Reaching for Sun

Reaching for Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer.

I have seen this book on several people’s favorites of the year.  And you can add my name to theirs.  This book is a real treasure of a read.

It is the story, told in verse, of Josie.  She is a teen with cerebral palsy who knows that she is different than the other children.  She has no friends until a boy, Jordan, moves in nearby.  He isn’t like the other kids at school.  He listens to her thoughts and never thinks that she is mentally slow.  He is her first real friend.  Their friendship is beautifully captured in the poetry.  It offers an especially tender medium for their fragile first moves to being friends that magnifies it, creating a lovely taut feeling in the book.

Josie is portrayed flawlessly in the poems, remaining true to herself even while she grows and changes.  That is a feat that many authors don’t achieve, the ability to have their characters change but remain real and true to who they started out as.  Again, the medium works extremely well here, allowing Josie the space and language to express herself.

I am often reluctant to start a verse novel.  If they are well done, they can be some of the most moving books in the world.  But poorly done, they are nothing more than prose forced into stanzas.  Luckily, this is one of the winners.  In the truest test of a verse novel, you could pull virtually any of the chapters from the book and they could stand on their own as individual poems.  Each poem was obviously separately crafted with care to make it a real verse, bearing no resemblance to prose storytelling.  Instead the verse, the medium strengthens the book into something it could never have become without the poetry of the language and power of the word choice. 

Lovely stuff.  Recommended for middle school readers who will enjoy the poetry here.  This would be a great first verse novel for anyone, because the poetry is accessible as most good poetry is.  Even better, the cover itself will reach out and grab the right sort of readers.  This is one that you just have to try.