21 Middle Grade and YA Novels in Verse for National Poetry Month

Here are 21 recent YA and middle grade titles that favor poetry over prose, perfect for sharing during National Poetry Month.

From Lisa Fipps's Starfish to Amber McBride's Me (Moth), these 21 novels in verse for middle grade and teens favor poetry over prose. Share them during National Poetry Month and all yearlong.


Middle Grade

The Magical Imperfect by Chris Baron. Feiwel & Friends. Jun. 2021. ISBN 9781250767820.
Gr 3-7–Etan has become selectively mute since his mother left. He spends most of his time with his grandfather in his jewelry shop. Delivering a package outside of his San Francisco neighborhood, Etan befriends Malia, known by kids as “the Creature” because of her eczema. This novel in verse depicts a beautiful friendship, a dose of history, and a pinch of magical realism set against the backdrop of the 6.9 magnitude earthquake that devastated the area in 1989.

 Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac. Dial. Jun. 2021. ISBN 9780593326213.
Gr 3-8–While her parents are sheltering in place in Boston, Malian, an eighth grade Penacook girl, tries to keep herself and her grandparents safe from COVID-19 on their reservation. In this novel in verse, Bruchac takes a look at life in lockdown through the eyes of a girl coping with boredom, isolation, and the need to find her place. The text addresses residential schools, relocation, and forced sterilization, as well as racial justice and the disproportionate way that COVID-19 spread in marginalized communities.

Turn the Tide by Elaine Dimopoulos. Clarion. Mar. 2022. ISBN 9780358538158. 
Gr 4-7–When 12-year-old Mimi and her family move from Massachusetts to Wilford Island, FL, Mimi faces the awkwardness of making friends at a new school, finding time to practice piano, and watching her parents stress over their restaurant opening. After becoming inspired by young environmental activists who got plastic bags banned in Bali, Mimi works to bring awareness of plastic pollution and minimize plastic bag use in her new hometown—but not without a few bumps along the way. 

Home Is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo. Random/Make Me a World. Mar. 2021. ISBN 9780593177051.
Gr 6 Up–Sudanese American poet Elhillo invites readers into her dreamlike story of 15-year-old Nima, who struggles with loneliness and the possibilities of the road not taken. In this novel in verse, Elhillo shows readers the beauty of what could have been, and the pain of being labeled a terrorist. When Nima’s best friend, Haitham, is attacked, a series of dangerous events unfold, yet readers are given no real resolution. Told in three parts, the flow is a bit disjointed, but overall this is a quick and engaging story.

Wave by Diana Farid. Cameron Kids. Mar. 2022. ISBN 9781951836580.
Gr 5 Up–Ava’s eighth grade year goes with the tumble of the waves she loves to surf as the young Persian girl battles the weight of her mother’s expectations against her love for music and her best friend, Phoenix. When Phoenix’s cancer comes back, Ava’s grief takes over as they fight against the odds and for every moment with each other. Farid’s poetry rides the page like a wave, charting the ups and downs of Ava’s emotions. A lyrical novel in verse bearing the weight of childhood cancer and loss, but also with the lift of coming into one’s own as an early teen and finding the right wave to ride. A solid addition to middle school libraries; encourage older readers to take a chance on it, as well.

 Starfish by Lisa Fipps. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. Mar. 2021. ISBN 9781984814500.
Gr 5 Up–Eleven-year-old Ellie has been bullied most of her life for being fat. The mean girls are bad enough, but her weight-obsessed mother might be her worst critic. With the encouragement of a new therapist, Ellie learns to confront her attackers. As she breaks down her restrictive, self-imposed rules, Ellie begins to accept the unconditional love she deserves. Fipps’s empowering, feel-good novel in verse shines, especially given the dearth of body-positive examples for young readers

 Samira Surfs by Rukhsanna Guidroz. illus. by Fahmida Azim. Kokila. Jun. 2021. ISBN 9781984816191.
Gr 4-8–Written in verse, this well-paced novel weaves Burmese history and the plight of the Rohingya, a persecuted predominately Muslim ethnic minority. This compelling novel spotlights the history and contemporary circumstances of the Rohingya while tackling universal themes of friendship, belonging, and identity. Pair with other works about trailblazing young women, such as Julie Abery’s Yusra Swims or a biography of Malala Yousafzai.

Reckless, Glorious, Girl by Ellen Hagan. Bloomsbury. Feb. 2021. ISBN 9781547604609.
Gr 6 Up–This novel in verse explores the anxiety that adolescent girls often feel on the brink of becoming young women. This title will resonate with readers who aren’t ready to leave childhood behind but who don’t feel like kids anymore. Recommended for libraries in need of verse novels and relatable coming-of-age tales.

Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Feb. 2021. ISBN 9780063047426.
Gr 5 Up–Thirteen-year-old Reha feels conflicted over her Indian American identity because of the expectations of her family, the predominantly white spaces she inhabits during the week, and how to fit into both. When Reha’s mother falls seriously ill, the family must come together for an unimaginable future. With tragedy looming, Reha figures out how to unite these parts of herself. This historical fiction novel in verse set in 1983 is a timely, heartrending tale.

Fix by J. Albert Mann. Little, Brown. May 2021. ISBN 9780316493499.
Gr 7 Up–Alternating between verse and prose, this novel follows a white 16-year-old named Eve through her recovery from surgery to correct the curve in her spine caused by scoliosis. A fight with her best friend Lidia just before surgery leaves Eve struggling alone with her suddenly unfamiliar body afterward. In an effort to avoid physical and emotional pain, Eve becomes more and more reliant on the opiate Roxanol. A devastating and beautiful read that clearly shows the complexities of addiction, fear, love, and friendship.

 The Lost Language by Claudia Mills. Holiday House/Margaret Ferguson Bks. Oct. 2021. ISBN 9780823450381.
Gr 4 Up–Reserved Betsy trails in the wake of two domineering women in her life: her mother and her BFF, Lizard. Mom, a career-obsessed linguistics professor, has little time for Betsy or her devoted father. Mom’s not fond of Lizard, whom she (ironically) thinks is too controlling. Betsy is aware of the imbalance in both relationships, but isn’t ready to challenge them yet. Betsy’s first-person narration is engaging and will speak to the many young readers who feel quashed by stronger personalities all around them. 

Everywhere Blue by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz. Holiday House. Jun. 2021. ISBN 9780823448623.
Gr 4-7–Musical and poetic, this is a brave, rich debut novel about mental health and climate change. The book is written in verse, and the plot is broken into four narrative segments and utilizes musical terminology like diminuendo in the beginning and crescendo at the end. Libraries need more titles featuring young people who care about climate change and live with undiagnosed mental illness, and this fresh novel in verse fits the bill.

Amber and Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz. illus. by Julia Iredale. Candlewick. Mar. 2021. ISBN 9781536201222.
Gr 5 Up–Two children from vastly different backgrounds—one common as clay, artistic and bright; the other precious as amber, wild, and forceful—share stories of hardship and hope, life and death in this historical fantasy told as a Greek tragedy. Share with readers who enjoyed other works by Schlitz or Finding Wonders by Jeannine Atkins, or for whom Katherine Marsh’s Jepp, Who Defied the Stars is perhaps too mature.

Miles from Motown by Lisa Sukenic. Fitzroy Bks. Aug. 2021. ISBN 9781646030644.
Gr 4-6–It’s the summer of 1967 and rising seventh grader Georgia’s life is changing in this coming-of-age novel in verse. Her family is moving from Detroit to an unfamiliar suburb seven miles away. Lyrical prose keeps the story moving and readers will be rooting for Georgia. An additional historical fiction purchase that will resonate with readers facing change as Georgia builds resiliency.


Young Adult

 Muted by Tami Charles. Scholastic. Feb. 2021. ISBN 9781338673524.
Gr 10 Up–Living in Shohola Falls, PA, Haitian American 17-year-old Denver and her friends Dalisay, who is Dominican, and Shakira, who is Black, sing in an R&B group called Angelic Voices. When they are noticed by popular singer and producer Sean “Mercury” Ellis, their world, which looks bright and promising, becomes full of deceit and isolation. Charles’s heartbreaking novel-in-verse shows the harsh realities of the music industry and runs parallel to the real-life #MuteRKelly and #MeToo movements.

 A Million Quiet Revolutions by Robin Gow. Farrar. Mar. 2022. ISBN 9780374388416.
Gr 10 Up–Aaron and Oliver are trans boys beginning their senior year of high school. Their plans of a future together come to a halt when an incident causes Aaron’s family to move away. To cope with his loneliness, Oliver dives into history to find stories of queer people. What he finds is a tale of two Revolutionary War soldiers who may have been trans men in love. Aaron and Oliver decide to adopt the names of these soldiers and write letters to each other, hoping to keep their love alive until their next meeting. 

 Me (Moth) by Amber McBride. Feiwel & Friends. Aug. 2021. ISBN 9781250780362.
Gr 8 Up –Moth, sole survivor of a car accident that killed her family, and Sani, a Navajo boy with an abusive stepfather, take a road trip to the Navajo reservation where Sani’s dad lives. As they drive, Sani tells Moth the origin story of the Navajo, and Moth opens up about her grandfather, who taught her hoodoo. This emotional, educational debut novel in verse builds to a beautiful ending.

Angel & Hannah by Ishle Yi Park. One World. May 2021. ISBN 9780593134320.
Gr 9 Up–Hannah, the daughter of Korean immigrants in Queens, meets Angel, a Puerto Rican boy in Brooklyn. Facing discrimination from both of their communities and the larger world, they feel like Romeo and Juliet as they embark on the first love of their lives. Dreams of a future together are ground down by poverty, racism, addiction, and the impacts of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1990s. A realistic love story for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo or James Baldwin.

 When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez. Dial. Sept. 2021. ISBN 9780593324486.
Gr 8 Up–Sarai, a Puerto Rican teen growing up in Bushwick, Brooklyn, struggles with poverty, her Mami’s mental illness, the gentrification of her neighborhood, and more. Through the poems in this debut novel in verse, Sarai finds her voice as she asks questions and learns to celebrate herself.

 The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin by Kip Wilson. Versify/Clarion. Mar. 2022. ISBN 9780358448907.
Gr 9 Up–In this historical novel in verse, 18-year-old Hilde moves out of her Berlin orphanage in 1932 in search of a home to call her own. Struggling to find her footing in the turbulent Weimar Republic, she fortuitously wanders into Café Lila, an LGBT-friendly club in the neighborhood of Charlottenburg. Through her work at Café Lila, Hilde finds the courage to be herself, a queer woman, both onstage and off. An essential purchase for YA collections; recommend to fans of Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo.

 Nothing Burns as Bright as You by Ashley Woodfolk. Versify/Clarion. Apr. 2022. ISBN 9780358655350.
Gr 10 Up–This novel in verse tells the story of a burning first queer love between the unnamed narrator and the somewhat undefined, more-than-friend she refers to as “you.” The narration alternates through time, detailing the history of their intense relationship before and after a pivotal fire that drastically changes their relationship. A masterfully crafted love letter to tumultuous, young, queer love and its lessons.

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