6 Favorite Novels in Verse

I don’t consider myself a great poetry lover (I don’t hate it – it’s just not something I really seek out on a regular basis), but in the last 15 years, I’ve really come to love a great novel in verse.

If you’re new to novels in verse, it’s basically a full-length story written using poetry instead of the standard prose you find in most novels.

It’s similar to how a graphic novel is one long story told in comic frames (versus comic strips where each strip basically stands alone).

In this case, individual poems are making up one long storyline across a whole book.

They tend to be quicker reads since they’re not as text-dense as a standard novel (which makes them great for reluctant or struggling readers) and they’re often really great on audio since, like plays, poetry is often best read aloud, rather than silently.

Plus, it’s a great way to stretch your brain as a reader to try a different format than you’re used to.

If you’d like to give a novel in verse a try, here are six of my favorites!

(I have to make a disclaimer here that I did NOT include Out of the Dust by Karen Hessey which is an extremely popular and well-known novel in verse. It won the Newbery Medal after it was published in 1997 and it is ALWAYS on lists of favorite novels in verse. I read it when it came out as a tween and it was SO DISTURBING to me (I still remember my horror at the fire scene nearly three decades later), so it’s not one that I recommend, even though I’m know I’m in the minority in those feelings).

novels in verse

6 Favorite Novels in Verse

Before the Ever AfterBefore the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson
This novel in verse is TERRIFIC (I highly recommend the audio version!) – it follows a young boy who’s father is a professional football player and hugely beloved. And now he’s starting to act strangely with angry outbursts followed by long periods of silence. I won’t lie – I sobbed through the end of this one. Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming is probably her most famous – it won the National Book Award – but I strongly prefer Before the Ever After.


Starfish Starfish by Lisa Fipps 
Ellie has spent her entire life being bullied and teased about her weight. In response, she’s come up with the Fat Girl Rules – a set of rules to avoid situations where she might get ridiculed. Happily, Ellie has found a safe space in the pool where she can feel weightless. But her biggest bully might be her mom, who thinks that endless criticism is going to be what gets Ellie to diet. It’s going to take everything Ellie has (plus the help of her mom, her therapist and a new friend) to stand up for herself. This one was SO GOOD.


CrossoverThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander
I read this Newbery winner about six years ago and absolutely loved it (and my oldest daughter also thoroughly enjoyed it). Josh and his twin brother Jordan are 12 years old and incredible basketball players. But Josh also loves rhythms and beats and his free-styling makes up the verse in this book about family dynamics and sibling changes. This one is just phenomenal (don’t miss the companion title, Booked).


The Poet XThe Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
My children’s lit book club read this several years ago when it came out (this is a YA book, rather than a middle grade one). Xiomara is having a hard time in her Harlem neighborhood – ever since her body started developing, she can’t fly under the radar anymore and now she’s finding herself fighting (literally!) to be seen as a person rather than just a body. She starts pouring out all her feelings as poetry in a personal notebook, which she never plans to share. Until she’s invited to join her school’s slam poetry club and now she can’t stop thinking about sharing her work, despite the fact she knows her controlling mother will strongly disapprove. I’ve also heard rave reviews of her book Clap When You Land, although I haven’t read it yet.


Love That DogLove That Dog by Sharon Creech
I am absolutely OBSESSED with this book and its companion book, Hate That Cat. If you think you don’t like poetry, this book is likely going to convince you otherwise. Jack’s teacher introduces the class to some famous poems and has them write responses to it in blank verse and then write their own versions of the poems they’ve enjoyed. The whole book is Jack’s responses to what they’ve read or listened to in class and sometimes his replies back to his teacher’s critiques and encouragement (which you never see, since this is only Jack’s words in the book). I read this aloud to my kids in a day or two and it’s an absolute delight.


Shakespeare Bats CleanupShakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koretge
I read this book and its sequel (Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs) back when I was a school librarian and absolutely loved them both. Kevin gets sick and ends up spending a month at home recovering. His dad is a writer and gives him a composition book, suggesting that perhaps Kevin might spend some of his homebound time writing. He nabs a book about poetry from his father’s study and starts writing in his book, experimenting with various forms of poetry, from sonnets to haiku to blank verse. As the story develops, you learn that Kevin’s mom died recently and that he and his father are both dealing with the after-effects of her passing. The poems are by turns heartbreaking and funny. They’re just what you’d imagine a teenage boy might come up with.


When we did Before the Ever After for Everyday Reading Book Club, I asked for suggestions about novels in verse and here were some of the most popular responses if you’re looking for more suggestions!

Long Way DownLong Way Down by Jason Reynolds
This stunning novel takes place in just 60 seconds…the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he will seek revenge on the guy who killed his brother. Will takes his dead brother, Shawn’s gun, and gets in the elevator on the 7th floor. During his decent, someone connected to Shawn gets on at each floor – someone affected by teenage gun violence with a big message for Will. (Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds also came highly recommended.)


AloneAlone by Megan E Freeman
When Maddie is accidentally left behind as everyone in her entire small Colorado town disappears without a trace, it’s up to her to figure out how to survive, scavenge for resources, and persevere through her own solitude. This one would be great for fans of Hatchet



May B.May B. by Caroline Starr Rose
When the Betterly family nearly goes bankrupt after a failed wheat crop, twelve-year-old May is pulled out of school school and Pa hires her out to tend house for a couple new to the Kansas frontier. (Blue Birds byCaroline Starr Rose also came highly recommended.) 



Loving vs. VirginiaLoving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell
This documentary novel written in verse follows the story or a young couple, Mildred Loving, an African American girl, and Richard Loving, a white boy, who challenge the Virginia law forbidding interracial marriages in the 1950s. 




The Weight of WaterThe Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan
Kasienka and her mother have immigrated to England from Poland, searching for her father. In England, everyone is very unfriendly, except for one neighbor, and a boy Kasienka meets at the swimming pool – which also happens to be her only refuge from this strange new life.



The One Thing You'd SaveThe One Thing You’d Save by Linda Sue Park
This story is written in verse and has illustrations to go along with. The question “If your house was on fire, what is the one thing you would save?” is posed to a middle grade school class. The answers are all over the board and the students answers provide a lot of insight to each of their lives. Great discussion starting book!


No matter the distanceNo Matter the Distance by Cindy Baldwin
A young girl with cystic fibrosis can’t believe her eyes when she sees a dolphin in her backyard creek. Little did she know, this unexpected encounter would help her write her own story. What is really cool about this one, is this is the first time an author with cystic fibrosis is writing a story with a protagonist with cystic fibrosis!



The Last Fifth grade of Emerson elementaryThe Last 5th Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan
After getting word that their school will be torn down to make room for a new supermarket, the fifth grade class of Emerson Elementary School join together to try and save it.




Me MothMe: Moth by Amber McBride
Moth tragically lost her family in a car crash. Struggling with grief and feeling guilty for her family’s death, she sparks a connection with, Sani, a boy at her school. Sani has suffered from depression, and wants to track down his roots, to gain a better understanding of himself. The two embark on a road trip, chasing down the ghosts that haunt them both.



Gone FishingGone Fishing by Tamera Wissinger
What started out as a father-son fishing trip, soon included little sister Lucy! This funny and entertaining novel is perfect for sharing that family memories and our bond with each other make life (and fishing) more fun.



The Girl and the GoddessThe Girl and the Goddess by Nikita Gill
In this coming-of-age story, Paro is visited by gods and goddesses who teach her the ways of life through Hindu myths, as she grows up in war torn Kashmir, then Delhi, before her move to London where she could truly be free and herself.



Apple skin to the coreApple: Skin to the Core by Eric Gansworth
This is a memoir in verse about Gansworth’s own experiences as a Native American living in poverty on a reservation and the horrible legacy of government boarding school where he almost lost all of sense of his culture.




OdderOdder by Katherine Applegate
Katherine Applegate is no stranger to novels in verse – her most well-known The One and Only Ivan is worth a read. Odder is all about a little otter who comes face to face with a shark, and how that fateful day changes her life forever. If you enjoy Applegate’s novels in verse, make sure to also check out Home of the Brave.



Inside Out & back againInside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
I’ve heard a lot of great things about this book written in poems, about a young girl who leaves Vietnam with her brother and mother in 1975 to resettle in Alabama.




Death Coming Up the HillDeath Coming Up the Hill by Chris Crowe
It’s 1968, the year Douglas Ashe turns seventeen. He decides to keep a weekly record of historical and personal events including the war in Vietnam, assassinations, rampant racism, and rioting, his first girlfriend, his parents’ separation, and a longed-for sister.



BullBull by David Elliott
This is the young adult modern twist on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, but of course, told in verse.


A slip of a girlA Slip of a Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff
Anna Mallon’s family survived the Irish Potato Famine 30 years ago only to find themselves starving again – and evicted from the only home they have known during the Irish Land Wars. This historical fiction novel told in verse touches on history not known by many. 



Other Words for HomeOther Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
This middle-grade book in verse won a Newbery Honor back in January and it’s about a girl who, with her mother, leaves her older brother and father behind in Syria to live in Cincinnati so they can be safe from the violence erupting in their hometown.



And if you’d like a printable copy of this novels in verse list that you can take to your library or screenshot on your phone for easy access, just pop in your email address below and it’ll come right to your inbox!


if you liked this post about novels in verse, you might also like these other posts:

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *