Since April is National Poetry Month, I thought I’d feature reviews of a couple of recent YA verse novels. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Your Heart My Sky by Margarita Engle
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers on March 23, 2021
Genres: Historical Fiction, Verse, Young Adult
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Gaby D'Allesandro
Acclaimed author Margarita Engle tells a painful, poignant story of love in a time of hunger inspired by her own family’s struggles during a dark period in Cuba’s history.
The people of Cuba are living in el periodo especial en tiempos de paz—the special period in times of peace. That’s what the government insists that this era must be called, but the reality behind these words is starvation.
Liana is struggling to find enough to eat. Yet hunger has also made her brave: she finds the courage to skip a summer of so-called volunteer farm labor, even though she risks government retribution. Nearby, a quiet, handsome boy named Amado also refuses to comply, so he wanders alone, trying to discover rare sources of food.
A chance encounter with an enigmatic dog brings Liana and Amado together. United in hope and hunger, they soon discover that their feelings for each other run deep. Love can feed their souls and hearts—but is it enough to withstand el periodo especial?
Your Heart My Sky highlights a time in Cuba’s history that many people don’t know about: “The special period in times of peace.” Sounds wonderful, right? Well, I suppose that’s how the government wanted people to see it, but many people in Cuba were actually starving during this time (I was amazed to find out this took place in 1991—I was in high school at this time and had absolutely no idea what was happening to people in Cuba). The story follows Liana and Amado, both students who are avoiding the country’s “voluntary” summer work program and trying to scrounge up enough food to stay alive. Dodging their duties is enough to be seen as a traitor and find themselves arrested, so it only feels like one more dangerous step when they begin to aid people fleeing the country on makeshift rafts, and one more when they learn to grow an illegal garden. Plus, they know that Amado will be forced into the military once he’s sixteen or face imprisonment like his brother. The two fall in love and have to decide whether to stay in Cuba and fight for a better life there or brave the dangerous seas and flee. The book is written in a beautifully poetic style (it feels more like poetry than many of the verse novels I’ve read), and the stakes are incredibly high. I think this book will stick with me for a very long time.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Turtle Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario
Published by Simon Pulse on February 11, 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Verse, Young Adult
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Adams Carvalho
A teen navigates questions of grief, identity, and guilt in the wake of her sister’s mysterious disappearance in this breathtaking novel-in-verse from the author of 500 Words or Less—perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo.
Rowena feels like her family is a frayed string of lights that someone needs to fix with electrical tape. After her mother died a few years ago, she and her sister, Ariana, drifted into their own corners of the world, each figuring out in their own separate ways how to exist in a world in which their mother is no longer alive.
But then Ariana disappears under the cover of night in the middle of a snowstorm, leaving no trace or tracks. When Row wakes up to a world of snow and her sister’s empty bedroom, she is left to piece together the mystery behind where Ariana went and why, realizing along the way that she might be part of the reason Ariana is gone.
Haunting and evocative—and told in dual perspectives—Turtle Under Ice examines two sisters frozen by grief as they search for a way to unthaw.
Turtle Under Ice explores the many ways that grief can shape a life. Row and Ariana’s mother died six years ago, but the loss has carved a hole into their lives that has never been able to be completely filled. Ariana, especially, hasn’t been able to move on from her grief completely because she was there when her mother died and the trauma affected her in ways she can’t define. When the girls’ stepmother has a miscarriage, it brings all that grief back to the forefront for them both. Ariana heads out into a snowstorm without telling anyone, and Row worries that her bond with her sister might be stretching too thin. The book is told in dual POV and partially in flashbacks as the two try to figure out how to process their feelings without denying them. The ending is especially wonderful, as the two sisters finally come together and understand each other more deeply than they ever have before.
***Disclosure: I received this book for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***