I’ve found YA verse novels to be incredibly powerful in imagery and emotional intensity, and certainly ‘social-realism novels’ as described by Margaret Cook in her article in The Age: The triumph of hope.Joy Alexander (2005) charts the development of the form from Brenda Seabrooke's Judy Scuppernong (1990) through Australia's first verse novel (is it?), Steven Herrick's Love, Ghosts and Nose Hair (1996), Libby Hathorn's Volcano Boy (the one I haven't read yet) and VNs from Americans, Karen Hesse and Sharon Creech (Love that Dog).
Catherine Bateson's His name in fire (2006) chronicles a short time in a high-unemployment/high-birth-rate country town. Like another of Catherine's verse novels, A Dangerous Girl (2000), this narrative in verse features an outsider coming to an established group. In both there are consequences of this intrusion, but in His name the consequence is more hopeful, or hopeful without the painful despair of a suicide attempt climax as in ADG. YA verse novels can be recognised as valuable reading material for all students. They show that poetry can be contemporary and real and reflective of one’s own life and culture. Using a first person viewpoint connects readers to the story, and the presentation of opposing viewpoints shows a fuller picture of each character – their responses, and others’ responses to them. His name in fire provides readers with a reference point to examine their own beliefs and values, question their own responses to situations. Would you be patient with Emma? Would you stay in this town? Would you participate in a circus? There would be so many activities you could do with this; Two students as Emma and Matthew intertwining their monologues, research on work-for-the-dole programs (and yes, I agree with Mozza, the circus did have more razzamataz than a planting native grasses project!) (although that would be environmentally positive…), podcasting some of each character's narrative, exploring the representations of family, place and fathers in YA verse novels (and YA fiction generally).... or, of course, just read them for fun.
Alexander, J. (2005). The Verse-novel: A new genre. Children's Literature in Education. 36(3) Septemberp. 269-283. Retrieved 29 March 2008 from EbscoHost.
Here's a link to YMRL's Youth Lounge with a list of verse novels, and here's my list of Australian verse novels that I have read, and can recommend (various ages/stages of development):
Cold Skin / Steven Herrick (most recently listed as an Older Readers' Notable in the CBCA awards, not quite making the shortlist)
The Spangled Drongo / Steven Herrick
Love, Ghosts and Nose Hair / Steven Herrick
A Place Like This / Steven Herrick
By the River / Steven Herrick
Lonesome Howl / Steven Herrick
The Simple Gift / Steven Herrick
Do-Wrong Ron / Steven Herrick
A Dangerous Girl / Catherine Bateson
The Year it All Happened / Catherine Bateson
His Name in Fire / Catherine Bateson
Jinx / Margaret Wild
One Night / Margaret Wild.