Verse novels often come to people as a surprise. I’ve spoken to many, including my own publisher whose first response is something akin to “Verse novels for teens? Is that a thing?”
It’s very much a thing, and not just for teens, although narratives for young readers seem uniquely suited to novels in verse. Verse novels are growing in popularity; dozens of verse novels are published every year and verse novels have won a wide range of top awards including the coveted Newbery, which went to OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse in 1998. THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate in 2012 and CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander in 2015. OUT OF THE DUST can certainly be considered a seminal novel in verse for young readers.
The below is an incomplete list of some of the most important, influential and/or popular verse novels (biased towards those written originally in English) for middle grade, teen or adult readers.
Middle Grade (8-12 years old)
LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech
SHAKESPEARE BATS CLEAN UP by Ron Koertge
LOCOMOTION by Jacqueline Woodson
OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse
INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN by Thanhha Lai
Teen/Young Adult (13+)
CRANK by Ellen Hopkins
STOP PRETENDING: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy by Sonya Sones
KEESHA’S HOUSE by Helen Frost
UNDER THE MESQUITE by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
I HEART YOU YOU HAUNT ME by Lisa Schroeder
GOLDEN GATE by Vikram Seth
SHARP TEETH by Toby Barlow
THE MONKEY’S MASK by Dorothy Porter
TRIANGLES by Ellen Hopkins
Classics (epic poems)
PARADISE LOST by John Milton
INFERNO by Dante Alighieri
THE ODYSSEY and THE ILIAD by Homer
BEOWULF – Author unknown, Old English
LE MORTE D’ARTHUR by Sir Thomas Mallory
FAUST by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Several blogs and websites give lists of novels in verse. Here are some links to get you started.
YARR-A, an Australia YA review site has a whole section dedicated to novels in verse.
A whole lot of verse novels reviewed at Devour Books.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh gives a short but pithy list.
Clear Eyes Full Shelves recently did a whole week celebrating verse novels.
Born Bookish has a verse novel reading challenge for 2012
Connected Youth presents a varied list
The Guardian (UK) weighs in with their top ten novels in verse for adults.
Verse novelist Sarah Tregay has amassed a very comprehensive list.
Dover Public Library offers their own collection.
Rochester Hill Library offers another list.
Edmonton Public Library gives some suggestions for younger readers.
Scholastic summarizes their offerings.
Another Pinterest board moderated by SHS Library Elmira, NY
Lunashee has a colorful list.
Ann Arbor District Library has compiled a list of YA verse novels.
Color in Colorado has a list of verse novels of particular interest to young readers of color.