cover image Free Verse

Free Verse

Sarah Dooley. Putnam, $16.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-399-16503-0

Dooley (Body of Water) brings to life the hardscrabble existence of residents in the fictional town of Caboose, W. Va., through the eyes of 12-year old Sasha, as she adjusts to living with her new foster mother, Phyllis. Sasha%E2%80%99s matter-of-fact narration belies her anguish at repeated losses: her mother%E2%80%99s disappearance and the deaths of her coalminer father and firefighter brother. Stressful events (Phyllis singing Sasha%E2%80%99s mother%E2%80%99s song, a school bully%E2%80%99s teasing) trigger violent or disassociated responses, which Sasha can%E2%80%99t remember (%E2%80%9CThere%E2%80%99s this thing that happens sometimes%E2%80%9D) or which compel her to run away. While Sasha feels pressed to fulfill her brother%E2%80%99s wish that she escape Caboose, her discovery of cousins next door presents her with the daunting awareness of more people to love (or to lose) and her power to make choices. A 60+ page section of Sasha%E2%80%99s poetry powerfully reveals how she uses poetic forms like haiku, quatrains, and epistles to express overwhelming feelings. In this gripping story, Dooley balances a clear-eyed depiction of families wrestling with addiction, financial stress, and trauma with the astonishing resilience of children and the human capacity for love. Ages 10%E2%80%93up. Agency: Laura Langlie Literary Agency. (Mar.)