Tag Archives: novel in verse

The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan

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The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan

Levithan, David. The Realm of Possibility. Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. ISBN 978-0375836572 210 pp. $6.99

***

This novel in verse is strong and diverse, with clever turns of phrase and interesting connected characters that keep it from being mediocre. The story follows a group of students through their daily lives, tinged with assorted teen angst and beauty: a dying mom, a multicultural romance, love, consummated and unrequited. Grouped into sets, each section lists the voices that contribute to the section, and Levithan deftly conveys each speaker without naming him or her.

Occassionally the experimentations with form and style detracts from the content, but Levithan hits his mark with The Patron Saint of Stoners, humorous and heart-wrenching in one swoop, and A Cue from Nature: “Run outside during a thunderstom/That downpour, that conquered hesitation, that exhilaration/That’s what unlonely is like.” Possibility, the final poem is magnificant in it’s prose-like summation and brings the book full circle – like a ring.

The full representation of the teen experience makes the book a winner. The teal blue cover and claddagh ring on the cover give it a girly vibe. Purchase for your teens to sigh over the deep truth of lines like “once time is lit, it will burn/ whether or not you’re breathing it in./ even after smoke becomes air/there is a memory of smoke.”

Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy by Sonya Sones

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Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy by Sonya Sones

Sones, Sonya. Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy. Harper Teen, 2016 (reprint). ISBN 978-0064462181 160 pp. $10.99

*****

In Stop Pretending, the unconventional (for the times of the original publication date) topic of mental illness is addressed in a unique way from a new voice: narrator Cookie uses poetry to express her confusion, grief, rage, fear, and hope when the older sister she idolizes checks into a mental hospital. This trauma overshadows and flavors the traditional struggles of being a teen: peer acceptance, family squabbles, first love.

Sones’s simple poems reveal raw emotion with immediate honesty and eloquence. Teens will empathize with Cookie and her family’s experience. A brief author’s note describes her personal experiences the book grew out of. Organizations that provide and support are listed. A must have.

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

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Creech, Sharon. Love That Dog. HarperCollins, 2001. ISBN  978-0064409599 128 pp. $9.99

*****

With apologies to Creech and Myers: Love that book / Like a dragon loves to hoard / I said I love that book / Like a dragon loves to hoard / Love to read it in the morning / Love to see it / Win a Newbery award.

Elementary school student Jack, convinced that only girls write poetry, completes his poetry assignments in a journal that is part monologue to his teacher and part homework and all poetry (whether he realizes it or not). Jack’s enthusiasm for the genre slowly grows until Walter Dean Myer’s poem “Love That Boy” inspires an invitation for an author visit.

This novel in verse is much a glimpse in the writing process as it is an example of the power of words connect us, and a story of a boy and the golden dog he loves. As an added bonus, the first stanzas of the classic poems Ms. Stretchberry assigns are appended. This is excellent work by award-winning novelist Creech, who has a talent for writing about journeys and growths of all kinds, and a lovely tribute to award-winning author Walter Dean Myers. Highly recommended for purchase.

Review by Beth Gallaway

Split Image by Mel Glenn

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Split Image by Mel Glenn

Glenn, Mel. Split Image. Harper Teen, 2002. ISBN 978-0060004811 160 pp. $

*****

Her father sees her as a little girl, her brother sees her as a servant, her mother sees her as the fruition of her own hopes and dreams for a perfect Chinese American daughter, and her classmates and teachers see her alternately as a virgin, a nympho, a boyfriend stealer, standoffish, warmhearted, perfect, and popular. Can all these things be part of just one person? They can; “People see who or what they want anyway,” says Laura Li in this story in poems about identity, perception, and reality.

Glenn’s writing is brilliant. He has a powerful grasp on language, and so many words have double meanings. Metaphors of photography are subtle. Friends act as chemicals; as the perception of Laura Li is filtered through the views of her acquantainences like a photo in developer, a picture emerges of a girl who struggles with her family, her culture, and her peers. When she takes a job in the school library, Laura seems to become confidant to all, but she doesn’t go to anyone but Doc with the burden of her problems.

In spite of such serious subjects as prejudice, parent-child interactions, suspected pregnancy, and suicide, there is humor in this book. Glenn plays with words, creating puns and concrete poetry. Like Laura herself, the book contains many facets that work together to create a portrait of a troubled young woman.

The characters are vividly drawn in a few words, and the librarian will have colleagues cheering. Especially amusing are a list of misunderstood book titles (Death by a Salesman, Raisin Eaten by a Son) and the euphamism of checking out books for dating (Can I take you out? / Can I put you on hold? / Can I put a reserve on you / What do you mean, / you “don’t circulate?”).

The cover art, an orange frame that exposes the reader to a partial image of an Asian face, is appropriate, but could have been made as innovative as the text. The title, too, could have been improved upon; split implies “two” and Laura had many sides. The small size is perfect, a tad smaller than Glenn’s other books. This may not be a book that will leap off the shelves, but place it in the hands of reluctant readers and poetry fans, and it will be a hit. An excellent addition to YA collections in school or public libraries.