Weekly Update, May 12

OK, so it’s kind of in the middle of the week, but here are some thoughts and reminders for you.

I enjoyed and appreciated the discussion yesterday on Hesse’s Witness. It’s intriguing to me that verse novels are popular for young adults (and I think readers, at least those that I’ve observed in classrooms, generally respond favorably to them) but not so common in the real of adult literature (that I know of, at least). Witness is a powerful example of both the genre itself and the potential of the genre to allow for complex, multilayered explorations of the human condition. As some of you noted yesterday, we don’t get to enjoy full characterizations in a verse novel like this, with so many narrative voices, and that might be less satisfactory for us readers. But we do get some significant insights into the condition of bigotry and the courage required to overcome that human weakness thanks to the broad number of voices. And that’s worth a lot, I think, in light of the challenges we sometimes hear to YAL that it can’t be complex as other forms.

If you’re interested in the verse novel and would like to explore those that do provide stronger characterization, I’d recommend you look at Virginia Euwer Wolff’s Make Lemonade [HBLL | Amazon]. Another title that’s attracting a lot of attention right now is Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover [HBLL | Amazon]. Both feature a single narrator with a distinct voice; the former features a young woman who babysits for a teen single mom who’s struggling to get her life together, the latter features a young basketball player who tells his family’s story in verse.

One last thing to note: I will be traveling next week and will have limited access to the Internet. I know the Keyword Project is due at the end of next week, so I’d suggest you get started thinking about the individual essay this week so I can help address any questions you have. I’ve posted links on the assignment page to a couple of model essays from last semester that I hope will give you a sense of my expectations for this piece (in addition to the explanation on the assignment page).