Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling, by Lucy Frank
Premise: After a lovely night with her crush ends in one of the most excruciating ways possible, almost-seventeen-year-old Chess ends up in the hospital due to complications from her as-yet-undiagnosed Crohn's disease. In the same room is nineteen-year-old Shannon, who has been dealing with Crohn's for years. The girls appear to have nothing in common except their condition—Chess is stoic while Shannon is a screamer; Chess comes from affluence, while Shannon is a self-described "Trailer Girl"—but as the days go by, they not only find common ground, they become each other's lifeline.
Pros: Nice format, with a line down the middle of the page when the curtain between the girls is drawn. Distinct voices, frank talk about a hard-to-discuss disease that doesn't get much play in YA, lots of details about a week-long stay in the hospital.
Cons: Even taking the verse format into account, some of the word choices are hard to buy ("I actually scrutinized my left ear every time I passed a mirror..."); while much effort is made to flesh the girls out, at the end of the book, they're still just archetypes (the Insecure Golden Girl; the Tough-as-Nails Girl with the Secret Heart of Gold); the verse aspect feels more about the visual formatting than about the word choices.
Nutshell: A straightforward Problem Novel, best for fans of Sick Lit.
Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
Premise: Middle-school basketball phenom Josh "Filthy McNasty" Bell and his twin brother, JB, are tight as tight can be, both on the court and off. But when JB gets a girlfriend, Josh starts to feel like they've lost their rhythm... and like he's being left behind. Both boys are facing a whole lot of change—the question is, will they face it separately or together?
Pros: Josh's favorite subject is English, he's interested in words and wordplay and vocabulary, which makes Alexander's choice to tell this story in verse absolutely perfect, voice-wise. (Which is less common than you'd think. Off the top of my head, the only ones I can think of in which the plotting and the narrator's interests actually inform the format are Love That Dog, My Book of Life by Angel, and Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, and two of those are way-old.) Anyway, there's tons of rhythm and wordplay in the poetry; Alexander switches up his form regularly, which makes an already-interesting story even more so; the emotions, characters, and relationships are realistic, complex, and believable.
Cons: I have nothing.
Book source(s): Frank, Netgalley. Alexander, ILLed through my library.