In honor of National Poetry Month, I’d like to introduce some of my favorite novels in verse for young adults, in no particular order.
Lowitz imagines the earthquake and tsunami which devastated Northeastern Japan five years ago through the eyes of Kai, a biracial Japanese boy. At turns harrowing and heartbreaking, this book is ultimately hopeful.
Set in 1965, this book follows the lives of a group of high school friends whose lives are impacted by the war in Vietnam, riots, and assassinations. But they also go to drive-in movies, fall in love, and go to parties.
Third Culture Kid Emma Karas finds herself in Massachusetts after living in Japan for many years. She begins to volunteer at a long-term care center, helping a poet with locked-in syndrome get her poems down on paper. Meanwhile, Emma stats spending time with a Cambodian dancer who is a fellow volunteer.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Mina Tagawa and her Japanese-American family are rounded up and sent to an internment camp in the middle of the desert. Nagai presents a shameful slice of American history with beauty and grace.
Talk about gritty, realistic fiction! Tony, Vanessa, and Connor battle self-destructive impulses ranging — pill-popping, cutting, and suicidal urges. Hopkins is the queen of intensity.
One day Jane has just about everything a fifteen-year-old girl could want, the next, a shark bites off her arm while she’s swimming. Bingham explores disability and self-acceptance in this stand-out novel.
Cultures clash in this story of Viola, a young woman refugee from South Sudan who tries to adjust to her new life in Portland, Oregon.
This book is epic adventure set in India, just after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Fifteen-year-old Canadian Maya is visiting India with her father after her mother’s suicide, when she gets swept up in the mayhem.
Philips captures all of the angst of high school in this story of four teens in a Canadian classroom. Through distinct poetic voices, Natalie, Kyle, Trish, and Miguel share stories of domestic violence, sexual abuse, step-families, and rebellion.
Lezotte, who is deaf herself, wrote this story of Paula Becker, a deaf teen in Nazi Germany, where people with disabilities were systematically eliminated, along with Jews and others. Sometimes the most difficult subjects are best expressed in the simplest words.