Traditionally Lisa Schroeder writes YA novels in free verse. I wasn’t familiar with her work, but a customer approached me a few months ago to say that Schroeder was publishing a new book and ask whether the store would be interested in having a display. That display has ballooned into a poetry contest (starting next week) and hopefully will generate other possibilities. I love the idea of a customer being so passionate about an author’s work that she would be willing to help the local bookstore coordinate an event.
Falling for You (Simon Pulse, $16.99) is an issues book with a happy ending. Rae lives with her mother and a controlling, abusive step-father. He demands she take care of the house, cook his dinner, and eventually turn over her paychecks from the Flower Shop where she works after school. Rae’s solace is her poetry. She writes through her pain and, because she is afraid to tell even her closest friends about her home life, poetry is her only outlet of expression. When Rae meets Nathan, she is surprised at how much he seems to like her. Rae is even more surprised to slowly discover that Nathan’s feelings towards her are less about love than they are about his need to control her. Leo is the “good-guy next door” and appears poised to rescue Rae from both of these destructive relationships, but fortunately Schroeder emphasizes Rae’s poetry as the catalyst for growth, self-awareness, and motivation. When the high school English teacher solicits poetry for the school newspaper, Rae asks for permission to submit her poetry anonymously. Other students follow suit, and the paper begins to showcase the pain and struggles of her classmates. Rae wonders, however, whether anonymity allows for more honest expression or inadvertently conveys that pain should be hidden. She eventually decides that writing anonymously is keeping her peers, and herself, from getting the support and help that they so desperately need. She attaches her name to one of her poems, and once again her peers follow her lead. She, according to the English teacher, has started a poetry revolution, one that spreads and inspires people in ways Rae could not have imagined.