5 Verse Books For Beginners

These five books are excellent for anyone looking to dip a toe into this style of writing - they're books with a range of subject matters, so I would imagine at least one would be appealing. Each was a quick and solid read and one I'd feel confident recommending you check out to get started reading books in verse.

I used to be really intimidated by books that are in verse. You see, I thought maybe I wouldn’t like them as they didn’t follow typical prose structure. Yet as it turns out, once I gave them a shot, I was hooked. These five books are excellent for anyone looking to dip a toe into this style of writing – they’re books with a range of subject matters, so I would imagine at least one would be appealing. Each was a quick and solid read and one I’d feel confident recommending you check out to get started reading books in verse.

Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

I received this book for free from Library, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

5 Verse Books For BeginnersThree Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley
Published by HarperCollins on January 7, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Novels in Verse, Family, Siblings, Social Themes, Disabilities & Special Needs, Violence, Parents
Pages: 480
Format: Hardcover, eARC
Source: Library, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
ISBN: 9780062908049
Goodreads
four-stars

Fans of Jandy Nelson and Marieke Nijkamp will love this deeply moving novel in verse about the aftermath of a gun accident.
Life changes forever for Liv when her older brother, Jonah, accidentally shoots himself with his best friend Clay’s father’s gun. Now Jonah needs round-the-clock care just to stay alive, and Liv feels like she’s the only person who can see that her brother is still there inside his broken body.
With Liv’s mom suing Clay’s family, there are divisions in the community that Liv knows she’s not supposed to cross. But Clay is her friend, too, and she refuses to turn away from him—just like she refuses to give up on Jonah.
This powerful novel is a stunning exploration of tragedy, grief, compassion, and forgiveness.

Verse books really pack a real punch sometimes. Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley slaps in the best kind of way. The book is a story about a tragedy involving gun violence and the havoc it wreaks.

Three Things I Know Are True follows Liv, a girl who has this obsession with the river in her town. Her older brother Jonah is a bit of a daredevil. One day, Jonah and his best friend Clay are grabbing decorations for Clay’s mom in the attic when they come across a gun on the windowsill. Jonah, being a jackass, takes the gun and while messing around, shoots himself in the head.


Jonah then ends up with a TBI and in need of round the clock care. Meanwhile, Liv’s mom is suing Clay’s parents for what happened. And so, this book in verse covers the trial and the what happens next as well as how Liv’s school life seems to be falling apart.

Culley’s story is beautifully written – particularly when she talks about hands. I am of the mind that you should pick up this quiet, lowkey story of an awful, awful moment and the fall out. It’s raw and real and an excellent read. I look forward to picking up more from Culley in the future.

Language Of Fire by Stephanie Hemphill

I received this book for free from Library, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

5 Verse Books For BeginnersThe Language of Fire by Stephanie Hemphill
Also by this author: Hideous Love, Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All
Published by HarperCollins on June 11, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Novels in Verse, Historical, Europe, Social Themes, Religion & Faith, Violence
Pages: 512
Format: Hardcover, eARC
Source: Library, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
ISBN: 9780062490131
Goodreads
three-stars

The Language of Fire is a lyrical, dark, and moving look at the life of Joan of Arc, who as a teen girl in the fifteenth century commanded an army and helped crown a king of France.
This extraordinary verse novel from award-winning author Stephanie Hemphill dares to imagine how an ordinary girl became a great leader, and ultimately saved a nation.
Jehanne was an illiterate peasant, never quite at home among her siblings and peers. Until one day, she hears a voice call to her, telling her she is destined for important things. She begins to understand that she has been called by God, chosen for a higher purpose—to save France.
Through sheer determination and incredible courage, Jehanne becomes the unlikeliest of heroes. She runs away from home, dresses in men’s clothes, and convinces an army that she will lead France to victory.
As a girl in a man’s world, at a time when women truly had no power, Jehanne faced constant threats and violence from the men around her. Despite the impossible odds, Jehanne became a fearless warrior who has inspired generations.

I thought I knew Joan of Arc’s story – but apparently half remembering a movie starring Leelee Sobieski from when I was in eighth grade absolutely encompasses zero knowledge about Joan Of Arc. Famous historical women are fascinating to me, so Language Of Fire by Stephanie Hemphill really caught my attention.

Language Of Fire is a verse book that details Joan Of Arc’s life from when she starts hearing God talking to her all the way to getting burned at the stake and her legacy. I felt like this book was really detailed and went deeply into her convictions. It made this piece of history easy to digest and better understand. On the whole, Language Of Fire is a very quick read – granted, there’s no romance or anything. However, it’s a real interesting way to explore such an important historical figure.


I will say, by the end I was very much ready to move on to my next read. After all, I did read this during a restless time in my life. Had I read it when things were a bit more slow and not so much up in the air, I probably would have liked it more. Language Of Fire is a book I’d recommend to verse and historical fiction fiends alike.

Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

5 Verse Books For BeginnersSay Her Name by Zetta Elliott
on January 4, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Nonfiction, People & Places, United States, African American, Poetry, Girls & Women
Pages: 128
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
ISBN: 9781368053891
Goodreads
five-stars

Inspired by the #SayHerName campaign launched by the African American Policy Forum, these poems pay tribute to victims of police brutality as well as the activists insisting that Black Lives Matter. Elliott engages poets from the past two centuries to create a chorus of voices celebrating the creativity, resilience, and courage of Black women and girls.This collection features forty-nine powerful poems, four of which are tribute poems inspired by the works of Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, and Phillis Wheatley. This provocative collection will move every reader to reflect, respond-and act.

Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott is a sparse collection of poems aimed at young Black women. I’ll preface by saying I am absolutely not the target audience for this book. However, Say Her Name is an empowering read with references to famous poems by Black women throughout history – as well as the inclusion of a few of these poems. This book belongs on the shelves of youth serving libraries.

If I wasn’t so focused on reading this book quickly and getting it into the hands of someone who is actually in the target audience, I would have read this much more slowly. I think there’s value in reading just one of Elliott’s poems or a poem she included per day and ruminating on it. These are poems that you can think about deeply and analyze and really have a discussion about. However, my aim was really to read it, review it, and then when the pandemic is over, drop it off to a center that caters to youth of color.

Say Her Name is beautifully written and beautifully illustrated. Loveis Wise is the illustrator and has a really colorful, vivid style that is appealing. This is a special book and one that I think should not be missed if you are a poetry reader. Even if you are new to poetry, Elliott makes her words accessible and relatable to teenagers – particularly marginalized teenagers.


Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga

I received this book for free from Library, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

5 Verse Books For BeginnersOther Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
Also by this author: , My Heart and Other Black Holes
Published by HarperCollins on May 28, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Stories in Verse, Social Themes, Emigration & Immigration, People & Places, Middle East, Adolescence
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover, eARC
Source: Library, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
ISBN: 9780062747822
Goodreads
five-stars

New York Times bestseller and Newbery Honor Book!
A gorgeously written, hopeful middle grade novel in verse about a young girl who must leave Syria to move to the United States, perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds and Aisha Saeed.
Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.
At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before.
But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.
This lyrical, life-affirming story is about losing and finding home and, most importantly, finding yourself.

I don’t often read middle grade books, but when I do, I am pretty sure the book I pick up is of high quality. Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga is a middle grade verse novel that I read over the summer and just absolutely fell for. Warga’s story of Jude blew me away.

Other Words For Home is about a girl named Jude who up until this point has lived her life in Syria with her parents and brother. However, with the situation in Syria becoming dangerous, Jude and her mother move to Cincinnati to live with Jude’s uncle. Cincinnati is so different from what Jude is used to, but she’s determined to make the best of things. Also? As it turns out, her mom is pregnant (so of course this book resonated with me even more). Jude makes new friends in her ESL class and goes out for the school play. She continues to worship with her mother at the local mosque. But, not all is perfect. Jude misses her dad and worries for her brother. Plus, she must deal with the occasional Islamophobia.

Other Words For Home is a must read. I think if you are dipping your toes into middle grade or into verse books, you cannot go wrong with this book. Jude is a wonderful character and ultimately triumphant. I loved her story and her growth. She’s someone that you just want all the best things in life for. Plus, I believe that this story provides a mirror for children who have come to America from another country and particularly for Syrian children. Do not miss out on reading this wonderful book.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

5 Verse Books For BeginnersThe Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
Published by HarperCollins on May 26, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Novels in Verse, LGBT, Diversity & Multicultural, Social Themes, Prejudice & Racism, People & Places, Europe
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
ISBN: 9780062990310
Goodreads
five-stars

Stonewall Book Award Winner!
A fierce coming-of-age verse novel about identity and the power of drag, from acclaimed poet and performer Dean Atta. Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo, Jason Reynolds, and Kacen Callender.
Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican—but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough.
As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs—and the Black Flamingo is born.
Told with raw honesty, insight, and lyricism, this debut explores the layers of identity that make us who we are—and allow us to shine.
"In this uplifting coming-of-age novel told in accessible verse, Atta chronicles the growth and glory of Michael Angeli, a mixed-race kid from London, as he navigates his cultural identity as Cypriot and Jamaican as well as his emerging sexuality." (Publishers Weekly, "An Anti-Racist Children's and YA Reading List")

Dean Atta’s The Black Flamingo was a more quiet verse book than I had expected. And well, that’s what I genuinely really want to read sometimes – a quiet YA book that’s not TOO MUCH. I dived right into The Black Flamingo after seeing that former co-blogger Allison loved it. Although Allison was a fan of the audiobook, I only had the eARC on hand. As it turns out, I really liked physically reading this book. However, I wouldn’t mind going back and checking out the audiobook particularly for the poetry cadence that I probably missed while physically reading this.

The Black Flamingo is about Michael Angeli, a Jamaican-Cypriot young man from the UK. The book opens with Michael as a six year old who just wants to get a Barbie for Christmas. We then see his age progression as he goes from taking singing lessons to going to an All Boys School to going to Catholic School. From there, the book progresses to Michael’s life in college where he discovers performing in drag.

This book is about Michael discovering his identity. We get so many pivotal life moments that shape Michael, but we aren’t beaten over the head with it. Like I said, this book is quiet. Part of Michael’s identity comes from the fact that his dad never really stepped up, so it’s just him, his mother, and his little sister. Michael is also navigating being biracial and experiencing microaggressions. On top of that, he is figuring out his sexuality. Michael has a best friend – Daisy – but he’s still a lonely guy. Ultimately though, he finds his voice, and it is a triumph when he does.


four-stars
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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

Comments

  1. Three Things I Know Are True and Other Words for Home are on my TBR! I’m definitely adding the others. Have you read Elizabeth Acevedo’s books? The Poet X is amazing – the audio is even better and narrated by the author. With the Fire On High is another good one by her.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?
    Lindsi recently posted..Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor, #3) by Jessica TownsendMy Profile

  2. I didn’t realize that Other Words for Home was a verse novel!

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