Free Verse: A Story of Loss and Hope

Book Review, Middle Grade
Free Verse by Sarah Dooley. Middle grade novel about loss and hope for kids ages 8-12. |

“Monday, I sneak my cinquains onto Miss Jack’s desk. Thursday is too far away, and the poetry is burning a hole in my pocket.” – Sarah Dooley, Free Verse


Free Verse by Sarah Dooley. Middle grade novel about loss and hope for kids ages 8-12. |

Free Verse by Sarah Dooley

Age Range: 10 – 14 years | Grade Level: 5 and up | Hardcover: 352 pages | Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (March 15, 2016)


About Free Verse

A moving, bittersweet tale reminiscent of Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons set in a West Virginia coal-mining town

When her brother dies in a fire, Sasha Harless has no one left, and nowhere to turn. After her father died in the mines and her mother ran off, he was her last caretaker. They’d always dreamed of leaving Caboose, West Virginia together someday, but instead she’s in foster care, feeling more stuck and broken than ever.

But then Sasha discovers family she didn’t know she had, and she finally has something to hold onto, especially sweet little Mikey, who’s just as broken as she is. Sasha even makes her first friend at school, and is slowly learning to cope with her brother’s death through writing poetry, finding a new way to express herself when spoken words just won’t do. But when tragedy strikes the mine her cousin works in, Sasha fears the worst and takes Mikey and runs, with no plans to return. In this sensitive and poignant portrayal, Sarah Dooley shows us that life, like poetry, doesn’t always take the form you intend.


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Amazon | Goodreads | Kobo | Book Depository


My Thoughts on Free Verse

What’s with all the serious books lately? After reading this, I need to find a nice, happy book that’s all fluff.

Sasha’s older brother recently passed away, and she’s now an orphan, living with a new foster mom. Her sadness wants to swallow her whole, and she’s tempted to let it.

Some parts are confusing, like when Sasha does something violent, it skips over what happens. She’s just sitting there one minute, then the next thing you know, she’s got the shards of some broken thing all around her. There aren’t a lot of explanations in those parts and it can be frustrating to try and figure out what happened.

I had a hard time liking other parts of the book too. For example, Sasha runs away constantly, and everyone is very calm about missing children. And bad things keep happening. Like, a LOT. Every other page, someone is missing, dead, or run away. Mothers, fathers, brothers, friends, they disappear one after another out of Sasha’s life. The kid can’t catch a break.

However, the characters, the setting, the story, they’re all written beautifully. You can feel Sasha’s desperation, her sadness, and her desire to live up to her late brother’s expectations.

I love it when Sasha discovered poetry and learns that she’s good at it. It gives her a voice when her own disappears. It provides an outlet for her words when her tongue doesn’t work. Poetry also gives her a circle to belong to. Maybe not friends, but a friend-like community.

Verdict: Free Verse very sad story about a girl suffering one loss after another and finding her voice through poetry.

Content: Some language/cursing, mentions of violence and death.

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher.



Other Books About Loss and Hope

The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli (loved this one!)

Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice (more cheerful; a different kind of loss)

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (a classic!)


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  • Reply
    January 19, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Yeah, I don’t like that brand of story-telling. I need to know what happened and not just see the aftermath. I love poetry, though, so this one is definitely up for consideration.

  • Reply
    Dedezoomsalot (@DedeZoomsalot)
    January 19, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    Sadly…..I think a lot of kids do have a life like Sasha’s.

  • Reply
    Cait @ Paper Fury
    January 22, 2017 at 3:36 am

    Oh oh I read Walk Two Moons!! It was like years ago, but I remember adoring that book so much. I definitely want to check this one out sometime…even if it sounds seriously very dark and those poor little children. Awk.

    • Reply
      Dena at Batch of Books
      January 23, 2017 at 11:39 am

      It was a good book. I think I just read too many sad stories all in a row to really appreciate it. It’s well written and I love the part that poetry plays in the story.

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