During April, teachers and librarians in schools across the U.S. are busy with National Poetry Month celebrations, supporting four weeks of enthusiastic poetry reading, reciting, and sharing. Verse novels, as one of my former students astutely observed, have “just the right number of words”—perfect for busy teens overwhelmed with homework, jobs, and extracurriculars. Such books are accessible and yet enticing, thanks to carefully crafted and artfully arranged lines of text. The selections below, encompassing a rich variety of topics and settings, celebrate the flexibility and diversity of this format and its ability to blend genuine teen appeal with strong literary merit.

Bright Red Fruit by Safia Elhillo (Make Me a World, Feb. 6): Like many teens, Sudanese American Samira, 16, questions boundaries: “if i am to blame, / it is only because i was forever curious… / i was not / unhappy, only restless. only hungry to know what we were trying to / keep out.” But the boy she meets through their shared passion for poetry brings unexpected trouble.

Song of Freedom, Song of Dreams by Shari Green (Andrews McMeel Publishing, March 5): Helena lives in East Germany; it’s 1989, and unrest is in the air. The 16-year-old musician is worried about her missing best friend, drawn to the new boy at her piano lessons, and uneasy about Stasi surveillance: “the true songs / of my heart / what I believe / think / dream / must never be sung.”

Ariel Crashes a Train by Olivia A. Cole (Labyrinth Road, March 12): Being a queer girl with a nontraditional gender presentation who’s struggling with obsessive thoughts can be hard: “It feels like the only way / to keep people safe is to stay away from them, / a gap wide enough for all the thoughts to fall into.” When your parents don’t believe in therapy, it’s even harder.

Louder Than Hunger by John Schu (Candlewick, March 19): Jake is receiving inpatient treatment for an eating disorder and other mental health challenges. This story, inspired by the author’s own life, follows Jake’s path to recovery. “I’ll set / my mind / on getting / better. // I’ll do it / for Grandma. // I’ll do it / to visit Broadway one day. // I’ll do it for me.”

The Boy Lost in the Maze by Joseph Coelho, illus. by Kate Milner (Candlewick, March 26): Theo, a boy living in contemporary London who’s seeking to understand masculinity and the impact of his absent father, finds parallels in the story of Theseus from Greek mythology. “Just like him / I’ll map my wrath / by searching for my father’s path.” The novel’s interactive elements allow readers to choose different courses of action.

Wild Dreamers by Margarita Engle (Atheneum, April 23): Two traumatized San Francisco teens—unhoused Cuban American Ana and Cuban refugee Leandro—find each other…and love. A rewilding club brings purpose, fostering Ana and Leandro’s healing through nature. “Everything is ancient and alive! / The forest smells like growth and time. // …The whole world is a soothing place to rest.”

Laura Simeon is a young readers’ editor.