Poetry has the unique ability to capture our darkest hours and deepest emotions while shattering the standards of a typical prose novel. One of the large formats that is rapidly gaining popularity is the verse novel, or a novel told in verse rather than pure prose. Novels in verse combine a compelling story with a stark, powerful and complex poetry that strikes readers with emotion. Through poetry, writers can transcend the limits of prose and introduce writing that breaks conventional rules of grammar and language. The result is a book that reaches readers who themselves experience dark emotions that defy description.
In these nine dark verse novels told in powerful poems, the characters face a variety of challenges and find a way forward to overcome their challenges. The verse helps them express difficult emotions and tragic events. In a way, verse novels help heal the experience of darkness. In this list of nine great novels in verse, you will find a range of books in both young adult literature and adult literature. They explore a range of topics, such as trauma, mental health, friendships, coming of age, violence and trauma. Whether you’re new to the genre or just looking to get started reading verse novels, there’s one for you in this compilation of nine dark verse novels.
Because I am a piece of furniture by Thalia Chaltas
In this dark verse novel by YA, Anke lives in a house where her brother and sister are victims of their father’s abuse. Somehow Anke is spared, but the trauma of growing up in an abusive home still weighs on her. When making the school volleyball team, Anke finds a positive outlet for her naturally turbulent emotions. Thalia Chaltas’ novel mixes a gripping story with beautiful, punchy verses.
Chlorine sky by L. Browne Mahogany
When we are young, the unstoppable strength of our friendships couldn’t strike any harder. The friends we have in our youth feel as epic and fatal as any relationship with a lover. And it is these types of links that Mahogany L. Browne deals with in his verse novel by YA. Chlorine sky. Our heroine, Sky, struggles to keep a friendship as she and her best friend go in different directions. The loss of a friendship can be as searing and emotional as a breakup, as Sky learns in this dark verse novel.
Dreaming of you by Melissa Lozada-Oliva
This YA novel in verse is both quirky and dark. Melissa is a young Latinx woman obsessed with writing and reading poetry, an outlet for her loneliness and grief. During one session, Melissa brings to life Selena Quintanilla, the legendary iconic and revolutionary pop singer of Tejano. But the act has serious repercussions for Melissa. Told in the skillful verses of Lozada-Oliva, Dreaming of you stars a heroine of unforgettable ferocity in a story that literally sends her to hell and back.
Impulse by Ellen Hopkins
Located in a psychiatric hospital, Impulse is a series debut by Ellen Hopkins, one of YA literature’s most iconic verse novelists. YA novel Impulse follows three young adult patients trying to recover and regain hope with varying levels of success. When their stories become entangled with each other, Vanessa, Tony, and Connor find the complexity of their connection to be electric, in good and bad.
Long way down by Jason Reynolds
Will, 15, walks into an elevator with a pistol ready to come out and avenge his brother’s murder as soon as he reaches the ground floor of his apartment building. But his journey is interrupted as the ghosts of people he knows who have been victims of armed violence follow one another floor after floor. This heartfelt and engaging YA novel in verse by award-winning author Jason Reynolds is as twisted as it is heartfelt. Will grabs you and doesn’t let go as you encourage him to put the gun down and get over his grief in another way.
Northwood by Maryse Meijer
At Maryse Meijer Northwood adult novel in verse, a promising young artist flees to a cabin in the woods to better concentrate on her art. Meanwhile, she begins a volatile intimate relationship with a married neighbor. Their intensely moving and deeply passionate love story and the consequences of their separation are told in Meijer’s visceral verses in a distinguished and raw voice.
Pointy teeth by Toby Barlow
This adult horror novel in verse by Toby Barlow takes place in the seedy underworld of Los Angeles where rival werewolf gangs constantly clash. When dog catcher Anthony falls in love with a female werewolf who roams him solo after breaking her pact, the limits of their love are tested. Pointy teeth capture all the conflict between the packs that sweeps through the groups of bloodthirsty and ready to kill werewolves. Violent and sometimes funny, Pointy teeth is a dark verse novel that any horror fan will want to add to their TBR.
Yell by Laurie Halse Anderson
Known for her lyrical prose, beloved author Laurie Halse Anderson shows off her talents as a poet in Yell, a YA thesis in verse. Anderson reflects on how his early trauma, famous in his groundbreaking novel Speak, had a ripple effect on his life. With a propulsive narrative style, daring poetry, a flawless sense of realism and shatteringly crisp images, Yell is a must read for anyone who enjoys dark verse novels, and a thought-provoking story for those struggling with trauma and depression.
The girl and the goddess by Nikita Gill
In her first verse novel, famous poet Nikita Gill mixes myth and legend with the raw truth of life as a young woman at the intersection of identities. Paro, the sympathetic and rambling Gill heroine you’ll love, travels her life from childhood to her older years in this adult verse novel with a nod to Hindu mythology. These linked poems, along with Gill’s evocative illustrations, prove why Gill is one of the most daring, provocative, and esteemed poets of his generation.
Want more novels in verse? Check out more Book Riot novels in the verse cover below: