For some people, verse novels are unappealing because of the way words are arranged on the page. Others find them too pretentious, too simplistic, too weird. And that’s okay. Readers have the right to feel however they like about certain genres or styles. What I love, though, is when readers are willing to try something new.
I’m finding a number of those who have posted reviews of May B. on Goodreads start in a similar way:
I’ve never read a novel in verse before and wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it. I wondered if it would slow down my reading.
Having never read a novel-in-verse, I intended to check out the first few pages…
This is the first novel in verse I’ve read.
I had never read a novel in verse before…
I generally don’t like verse novels…
This is the first novel-in-verse I’ve read.
And my favorite so far:
I had never before read a novel in verse before, and it was rather a different experience. At first, I was struck by how simple the sentences were, and I thought that the author had simply avoided trying to write more complicated prose. But by the end, I saw it was as it needed to be. The simple structure paralleled May’s own frustrations at reading, and although I know little about dyslexia, I imagine a dyslexic child may find the short lines easier to read than long blocks of text. Thus, May’s story of survival and hope for the future can help the challenged reader because he or she is better able to access her story.
Besides, May’s story is one of survival. Survival is a vital need: why fancy up the text with unnecessary words when just a few will do? Further, such short clipped lines were incredibly powerful in capturing the story, and by the end of the novel, I recognized that writing such poetic and succinct lines was an additional challenge for the author.
I love the way this reader thought about the ways the story’s structure and plot work together! Have you ever read a verse novel? How do you honestly feel about novels in verse? Don’t be afraid to share!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving. I’ll see you again Monday, 28 November.
Natalie Aguirre says
I’ve only read one novel in verse and really enjoyed it. So now I’m excited to read yours.
Faith E. Hough says
There are some novels in verse that I adore, and some that…well, I don’t dislike so much as feel ambivalent toward–like in any genre!
The only reason verse novels sometimes frustrate me is if their story and characters don’t merit telling it in that style; it sometimes feels as if the author is cheating by attaching a gimmick to his/her book that it doesn’t need. When the use is justified–and I love how your reviewer explained the obvious justification in your book!–then I am a firm fan, advocate…basically a won’t-stop-talking-about-how-much-I-love-this-book person. 🙂
I have only read a few novels in verse and from those experiences it’s not something I would pick up. I love the details in traditional novels that paint the picture. I want to know what the character looks like, sounds like and feel like I can play the book in my head like a movie. I have found that listening to a verse on audio works for me. For example I tried to read Crank, but it wasn’t working for me so I listened to it on audio and loved it. I think if there is a verse novel that really draws my attention I would listen to it on audio.
Caroline Starr Rose says
These are really great comments, all.
Like Faith, I agree that just like any genre, there will be books that you like and books that you won’t. Cari, I’m with you! I think the best way to experience poetry is to see, hear, and say it. As I used to tell my students, poetry is meant to be seen and heard. Listening to verse novels (or reading them aloud) is a great way to fully experience the story and the form.
Natalie, thank you. I’m excited for you to read it, too!
I’ve never read modern fiction in verse, but I find it interesting that nowadays it turns some readers off, when verse used to be the almost-exclusive format for storytelling. Since ancient times, when there was a story people wanted to remember, it was put in song, hence the phrase we still use: “unsung heroes.” The idea of prose stories is only a few hundred years old, which sounds pretty old, but isn’t in terms of human history. I’m interested to see how you handle modern expectations of description and dialog in what’s really a very ancient tradition.
Liesl Shurtliff says
I’ve only read OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse. Though I though it was wonderful, I haven’t sought out any other novels in verse. But I’m excited for MAY B!
Amy L. Sonnichsen says
You already know I adore verse novels. Well, of course, not all verse novels (there was one I started and had to stop reading halfway through because it was driving me crazy), but some of my favorite books are verse novels, including MAY B. And I’m not just saying that for brownie points. 🙂
C D Meetens says
I’ve never read a verse novel, but, if there’s a good reason for it, as it seems from that comment there might be, I’d certainly try one.
I like verse novels. I see them as a cross between a poem and a novel, and I like the way the compressed form can cause the emotions to hit you right between the eyes. I’m sure some reluctant readers really appreciate them. They are hi-lo in a different sense, if that doesn’t sound too weird. That said, I don’t think a novel should be written in verse just because that’s a trend. There should be a reason for the structure chosen.
Caroline Starr Rose says
Marcia, I like what you say about the hi-lo quality verse has for reluctant readers. Simultaneously, there’s a depth more advanced readers can find with the same novel. A good verse novel meets readers where they are and let’s them experience what they’re capable of.
I have recently become a big fan of novels in verse after reading Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech (and a big fan of hers as well).
It’s like pulling off a double header victory. A story and a poem. Love it!