap When You Land is one of the best examples of how amazing the genre really is. If you’ve read it, or her debut The Poet X, you’ll know that her word choice is like a well-aimed punch—they hit their mark every time.
If you’re like me, after you finish a book in verse, you’ll be desperate for another and then another and before long you’ll be searching for recommendations. So, in order to prepare you: here is a list of some of the best books in verse to savor. Enjoy!
One by Sarah Crossan
Sarah Crossan’s novel in verse about conjoined twins is one of my favorite books of all-time. Told from Grace’s point-of-view, the novel delves into a complete view of the twins’ lives, their family and friends, and the choices that they have to make that will define who they will become. Sarah writes a sensitivity that the subject deserves, and each poem that makes up the story is brimming with emotion. A thought-provoking essential read for any reader but especially one looking to get into novels in verse.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
This book is revelatory, a life-changing experience. If you haven’t, drop everything you’re doing and order a copy from your favorite indie bookstore or get it through your library’s e-book app. You won’t regret it. Jacqueline tells the story of her childhood in a few words, providing us with a full picture and the foundation to the amazing storyteller we know today.
Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
I read this in one sitting, gripping the book so hard that my knuckles turned white. This book will make you angry, but it will also inspire and empower you. Blood Water Paint was based on Joy’s play about the life of Artemisia Gentileschi, an incredible woman and artist that more people should know about.
Audacity by Melanie Crowder
Like Blood Water Paint, Melanie Crowder’s book in verse is based on the real-life story of a young woman fighting for change for herself and others. And like Joy McCullough, Melanie tells the story in such a vivid way that Clara’s story stays with you long before you finish.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Everything Jason Reynolds writes is a gift, and this book is no different. A perfect example of how a few words strung together can paint such a vivid picture when told by the right person. This isn’t an easy read—about a young man deciding whether to kill the man who murdered his brother—but in Jason Reynold’s hands, its told in a way that makes me want this tight tense story to keep going.
500 Words or Less by Juleah Del Rosario
500 Words or Less is a fantastic example of a verse book you could speed through. Each page is brimming with Nic’s personality as she deals with her mother leaving and the loss of her friends, who abandoned her after a breakup. As Nic begins writing college essays for her classmates, her grief and despair come bubbling up. Novels in verse are often so full of emotion that I’m often awed at the amount of words that it takes to feel it come through so deeply. This book was no exception.
Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann
Another novel in verse that tackles a serious topic, Ask Me How I Got Here introduces readers to Addie, who is dealing with her decision to have an abortion. Despite the heavy topic, I really loved how completely I understood Addie and her struggle throughout the book. I felt like Christine’s verse gave us such a complete description of a character dealing with a life-changing experience.
When You Ask Me Where I’m Going by Jasmin Kaur
This book is a hybrid of verse, illustration and prose by debut author, Jasmin Kaur, and it is incredible. It is the book in verse for the moment, a powerful read that is perfect for right now.
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
When you look up novels in verse, this one is sure to show up. A classic of the genre, this award-winning novel explores a young girl’s life as she starts over with her family after moving from Saigon to Alabama. This is a story of change, resilience and love. It’s not to be missed.
Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton
This historical fiction and diverse novel in verse about a mixed-race young girl in 1969 should be required reading. Marilyn Hilton’s language made everything feel close and real, 50 plus years later.