Falling Hard: 100 Love Poems By Teenagers edited by Betsy Franco. Candlewick Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7636-3437-7 $15.99
Sometimes I blog about books I love. Sometimes I blog about books my students INSIST I tell you about. When I received Falling Hard: 100 Love Poems by Teenagers last summer at ALA Annual, I enjoyed reading the poems, but recognized this was targeted to those 14 years and up or Grades 9-12. I didn’t think it would be in high demand for my middle schoolers. Okay, I was wrong.
Enter my students into the scene. They kept pulling this title from the large bookshelf of books behind my desk that are waiting for me to blog, review, and process. Then they started telling other students about it and taking them behind my desk to get the book. Did I ever mention that students are welcomed and encouraged to explore behind my desk in case they discover something really good and want me to hurry up & process it?
When we surveyed students in grades 7-8 on their reading interests, poetry kept coming up as a topic of great interest by boys as well as girls. I wasn’t witnessing much checkout of poetry books on the shelves so I’ve been trying to figure out why the discrepancy. Didn’t we have the right poetry books? Well, part of the mystery is solved. Students were coming in to read the poetry books, then putting them back on the shelves and taking longer chapter books. The ones that were getting checked out were being passed around among close friends and fellow poetry lovers, then coming back in.
As more of the preview books coming in are poems or stories in verse, students are discovering new titles and opening up as they share with me why they like these books. The day after I’d surveyed one class I was standing near the new books display recommending titles to a student. One of them happened to be a poetry book. As she clutched the book to her chest, she whispered to me, "How did you know that I was the one who asked for more poetry books?" I just played it cool as if I am truly all-knowing. But it made me wonder… she believed she was the only one who loved poetry books. She wasn’t! 17 of 31 students in that class had indicated poetry was an interest. Am I providing enough poetry for my students?
J tells me that his favorites are "I love you", "My love line color spectrum", "Jump don’t trip" and "Memories of You." I think his choices are very interesting because they reflect the gamut of teenage love. I’m not saying teenagers love any less. I’m saying they run through the entire process of falling in and out of love with a blinding speed that is painful and exhilarating. Here is part of "I love you" by Alana Gracia Sopko, age 14.
"Looking into your eyes, my heart skips a beat,
and it makes me want to vomit.
You mean the world to me,
and I hate that.
I love you with all my heart,
so I think I’ll kill myself."
The blurb for this book says "The poets are straight, gay, lesbian, bi, or transgender. They live next door or across an ocean; they are innocent or experienced; their lyric explorations range from new love to stale love, obsession to ennui, ecstasy to heartbreak, and every nuance in between. Whether the romantic escapades described are touching, comical, or tragic, whether the feelings expressed are tender and sweet or brutal and biting, readers will find the love these young poets openly share to be exquisitely, excruciatingly, endlessly fascinating. Here is a collection to turn to again and again, because life and love keep on changing."
I hope that you add this poetry book to your collection, not just for high schoolers, but also for those turbulent teens and tweens in middle school, too.