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Free Verse

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  628 ratings  ·  163 reviews
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
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 15th 2016 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
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4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  628 ratings  ·  163 reviews

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Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
FREE VERSE is a sparkling mix of prose and verse that tells the story of Sasha, a young girl who lives in the coal-mining town of Caboose, West Virginia, but longs to escape. When trouble hits, Sasha runs, and she's had plenty of reasons to flee. Her mother is long gone, her father passed in a coal-mining accident, and her older brother and caretaker, Michael, has just lost his life on the job as a fireman. Though Sasha finds a loving foster placement and the potential for new family next door, ...more
Stephanie (Reading is Better With Cupcakes)
Free Verse is one of those books that is going to hit you hard. Definitely harder than you would think a middle grade novel would hit... At least that was the case for me.

Free Verse is about Sasha. Her father had died in an accident at the mine. Her mother had run off. She was being taken care of by her older brother...who then died in a fire. Leaving her alone in the world, with no one to turn to.

She and her brother had held on to the dream of escaping their small mining town, and it is a dream
Dena (Batch of Books)
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
What's with all the sad 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
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love this book! It's such a sweet story about a girl finding her way home. It started a little slow in the beginning but it was amazing. And the poetry was beautiful.
Four stars!
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
So sad and a bit depressing but really good.
Megan Holtzapple
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs-for-bit
When I first picked up Free Verse, I expected that it would be very good, but I didn't expect it to change my life. However, Free Verse had done just that. Dooley's tale had me hooked from the very beginning. With the perfect balance of humor and heartbreak, Free Verse is powerful, uplifting, and life-changing. There are relatable characters and a wonderful and creative plot. This book will stay with me for a very long time. I would reccomend Free Verse to anyone on the planet-- it is a must-rea ...more
Sally Ma
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: scanned-books
This book was so boring. The parts that were supposed to be sad were not sad?? And usually I cry at books even if they mention something that is even remotely sad. It was well-written, but just became worse as the book went on. Like Sasha, girl, what was you thinkinnnn. I don’t get what all the hype is about in the comments, but it wasn’t even that sad. Don’t COME AT ME :):
Brenda Kahn
This quiet novel, part of which is in verse, packs a powerful punch. There is so much loss in Sasha's life, it's no wonder she has an anger problem. Luckily for her, there are a number of caring adults in her life who won't give up on her. When a final loss causes her to stop speaking, she retreats to her poetry notebook and finds a voice there.
Kate ☀️ Olson
Aug 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade
Amazing middle grade novel written in a mix of prose and verse. Will be recommending for next year's WEMTA Battle of the Books list for grades 4 and 5. Heartbreaking but hopeful.
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This road in front of Hubert's house,
empty in the evening light,
leads to a two-lane that leads to a highway,
goes places I've never seen, but might.

This is a well-written and accurate depiction of a girl growing up in a small, old West Virginia mining town. The despair and grief felt in towns like this is portrayed well. It's a slower-paced book but one I'm glad to have read.
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Part one was dreadfully boring, part two was better, and parts three and four had me bawling my eyes out. If you’re struggling with the beginning like I did, just hang on. Part 4 makes it all worth it.
Michelle Glatt
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written heart-wrenching story of loss and family. This book will stay with me for a while.
Ms. Yingling
Feb 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Copy received from the publisher

Sasha was abandoned by her mother, who wanted to be free of Caboose, West Virginia, the small, Appalachian coal mining town where they live. Then, Sasha's father died in a mine collapse, and her brother (who is ten years older and who was caring for her) dies in his job as a firefighter. She's sent to a decent foster home with Phyllis, who is understanding even when Sasha smashes her guitar. The two live next door to Hubert and his family, and Sasha discovers they
Trinny Sigler
Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Sarah Dooley's newest book Free Verse chronicles the life of young Sasha, who was abandoned by her birth mother and lost her birth father in a mining accident. Her older brother, Michael, assumes parenting responsibilities, but Sasha soon loses him as well. A ward of the state, she is handed over to her kind foster mother, Phyllis, but Sasha frequently runs from Phyllis's care in search of her own roots and her own place in an Appalachian world she's uncertain she wants to remain a part of. Sash ...more
James Hill
Jul 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
from Becca--

I rarely write to authors after I've read their books, but after finishing Sarah Dooley's latest YA novel, I felt like I had to tell her how much I loved her work. Besides effectively moving the plot along with both prose and poetry, I also appreciated the beauty of Dooley's writing and how believable her main character of young Sasha Harless is as she's trying to navigate a life of constant transition and loss as a foster kid in her tiny, coal-mining town in West Virginia. There wer
Aug 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
What a beautiful book. I immediately shared it with a friend who teaches fourth graders. So heartbreaking and real. I loved the setting--West Virginia, coal mining country and the fact that poverty isn't a racial or other-country thing. It happens to children in the United States, white children as well as black and brown children. The protagonist is feisty. We sense, from the beginning of the story that she will survive. The price she'll have to pay to survive is what's in question. I loved so ...more
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Really good but I'm taking off a star because the parents dying thing was so cliche. Like no family and depressed is just a common theme in so many books today. Though the other parts of the plot made up for it.

Here is an example of the cliche parents gone book:

"My mother ran off when I was 7. My father passed away last week. I have to stay with a weird foster lady who wants to be my mother but I hate her. I never talk at school, everyone thinks I'm weird. There is a girl who always tries to be
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, books-i-own
Although this book has been compared to Walk Two Moons (which I liked and will re-read despite its few negative reviews ), I found Sarah Dooley went way deeper in Free Verse than Sharon Creech in Walk Two Moons. Deeper look at life in the mining towns and mining jobs, deeper hopelessness after loss and the threat of more, deeper displays of losing control and waking up to it, altogether a book deep as a mine with crumbling moments and rescuing sighs from the reader when the plot went this or tha ...more
Marie Manilla
May 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Sarah Dooley’s FREE VERSE may have been written for young readers, but it’s a novel for every age group. Set in my home state of West Virginia, the novel describes not only the fear of disaster coal miners and their families live under, but it reveals the big-hearted resiliency of the Appalachian spirit. Sasha, our protagonist and would-be poet, has lost her father to mining and a brother to firefighting. Thankfully, she is embraced by a make-shift family that helps her get a toehold in a terrai ...more
Forever Young Adult
Graded By: Brian
Cover Story: Halfway to Heaven
Drinking Buddy: Too Tired for Having Fun
Testosterone Estrogen Level: One Fist of Iron
Talky Talk: Have They Given Up?
Bonus Factors: God, What Did We Do?; Brothers and Sisters, What a Terrible Time
Bromance Status: A Big, Big Man

Read the full book report here.
Jonine Bergen
Jul 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a great example of a first person narrative. Free verse would make an excellent book for a literature circle or read aloud. There are so many themes that can be explored in the novel. Of course, there is Sasha's voice, self expression through poetry, the concepts of family, abandonment and loss, poverty, sense of place and home and so much more.

Really, really well done.
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
I am in love with this book, both Sasha and her poetry as well as Phyllis, Hubert, Mikey, and Anthony.
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A haiku for this review:
So many good byes //
Tears, confusion, hope and love //
Make this book special
Vincent Stingo
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Note: I am writing this review for Young Adult Literature course project.

Not every child loses both of their parents and their brother, left to enter the foster system, but many young adults can relate to that, unfortunately. However, it is her need to express her emotions, and difficulties doing so that every young adult CAN relate to. Her actions and voice make this a true YA lit novel that calls to many young people itching for a way to be heard.
Sasha discovers her voice through poetry, and
Diane Lynne
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-school
I live 45 minutes from Beckley and grew up in the Appalachian coalfields, so this book really hit me hard. The descriptions of living conditions, and the ever-constant fear of mining deaths are absolutely accurate and part of my own childhood memories. The fact that people are capable of being kind, loving and empathetic while living in those conditions is also fact. There's a closeness—a feeling of "family"— in the present-day version of the communities that Dooley describes—even after the mine ...more
Julie Trapp
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Caboose, VA - a typical mining town. Sasha lives there & has suffered far too many tragedies for
young teen. Her mother left (drugs), father died in a mining accident, and older brother, Michael, who was her caretaker, died as a firefighter. She is now living with Phyllis as a foster child. She is quiet, withdrawn & hesitant to get close to anyone for fear of losing them also. She does become friends with the younger neighbor boy, Mikey, who appears to have no friends and is not well lik
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a great book and I really enjoyed it. Free Verse is about a girl named Sasha. She lives in a small town & has a hard & sad life. Her mother, father, and brother have all died and she still grieves for them. She gets moved to a foster home and meets her new next door neighbors who are actually her uncle and cousin. Sasha gets to know her new family and she and her cousin Mickey really connect because they have both lost people close to them. But after an accident, Sasha and Micke ...more
Paul Warloski
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm a little reluctant about books in which writing "saves" the main character, even though I tried writing a novel that did exactly that! Like Walk Two Moons and Pictures of Hollis Woods, Sasha is orphaned and in some kind of foster care. She has some significant mental health challenges - including anxiety, panic attacks, and probably some PTSD - that keep her from trusting others and coming to terms with all of her grief. Her poetry, and the love of those around her, bring her some kind of pe ...more
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sarah has experienced extreme loss in her life. When she was 5, her mother ran off leaving her with her brother, Michael, and father, Ben. Later, her father was killed in a mining accident. Her brother had plans to leave their small mining town of Caboose, but not now that he is responsible for his sister. After her brother is killed in a fire, she is placed in foster care. She is struggling in a big way. She has trouble sleeping, controlling her temper, and is headed down a long, lonely road. H ...more
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh, how I loved this book! I know there is some debate here about it being too depressing or that its use of poetry wasn’t effective or in service of the narrative, but I disagree. Sasha’s story felt authentic and compelling, her plight was realistic, not depressing. I live in SW Pennsylvania and really appreciated a story about a coal mining town in West Virginia- a way of life that doesn’t get much nuanced attention these days. I appreciated that. Kids go through trauma, and it was refreshing ...more
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“I'm writing haiku. Not for English class but just because. It turns out swearing off poetry doesn't work the way swearing off lima beans does. I swore off lima beans in third grade and it worked. I swore off poetry less than a week ago and here I am.” 0 likes
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