Are you looking for some fresh and exciting new books to engage your high school students? Novels in verse could be the answer! These poetic narratives are not only beautiful to read, but they also offer a dynamic and engaging way to approach literature. Read on to learn about some of the best high school novels in verse to add to your reading list and inspire your students to fall in love with poetry.
Whether you are planning a novel in verse literature circle, considering a whole class novel in verse study, or simply adding to your independent reading library, this guest post will give you lots of ideas for picking out novels in verse that high schoolers will love.
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Samantha Green, an instructional coach and former high school ELA teacher from Florida, loves reading and sharing diverse novels on Instagram and is here to share her favorites with you.
As an instructional coach, one of the most common questions I get from teachers is “What are the best novels in verse for high school ELA classes?” It is understandable because novels in verse serve a multitude of purposes. They can be more approachable for striving readers or reluctant readers. Also, this unique writing style allows for a deep study of an author’s craft standards. They also go far in building a reader’s community! Some amazing writers have stood out in this genre such as Jason Reynolds and Elizabeth Acevedo, and their books should be classroom standards. Reynolds’ Long Way Down hooks the reader in and allows them to travel with the main character Will on his journey. Acevedo also has a way to immerse her readers into cultures while reading Clap When You Land or PoetX. In addition to these popular titles, let me share five more high school novels in verse with you to add to your classroom library or teaching toolkit.
5 Novels in Verse for High School ELA
White Rose by Kip Wilson
White Rose eloquently recounts the story of one anti-Nazi resistance group during WWII. Readers are able to follow the main character’s emergence from an ordinary student into an activist. This novel is rich in imagery and figurative language and parallels with any Holocaust or genocide unit.
This book is ideal for high school students who are interested in history, social justice, and the power of resistance. It would also be a great addition to the historical fiction literature circle. Get ideas here: Literature Circle Novels in Verse Activities
Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
Inspired by the wrongful incarceration of co-author Yusef Salaam, this poignant novel in verse offers a raw and deeply moving exploration of the juvenile justice system and the systemic racism that leads to the main character being convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. The title is symbolic of his desire not to be silenced and to maintain his humanity.
This book will interest high school students who are passionate about social justice, art, and spoken word poetry. Find more recommendations here: 5 Empowering Black Character Books
Moth by Amber McBride
Topics of identity and dealing with grief are concepts that the writer of this high school novel in verse helps students explore. Along the same idea of classics such as Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, our main character goes on a journey as a way to cope with the loss of her parents. Don’t miss out on sharing with students this National Book Finalist.
This book is perfect for high school students who are interested in coming-of-age stories, social justice, and the transformative power of the arts. Find more recommendations here: Diverse Books for Middle and High School Classrooms
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The memoir by famed writer Jacqueline Woodson not only offers a glimpse into her personal journey but also offers valuable insight into the African-American experience during and after the Great Migration. She shares the journey of discovery by weaving in stories of her childhood living in the South.
This one is also appropriate for middle school students. Since novels in verse tap into reading and comprehension skills beyond traditional Lexile levels, several novels in verse overlap from middle to high school and can interest a wide range of readers. You can find more recommendations in this post: Literature Circle Novels in Verse Activities for Middle School ELA
Home Is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo
The last novel in verse suggestion for high school classrooms is Home Is Not a Country. It is a compelling novel that speaks to the universal quest for belonging and understanding one’s place in the world. Elhillo’s writing provides readers with an exploration of the main character Nima’s inner world, emotions, and growth which makes this book perfect for coming-of-age units.
This book will appeal to high school students who are interested in immigrant stories, cultural identity, and the beauty of language. If you need novel in verse activities that help you teach language, theme, and more, check out this activity pack: Novel in Verse Vault
Reading high school novels in verse can offer unique benefits. It can enhance students’ appreciation for language and poetry and foster a deeper understanding of literary techniques. The rhythmic format and condensed storytelling make it more approachable for all readers.