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3 Great YA Novels in Verse by Authors of Color

Tirzah Price

Senior Contributing Editor

Most of Tirzah Price's life decisions have been motivated by a desire to read as many books as humanly possible. Tirzah holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and has worked as an independent bookseller and librarian. She’s also the author of the Jane Austen Murder Mysteries, published by HarperTeen, and Bibliologist at TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations. Follow her on Twitter @TirzahPrice.

Flatiron Books, publisher of Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is “an alluring feminist fairy tale” (Kirkus Reviews) about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse.

This year has been pretty great if you love YA novels in verse! On my radar are three excellent YA novels in verse by authors of color, ranging in theme from family and sisterhood to social justice and poetry as resistance. Whether you love the form and can’t get enough or you want to try a novel in verse for the first time, I highly recommend picking up these three books!

Turtle Under IceTurtle Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario

Rowena and Ariana are sisters who have drifted apart after the death of their mother. Then one morning, Rowena wakes up and Ariana is nowhere to be found. Not only did she disappear, she left in the middle of the night, while a snowstorm raged. Rowena begins desperately searching for her sister, and along the way she’ll have to face the fact that she may be part of the reason why Ariana left. This is a fantastic dual point-of-view novel in verse about a family fractured by grief. I listened to the audiobook, which has two different narrators for each sister, and is excellent!

Clap When You LandClap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Elizabeth Acevedo returns to the novel in verse form in her most recent release, which is the dual POV story of two sisters who learn of each other’s existence when their beloved father dies. Yahaira lives in New York, and Camino lives in the Dominican Republic, but their worlds collide the day their father’s plane falls from the sky. Dealing with grief and shocked at the secrets their father kept, the two sisters must find a way to connect, honor their father’s memory, and forge a tentative new relationship. Elizabeth Acevedo’s releases are always must-read on audio for me as long as she narrates the herself, which she does here—she narrates Yahaira’s sections, while Melania-Luisa Marte narrates Camino’s sections in a powerful performance of an incredible story.

And if you haven’t yet, read Acevedo’s award-winning debut novel in verse, The Poet X!

Punching the AirPunching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

Put this incredible book on your radar for September! Written by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam, one of the Exonerated Five, it tells the story of Amal Shahid, a Black teen poet. Amal is trying to navigate a racist school and society the best he can, but when he’s present during an altercation that escalates out of control quickly. Amal finds himself accused, convicted, and sentenced for a crime he didn’t commit. Amal sinks into despair and anger, left with only his words and creative talent to try to rewrite his story.

What are some of your favorite YA novels in verse? Let us know on our YA Instagram page, @BookRiotYA!

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