GUEST WRITER LAUREN SIEBEN RECOMMENDS SAVING RED BY SONYA SONES
Saving Red is a powerful novel in verse that makes reading poetry accessible, even for kids who may be skeptical of the genre. The book follows Molly, who as part of her school’s community service credit, helps with the local homeless count. While out volunteering, Molly comes across Red, a girl not much older than herself who lives on the beach. Feeling guilty from her own past experiences, Molly decides to make it her mission to help get Red back to her family before Christmas. However, that proves to be difficult because Red will not speak of her past, talks to voices in her head, and continually runs off from Molly. But Molly knows what its like to run from yourself and giving up on Red is the last thing she will do. Told entirely in verse, Saving Red tackles difficult issues like homelessness, mental illness, PTSD, grief, and broken families, in a poetic way that does not shy away from the hardship of it all.
Saving Red would be a wonderful addition to any high school classroom library. The verse in this book uses a lot of figurative language that sounds wonderful but is also not so excessive that a teenager could not have come up with it. There was a perfect balance between imagery and action so that it all flowed beautifully and naturally. The use of similes throughout this book would make it a great mentor text for a craft study or while working on a poetry unit. This book also plays a lot with different themes throughout the story, using ones that are particularly relatable and intersecting. The idea of what it means to exist in a family dealing with tragedy and the notions of loving people with mental illnesses are so relatable that students would be able to use it as both a window into other’s experiences, and a mirror to their own. Saving Red is a book that will have a place on my shelf for a long time, and that will definitely be utilized as we explore poetry in my high school ELA classes.
Lauren Sieben is a High School ELA teacher at John Caldwell School in Grand Falls, New Brunswick. Her favourite activity is reading books. Her second favourite activity is talking about them.