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Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  1,108 Ratings  ·  218 Reviews
Your Own, Sylvia draws on Plath’s writing and extensive nonfiction sources, chronicling Hemphill’s interpretation of Plath’s life from infancy to her death by suicide at age 30. The poems are arranged chronologically and each conveys an experience in Plath’s life told via the voice and perspective of family members, friends, doctors, fellow writers, etc.—as interpreted by ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published December 23rd 2008 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published March 13th 2007)
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I don't feel like this book is deserving of Printz Honor. To write about a poet's life in a form of a series of poems from POV's of people around Sylvia is an interesting exercise, but the final product itself is not satisfying. Stephanie Hemphill is just not that great of a poet. Her best poems in this book are those that are direct imitations of Plath's own works. I caught myself wanting to read Sylvia's poetry rather than Hemphill's. Other poems are written in free verse with no rhythm or rhy ...more
Jul 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is extraordinary. I have limited shelf space and even when I love a book, it usually goes right out the door as a gift to someone else when I'm done reading. For example - recently I adored THE HUNGER GAMES, gave it five stars here, raved about it... but as I compare my reaction to that book with my reaction to this one, well, I happily gave HUNGER GAMES away upon completion, but YOUR OWN, SYLVIA, I will keep and reread. And the book is also going to send me right back to Sylvia Plath' ...more
Jan 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Suzanne by: Faith
So good. So, so, so good. I thought I would be at a disadvantage because (shame on me BA English, MS Library Science) all I knew about Sylvia Plath was that she wrote poetry, wrote something called The Bell Jar which I was fairly certain (now confirmed) was depressing, and that she killed herself. This book, however, is a great introduction into the world of Sylvia Plath.

The author took true events from Sylvia's life and wrote fictionalized accounts of them in verse (it makes sense when you see
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being an avid reader of online discussions, articles, and interviews regarding feminism, I stumbled upon the name "Sylvia Plath" several times. Because of this, I picked up The Bell Jar as I wanted to find out more about this ever-important authoress of the 20th century. Unfortunately, I did not get far ahead into the book (I hope to be able to read it next year).
When we were assigned to read a novel written in verse in my Independent Reading Class, I noticed "Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait
Written in the style of Plath's most notable work, Hemphill creates a series of original poems influenced by and chronicling the Pulitzer prize-winning poet's childhood until her untimely suicide in 1963.

Thorough research - as illustrated by the use of footnotes - illuminates the various themes and issues which arose in Plath's poetry. Hemphill avoids turning the work into a stale biography by using various individuals' point of view - those who were closest to Sylvia - as the voice for half of
Kate Stericker
The element of Your Own, Sylvia which I appreciated the most was its accessibility. Each poem is contextualized with a date and narrator at the beginning and followed by an author's note explaining details of Plath's life relevant to the poem. Particularly after reading Wintering, a prose novel about Sylvia Plath which relies on the reader to interpret complex allusions based on their previous knowledge of her life, it was refreshing to have the author guide me through this collection. It also g ...more
Interesting and creative. Not my favorite poems, but they still painted a picture about Sylvia Plath and I learned a bit more about her.
I found nothing impressive in this collection. I'll admit that I learned stuff about Sylvia Plath and her family, but those things I read in the lengthy footnotes which explain every little thing so that every ounce of ambiguity would be flushed down the toilet. This isn't a poetry collection or even an insightful point of view--it's an essay written by a die-hard fan.

The poems themselves are dull, uncreative, and contrived. They were all one style save for the poems that are "imagining Sylvia
Jun 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, ya
An interesting and engaging exploration of the life of Sylvia Plath. I did not find the Hemphill's verse sparkled as much in this as in some of her other work, but it was readable and interesting. A good example is "Sylvia", spoken by Assia Wevill, Ted Hughes's mistress for the last part of Ted and Sylvia's marriage:
She is poetry,
that mother of language,
and I am a Gypsy,
wandering, thieving what I fancy.

She is cunning
like an old watchdog,
she sees the scene
without being present.
I am experienced.
Jan 11, 2016 rated it liked it
I have loved Sylvia Plath since I read Ariel and The Bell Jar in high school. This book of poems illustrates Sylvia's short life from various perspectives - her mother, brother, and husband, as well as various ex-boyfriends, roommates, friends, neighbors, therapists, and more. It gave a totally different image of Sylvia than I had imagined, but I suppose I imagined her in more of a psychoanalytic light and never imagined that others might have viewed her as some kind of beautiful celebrity in he ...more
Cait Lackey
Apr 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
"Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath" was written in a format that I had never really experienced before. Sylvia Plath is an author and writer that I am familiar with and Stephanie Hemphill created a fictional biography through this book that I think describes Plath's life and family in a very interesting way. I have always liked Sylvia Plath's poetry and other works, and I thought that "Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse.." was written in a poetic style that complemented Plath's own writi ...more
Dawn States
Sylvia Plath, beloved young adult author, poet, and dreamer is beautifully captured in this book of her life. The book is rendered in an unusual way, which befits Sylvia. Instead of a traditional biography, it is all written in poetry, some of which is designed to resemble poems that Sylvia wrote. The book has footnotes at the bottom of some of the pages to help fill in dates and facts that would not fit in the poems. This book is a great tribute to Sylvia and anyone who en
Jan 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to elissa by: adbooks
Whoo hoo! Today it won a Printz Honor! I just finished this last week, and if I had read this last year (a few days ago at this point) it would have definitely been on my 2007Favorites shelf! It was hard to get ahold of in libraries, though, and my hold was just filled a few days ago. Hopefully it'll win awards later this month and become more widely available (YES! It did!). It's an extremely balanced and wonderfully researched look at Plath's tumultous life. I had only read THE BELL JAR, and s ...more
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, poetry, plath
This was a very unique book and I absolutely loved it! I thought she did an excellent job with the poems and I really enjoyed learning some new things about Sylvia.

The one thing that irks me, and it has nothing to do with the actual book itself, is that it is listed as young adult. Why the hell is it listed like that? To me a book that is listed YA means that it is more geared towards that age group. As an adult I tend to stay away from YA books, but I see absolutely no reason why this one shou
I tend to be skeptical of novels-in-verse, or in this case, biography-in-verse, but I'm not sure why since I always end up enjoying them. Well, saying I enjoyed this would be a bit of a stretch, but it was a fascinating read and easy to get swept up in. I came out the other side feeling incredibly sane and healthy and happy, but thinking a bit about what makes people turn out the way they do and how writing intersects with life. There's a great section at the end on the author's process of writi ...more
Gabrielle Bolland


Your Own, Sylvia, is a collection of poetry written by Sylvia Plath and those who knew her. The poems were haunting, and sad. Her life was always one of sadness and great trials. Poems from her parents, teachers, friends, and old boy friends give an insight to what others thought of Sylvia. There are even some poems from her husband. With each poem the reader is shown another layer of Sylvia and stepping one-step closer to her death. There’s a bittersweet feeling about all
I listened to the audiobook.

And I think I liked it more this way. It's multivoiced, with different readers reading the in-between and the poems add a texture. Having just read The Bell Jar, it was interesting getting some context.

Poor Sylvia! It would be interesting to know how different her life would be in a different time, but then we didn't save David Foster Wallace either.

I know want to see thaat Gwyneth Paltrow movie.

And maybe read the book to see why it was deemed Printz-worthy. :-)
Erin Vance
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was beautiful. It's one of the best YA books I've ever read, and I think provides a balanced portrayal of Sylvia for readers who find morbid fascination with her life and death. Most of the biographical or scholarly work I've read about Sylvia was written by men, so I found this to be an incredibly empathetic, creative, and honest portrayal of the writer and woman.
Kelly A
Oct 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: printz, 2013
I never went through a Plath phase, even though I was the very portrait of someone who should have, with my obsession for dead artists and lifelong struggle with depression. This book makes me feel I was robbed, in a way.
Feb 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, poetry
I'm not a poetry buff, and I haven't read any of Slyvia Plath's poems. This book, however, has encouraged me to read some of it as well as biographies on her and to reread The Bell Jar. Why not depress myself? :)
The Loft
This is beautifully written and offers a more balanced perspective of the poet's life than many other biographies.
Feb 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teen
I was drawn to Prozac Nation, Girl, Interrupted, and of course, The Bell Jar -- so this naturally suited me. Hemphill did her research (what little can be done) and wrote some great poetry.
Told through verse interpretations of the people who populated her life, the short and tumultuous life of Sylvia Plath unfolds in Stephanie Hemphill's Your Own, Sylvia. From her mother's observations of the birth of her firstborn to the boys she dated in high school, the various doctors she saw over the course of her life and her husband Ted Hughes, famous in his own right, and the observations of those around her in the twilight of her life, it is this variety of fictionalized accounts that all ...more
geri chesner
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this book. Sadly, I had no information about Sylvia Plath (other than knowing she was a poet/writer who committed suicide) and had never read any of her work. The poetry format made it accessible and an enjoyable format for a peek into who Sylvia was and what she achieved from the perspective of those who loved her and were a part of her life. The best part, however, were the annotations for each of the poems as Hemphill provided the context for each poem. This is where I really f ...more
Erin Emser
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 2017
I didn't find anything particularly extraordinary about this collection of poetry and certainly didn't find it deserving of the Michael L. Printz award nomination. The concept of compiling poetry that paints a biographical portrait of Sylvia Plath was a really interesting idea, but I thought many of the poems were incredibly bland. In fact, the only poems that had substance were the ones that mimicked Plath herself.

Did I learn things about Sylvia Plath's life? Yes. Did this collection spawn a b
Colleen Graves
Jun 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Moody Teenagers

a. Hemphill, Stephanie. 2007. YOUR OWN, SYLVIA. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780329758790

b. I’ve been intrigued with Sylvia Plath since I was a moody, depressed 17 year old reading The Bell Jar. Her semi-autobiographical novel describing shock therapy in an insane asylum really got to me as an awkward teenager. Fast-forward 15 years to the present, and now I’m teaching her poetry in my classroom. We read and analyze “Daddy,” and my students are always shocked that poetry can be so emotional
Alicia Weaver
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting verse novel about the life of Sylvia Plath. The story is told from various perspectives of the people in her life at the time. The author used research from others about Plath to develop the plot and mimicked Plath's own poetry style at that time in her life to create the poems. I feel intrigued enough from this book to read The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiography about her struggle with depression.
Susan McGilvray
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-summer
So incredibly sad...
Feb 24, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: boy-crazy, temperamental budding poets
Recommended to Kate by: Rivera
Shelves: teen-fic, poetry, ischool
Annotation: A fictionalized biography told in verse, Your Own, Sylvia, follows the life of gifted poet Sylvia Plath from her birth in 1932 in Boston through the aftermath of her now well-known suicide in London in 1963. It is based on the author’s extensive reading and research of Plath’s poetry, fiction, journals and voluminous personal correspondence, as well as biographies of her life and interviews with and about her. Hemphill writes some of her poems in the style of Plath’s, as though writt ...more
That was unexpected.

I spent the first half of the book bemoaning the fact that I was reading yet another book in verse when I know that books in verse are really, really not my thing. It's true. I hate them. They just don't speak to me. But then I started the second half of the book, and while I still wish it hadn't been in verse, I found myself connecting rather strongly with the story.

I find myself kind of...enraged...on behalf of Sylvia Plath. I realize that she suffered from depression, the
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Stephanie Hemphill's first novel in poems, Things Left Unsaid, was published by Hyperion in 2005 and was awarded the 2006 Myra Cohn Livingston Award for Excellence in Poetry by the Children's Literature Council of Southern California.

Her second novel, a verse portrait of Sylvia Plath, Your Own, Sylvia was published by Knopf in March 2007. A third novel in verse for teens, Wicked Girls, a verse st
More about Stephanie Hemphill...

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“I fret for Sylvia.
She appears anchored

to the idea of sinking,
which is silly when she so clearly

soars above almost everyone.”
“She said the night was March and black
and that the hill where he kissed her
and enveloped her in his arms
was a sea of grass and she rooted
to the ground like a sapling,
like it was natural and yet
all created for her moment of romance.”
More quotes…