YA Poetry Books for Classroom Book Clubs

Let’s face it – poetry can sometimes get a bad rep in school. Students often interact with poetry only on End-of-grade tests, answering multiple-choice questions on a poem written long ago and on a topic that may not seem relevant to their lives. 

Luckily, poetry is alive and well, thanks in no small part to poets who use their talents to produce Young Adult books of poetry where the poems connect to form an unforgettable story. Books of poetry are perfect for a classroom book study.

A book of poetry is typically quick to read and is accessible to multiple reading levels. The play on words, storylines, characters, and figurative language can offer hours and hours of discussion topics for students to consider. 

The books of poetry below offer stories that resonate with today’s teens, provide diverse perspectives, and will capture any reader’s attention from the first to the last word. See which YA poetry book below would fit the interests of your students! 

Title: Clap When You Land

Author: Elizabeth Acevedo

Year Published: 2020

Written For: Grades 9 – 12

Summary: Camino lives in the Dominican Republic with her Tia, learning to provide medical care for her community. Though she loves her home, she longs to travel to the United States to attend college. Yahaira, a former chess prodigy, lives in New York City with her mother, though she spends most of her time with her girlfriend, Dre. A shared tragedy of a plane crash and a lost father connect these two girls from across the world in more ways than they imagine. 

Themes: Loss, grief, family, community, dreams, societal expectations, ambition, poverty, and generational legacies.

Warnings: There are a few instances of strong language. 

This Book Can Prompt Discussions On: Family secrets, the tourism industry, generational trauma, dealing with grief, defying expectations, and achieving your dreams.

Title: White Rose

Author: Kip Wilson

Year Published: 2019

Written For: Grades 7 – 9

Summary: Told from the perspective of Sophie Scholl, take a journey through time as this book flips between Sophie’s reflection on her political development to the moment she is interrogated by Gestapo interrogator Robert Mohr. Readers will learn about historical figures and events of World War II through this fictional retelling of the White Rose Movement. 

Themes: World War II, Nazi regime, resistance movement, anti-war

Warnings: The book addresses real-life historical atrocities.

This Book Can Prompt Discussions On: Nazi propaganda, social movements, unjust laws, World War II, and life in Germany for different groups of people.

Title: Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems

Author: John Grandits

Year Published: 2007

Written For: Grades 5 – 7

Summary: Written entirely in concrete poetry, Blue Lipstick features the inner thoughts, worries, and musings of 15-year-old Jessie. Each poem is in the shape of a symbol of the poem, whether Jessie is writing about looks, playing new instruments, or feeling annoyed by her little brother. This creative book is visually appealing, relatable to most teens in some way, and is a fun and engaging way to read poetry. 

Themes: Self-esteem, teen angst, school, family, and finding your identity. 

Warnings: One poem refers explicitly to female anatomy.

This Book Can Prompt Discussions On: Developing identity, the experience of a teenager, family relations, and social hierarchies within schools. 

Title: The Crossover

Author: Kwame Alexander

Year Published: 2014

Written For: Grades 3 – 7

Summary: Josh and Jordan Bell do everything together, especially dominate on the basketball court. At age twelve, the lives of these twins revolve around basketball, school, and family. As the boys develop their own interests amidst their busy lives, they are thrown a curveball they could have never imagined.

Themes: Sports, identity, family, and expectations.

Warnings: Students who have lost a parent might be sensitive to this material.

This Book Can Prompt Discussions On: Family, navigating grief, unexpected events, identity, sports, expectations, word play, figurative language, and poem structure. 

Title: Inside Out & Back Again

Author: Thanhha Lai

Year Published: 2011

Written For: Grades 3 – 7

Summary: Ten-year-old Ha introduces us to Saigon 1975, the only world she has ever known. As her family flees the Vietnam War, Há ends up in Alabama. While she is now physically safe, Há has to navigate a new culture, location, school bullies, learning a new language, and more. Há shows readers what it means to have courage as she travels, grows, and heals.

Themes: The Vietnam War, refugees, migration, racism, and culture.

Warnings: Racial slurs are printed in the text to show one of the obstacles many migrant families faced then and now.

This Book Can Prompt Discussions On: War, migration, racism, language barriers, culture, starting a new life, and courage.

Title: Hard Hit

Author: Ann Turner

Year Published: 2006

Written For: Grades 7 – 9

Summary: Mark Warren is having a great high school experience. His mind stays on school, his girlfriend, and most of all – baseball. As a star pitcher, there is nothing he can throw or have thrown his way that can get the best of him until his dad is diagnosed with cancer. In this moving journey, Mark questions his place in his family, school, and the world. 

Warnings: This content can be sensitive for students who have lost a parent or have a parent with a serious illness. Religion is also discussed.

This Book Can Prompt Discussions On: Navigating the unexpected, grief, family, school, sports, and the deeper meaning of life.

Title: Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Art

Author: David Elliott

Year Published: 2019

Written For: Grades 9 and up

Summary: The story of Joan of Arc is re-told in this book of poetry, written from the perspective of Joan herself. It features historical events but with the imagined inner thoughts of Joan of Arc as she grows from a girl to a young woman. Joan comes across as introspective and strong, serving as a positive female protagonist. 

Warnings: This content involves burning at the stake as a historic event. 

This Book Can Prompt Discussions On: Gender roles in society, sexism, war, and power dynamics. 

These powerful voices bring poetry to life through stories, perspectives, and pages. Your class will gain a new appreciation for what poetry can be after reading one of these YA poetry novels! Any one of these books will transform your poetry unit into an experience filled with engaging discussions, surprises, and anticipation as students grow and learn literature and one another.

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