Summary + Review
Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of novels written in verse. Poetry, in general, is not my favorite genre and free verse is sometimes too abstract for my liking. Plus free-verse novels are tough to connect to, I think.
Kimberly Marcus changed my mind with Exposed, though. I picked it up for a grad school poetry-reading assignment, and I’m so glad I did because I probably would have missed it otherwise. Her poems range from simple to intricate, and highly descriptive to general and relatable.
In Exposed, Liz is a sixteen-year-old who has a great life: a bond with her older brother, supportive parents, a devoted boyfriend, a real talent for photography, and a “forever-best friend” in Kate. That all changes, though, when Liz and Kate get in a fight at one of their regular slumber parties. The cold shoulder Kate gives her friend goes beyond the expected cool-off period, and Liz confronts her former pal. Finally, Kate comes out with it: she claims that Liz’s older brother Mike raped her that night when Liz had stomped into the other room and left her.
At first, Liz doesn’t know who to believe when her brother denies the allegations. She and Mike were close, at least until he’d gone off to college. But knowing her brother’s recent history with drinking and hearing details from Kate, Liz realizes who she must believe. More difficult, though, is deciding who to “side” with and figuring out how to cope.
Many of Marcus’s pages could stand alone, such as the “What Do I Know?” lines about betrayal (see excerpt below), but all of the poems work together to build a powerful, cohesive story. I think the author also does a more than respectable job of showing how a sexual assault affects those beyond the victim. I loved this and think it would be a valuable read for teens, plus a great introduction to books written in verse.
Readers who are unfamiliar with free-verse or free-verse novels may need a little support getting started. Nothing here is too “metaphoric,” and readers at different abilities will grasp the story and tone with little or no trouble.
Obviously, the subject matter in Exposed may be a little sensitive for younger readers. In once scene, Kate does describe the rape in a pretty disturbing way, although I wouldn’t call it graphic. Profanity is used in just a few instances and teen drinking is present in a couple of scenes. Kirkus reviews this for 14-18, and I’d agree with that assessment.
-Study of free-verse poetry
-Puns! Lots of examples of play on words: “pointed comeback” in reference to Kate’s dancing, “a bunch of dough from their bakery” referring to money, and lots of photography-related puns, of course (“expose”, “focus”, “develop”, etc.)!
-Other examples of figurative language – metaphors, similes, personification, etc. Also lots of other poetic devices and techniques.
-Lots of potential for important discussion, however that might look for your classroom, book club, etc., about sexual assault.
Recommended passage(s) for book talks:
Footwork I stepped up to the plate on Monday,
stepped on the rumors since then,
careful to step around
my friend’s bruised ego. Now it’s Thursday
and I thought things would be better,
but Kate’s still avoiding me,
and walking on eggshells isn’t easy to do. My shell cracks when she pretends
she doesn’t see me as she heads down the stairs.
(73) What Do I Know? It’s amazing how you think
you know someone so well,
then one day you come to see
that you really don’t know
that person at all. And you wonder
what that says
(212) (Excerpts from 2011 hardcover edition, published by Random House Children’s Books)
Book trailer (amateur):
Give to any student, regardless of experience with free-verse novels (girls may appreciate female POV more than boys). Symptoms of reading may include strong emotions, even tears.