5 Phenomenal YA Poetry Recommendations
Attracting new readers to a genre is an important part of continuing its success. When it comes to poetry, many of the art form’s traits—including its high emotion, genuine expression, and sense of voice—make it accessible and engaging for young people. In fact, poetry reading among young adults doubled between 2012 and 2017, according to a study from The National Endowment for the Arts, and teens continue to be leaders in the slam poetry scene. Explore five titles that can introduce you to YA poetry and grow your love for the genre—whether you’re a young adult yourself, a parent, an educator, or simply a teen at heart.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
In Long Way Down, award-winning YA writer Jason Reynolds takes on the complicated and pressing issue of teenage gun violence, pairing intense subject matter with equally painful and evocative verse. The story, written in free verse poetry, follows a fifteen-year-old boy through his grief and rage, uniquely unfolding in only 60 seconds as he makes a pivotal decision about whether or not to avenge his brother’s death. The momentum of Reynolds’s rhythmic, staccato verse matches this gripping, fast-paced narrative.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
This novel-in-verse, the follow-up to Elizabeth Acevedo’s award-winning YA poetry titles The Poet X and With the Fire on High, features Acevedo’s signature strong female characters and plots that showcase the power of family. The story follows two teenage sisters, tracing their story as they meet each other for the first time after the shocking death of their father. Adding to its YA appeal, Today named this one of 25 books “teens won’t be able to put down” in the summer of 2020.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover, which originated a series, won notable YA awards, like the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Honor Award, and was named a School Library Journal Best Book. The book’s catchy, rhyming verse chronicles the triumphs of 12-year-old Josh Bell as he pursues basketball stardom alongside his twin brother. The middle-grade title is a celebration of both the power of sport and the significance of brotherhood.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson’s iconic Brown Girl Dreaming won the National Book Award and is notably one of Barack Obama’s favorite books. A memoir-in-verse that harkens back to Woodson’s childhood, Brown Girl Dreaming reflects the end of Jim Crow laws and the historic beginnings of the civil rights movement.
What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
This free verse YA classic mirrors confessional poetry, reflecting the relatable and authentic experience of teenage girlhood, first love, and heartbreak. One of the American Library Association’s Top 100 Banned Books of the Decade, the book’s outspoken narrator and realistic experiences allow it to read like a poetic and diaristic YA romance.