It used to be a popular device in YA fiction, writing a novel as a series of poems. Lots of critics and adult readers of YA fiction loved it, still do. I think it’s a device that can be used to powerful effect.
But I’ve never known a middle school reader who liked it. Not one. It confuses them every time. It could just be the students in Marin County, California, but I have my doubts.
James Howe has been experimenting with text in The Misfits from the beginning by using transcripts that read like plays, letters, speeches, lists. My students loved the transcripts because we could read those parts like plays in class. Those were fun. But every time I’ve ever tried to use a book written as poems, and I’ve tried many times, many ways, it’s had a lukewarm reception at best. And I’ve had to explain a lot more than I normally do.
That said, I enjoyed Addie on the Inside.
Addie, the brains of the group in the previous books, tells us what happens to her in the months following The Misfits. Her on-again off-again relationship with DuShawn comes to the close we adult readers always knew it would. A former friend moves back into town. There are teachers to deal with, problems with the Gay-Straight student group she started at her school, and her ongoing struggle figuring out who she is exactly.
It’s the last struggle that makes up the most interesting parts of Addie on the Inside. Addie alone, writing in her journal, trying to measure herself against the other girls in her school and feeling irritated that she is doing this. Why should she? Can’t she be her own person and still get a boy to like her?
I’d love to figure out a way to use all four of these books with my students sometime. Even if I will have to explain what the poems mean.
Meanwhile, someone at ABC Family or the Disney Channel should take a serious look at this series. I think it would make a very entertaining television series.