A Book By Any Other Name

Have you ever read a novel that was written in poetry?

In one of my rare turns at playing bookseller at the Willow, I was perusing the teen section with a dad who was looking for something new and great for his voracious reader 15 year old daughter. Unlike the pros, I couldn’t just pick the perfect book off the shelf and hand it to this dad. We were both grabbing books and reading blurbs and jackets and flipping pages. He said he could just buy a gift card, but we both agreed it is more fun to deliver the actual goods. He grabbed one book and opened it up and said, “Eh, what is this?!? I never seen such a thing!” He had grabbed a novel that was written in poetry format. Unfortunately, I wasn’t familiar with the book he had chosen, but I tried to defend the genre by saying, “Actually, there are some really great books written that way. I think the sparseness of poetry is really powerful.” He couldn’t shelve that book fast enough. He eventually bought the new Nancy Werlin book, Extraordinary, because it was new and he thought it looked good and I at least could highly recommend the author (loved her Impossible).

But his reaction did get me thinking. There are some great kids books in this format. My favs are Love That Dog by Sharon Creech and Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.  I just finished Crank by Ellen Hopkins. Hopkins is the author who was un-invited to a teen book festival in Humble, TX because of parent objections. Thanks to the power of the internet, outrage spread rapidly, other authors withdrew, and the whole festival was cancelled. So of course, I had to see why. Crank is the story of a 16 yr old honor student whose life is turned upside down when she is introduced to crystal meth. It is an incredibly powerful story, delivered with a real punch thru free verse.  I understand why parents object, but I think they are really misguided to think that by banning a book they can shelter their kids from this sadly all too common story.

I don’t know of an adult book written in free verse, but I’d love to read one. Let me know if you know of one. Just don’t pass on a book because the format seems odd to you. There are so many hidden gems out there.

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