Free Verse by Sarah Dooley
Published by G. P. Putnam and sons in 2016
Sasha has experienced more loss than most 8th graders should. Her mother left her years ago. She and her brother were raised by their father, Ben until a mining accident claimed his life. Then her brother puts off college to raise her until he his killed fighting a fire in a bakery. She is moved in to foster care with a lady named Phyllis. Phyllis is patient as Sasha is dealing with all her trauma. Then Sasha discovers that a cousin of her’s is Phyllis’ neighbor. She befriends the cousin’s son, Mikey.
School is a challenge. Meeting with the guidance councelor, having the school bully watch a meltdown, getting invited to join poetry club (which happens to be run by the school bully), and making a friend on the bus.
Since this book is called “free verse” it would be a let down for it not to have poetry in it. The third section is told in poetry as Sasha explores different formats. She also uses it as a coping mechanism when trauma makes speaking too much to bear. These poems are beautiful and move the story along smoothly.
Sasha has a tendancy to run. When an accident causes them to no know if Mikey’s dad is alive or dead, she decides to take Mikey with her. She gets a few towns over, until she’s picked up by the cops, but Mikey stays on the run. Will Mikey be found? Will Sasha have a family that will stay?
This book does a good job of being realistic and making each character 3 dimensional. They are responsive to trauma in their situations. Almost everyone that Sasha gets to know has a backstory and a reason/motivation for their actions. In this polarizing time, this book does a good job of imaging a part of the country complexly without being patronizing or focused on a handful of issues. Mining accidents are mentioned multiple time in this book, but Sasha points out that miners are people with lives outside of work. They are parents, artists, adventurers, and many other things. Huebert, Sasha’s cousin mentions the “smarts” that are necessary to work the incredibly delicate/dangerous machinery involved in mining.
FTC disclosure. I recieved this book from the publisher, I recieved no monetary compensation for this review.
“Wake me…Before you go running off again…just wake me. Then if you run, I’ll run with you.” (p. 69)
“It’s like haiku opened a door inside me that I’m trying with all my might to shove closed again.” (p. 98)
“You can’t understand what makes a good story if you’ve never starred in one, or at least been a particularly memorable (sometimes tragic) supporting character.” (p. 258)
“I’m secretly awful.” (p. 264)