Monday, January 24, 2011

Verse and the Novel

Even a few years back, I had no clue what a verse novel was.
Infact, the idea kind of scared me away. How can an entire novel be written in verse? Methought it was perhaps for the ones more poetically inclined. Don't get me wrong. I love poetry (it's what got me into this whole writing thing), but I was confused as to how I'd feel about reading a novel in verse.

But verse novels are becoming increasingly popular. I'd put it on the fact that readers are more open to experimental writing forms now. With writers like Lisa Schroeder and Ellen Hopkins, who dabble in verse novels alone, it's found a steady fan-base in the YA market as well.

I've been curious about the whole deal about verse novels. I've been wondering about lots of things - do characters have normal conversations in verse novels? Do the feelings conveyed always have to be 'poetic'? How are details explained in such little verses? etc.

All that was until I read Samantha Schutz's You Are Not Here, which was a lovely gift from Melissa Walker, at a very difficult period of my life. You Are Not Here is the story of a girl grieving the death of the boy she shared an indefinable relationship with and it is told in stunning, haunting verses. It's such a beautiful book, re-reading it acts as a sort of therapy. This was my first full-length verse novel, and guess what, I'm a total fangirl now. All that confusion and doubt, they don't stand a chance, 'cause, verse novels despite their brevity convey so much in so little.
From Samantha Schutz, I shall move on to Lisa Schroeder (her books look and sound lovely!) and Ellen Hopkins (Her books sound just my thing) and explore this whole new territory, 'cause now I'm hooked.

Besides full length verse novels, there are novels which do sprinkle verses throughout them but keep the balance between prose and poetry. The first name that comes to mind? Angela Morrison. Her Taken By Storm trilogy (Taken By Storm, Unbroken Connection, Cayman Summer) tell the story of Leesie and Michael. The unique element? Leesie's PoV is told in verse, while Michael's PoV is expressed via his dive journal entries. This same writing technique is applied throughout the three books.
Verses do not just add a 'poetic' element to the book. Their sole purpose is not to be merely beautiful or decorative. In Jandy Nelson's The Sky Is Everywhere, Lennie's verses do not just sing about her grief but also give a glimpse of the past she shared with the sister who is no longer there. Denise Jaden's Losing Faith has been said to have employed a similar technique.

No, verse novels are probably not for everyone, but they have a fan-base that swears by them. For me, in spite of the questions that might have crossed my mind, it isn't so much about what kind of a novel it is, but about the story it tells me. All these books, in spite of their differences, tell us the human story. Each in itself is a study of human relationships and these are the relationships that I want to understand. This is why I read.

And this is why I shall continue to read forever and ever.
And someday, I hope I can write a verse novel too. For the life of me, I can't understand how talented these writers are to say so much in so little words. But a verse (or semi-verse) novel now definitely falls into the dream bag.

What do you think about verse novels? What are some of your favourites?
I'm expanding my list. So tell me.

14 comments:

  1. Love verse novels. :) Nice post! I like the whole dynamic that they bring to YA as a whole.

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  2. I've never read a verse novel, but after reading your wonderful take on them, I'm tempted to go out and buy at least one.

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  3. You are absolutely right - story is always the most important thing.

    For me, I like how the verse creates an atmosphere I couldn't get with regular prose. That, and it allows me to get to the emotional core of the story.

    Not all stories will work in verse. But when it does, I love it, and I'm thankful to all of my readers who continue to pick up my books!!

    Thanks for a great post!

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  4. I was all set to read Crank until I realized it was all in verse. I like scattered bits of poetry - sometimes, but it's really hard for me not to skip those sections all together. I found myself doing that very thing this weekend when I read Linger. Thing is, I do like poetry, but I have to be in the mood to read it. I'm not sure why, maybe because I feel like I have to think more?? Haha. I guess I'm in that category of it not being for me. Then again, if the right one came along...

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  5. Interesting. I'm actually giving my first verse novel a try pretty soon! So I'm pretty excited now!

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  6. Great post, Bee. Two of my friends have written beautiful verse novels I think you'll love. SHARK GIRL by Kelly Bingham and Ellen Yeoman's RUBBER HOUSES. And you should read OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse. She was one of the first to write verse novels. And she remains a genius the rest of us can only read and sigh over.

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  7. I'd been curious about this too, but somehow never tried one out. There's an adult horror novel called Sharp Teeth I stumbled across, but haven't read yet. A verse novel about werewolves. It piqued my interest.

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  8. I really need to read more books in verse. I love poetry too, and I think the idea of verse novels is really interesting. I've only read one...but it was good. It's Because I Am Furniture. Very emotional.

    -Lauren

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  9. Hey Bee! You won "Torn to Pieces" from adopt-a-book Friday. Would you kindly send me your address so I can mail it to you?

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  10. I want to read one of these novels soon! I like poetry, but I agree it's a bit of work for me to write and read it, more so than prose.

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  11. I don't think I've ever read a verse novel but I have to say that I ADORE THE COVERS so maybe I should give them a chance!

    Thanks for giving me a detailed description of what it was!! I really like learning about new reads!

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  12. I SO want to read the Samantha Schutz novel you have pictured there because I absolutely ADORED her first one. I must admit I haven't read any of Ellen Hopkins' novels, but as a rule I **love** novels in verse. They're so pretty! And can tell a story in such a different way than prose does.

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  13. i used to be totes against the idea of verse novels too. but then as they began gaining popularity, i figured i might give em a try. ive yet to read any, but judging by the excerpts ive read, they seem great!

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  14. Thanks so much for the shout out!sam
    www.samanthaschutz.net

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