Cover image for Seventeen : a novel in prose poems
Seventeen : a novel in prose poems
Rosenberg, Liz.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : Cricket Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
142 pages ; 20 cm
Seventeen-year-old Stephanie journeys from fall to spring and from childhood to womanhood as she experiences first love and deals with her fear of inheriting her mother's mental illness.
General Note:
"A Marcato book."
Reading Level:
800 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.0 4.0 66779.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.8 8 Quiz: 37050 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



The first day of Stephanie's junior year is a step into the underworld. Led into desire, depression, and alienation by the intoxicating yet strangely distant figure of Denny Pistill, Stephanie must cope with a series of fears and crises. Denny and Stephanie are drawn to each other through writing and reading poetry, and author Liz Rosenberg's own poetic sense gives truth to Stephanie's ability to make art out of the darkest things. Stephanie's passage through an emotional winter, which echoes the myth of Persephone, ultimately brings her into a budding sense of life and hope. Written in short chapters in the style of prose poetry, this is an exquisitely crafted, emotionally honest novel for young adults from a prize-winning author.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 9^-12. In a series of intense prose poems, Rosenberg reveals the excitement and obsession of Stephanie's first love at 17, from her initial all-consuming happiness ("Everything shines") through the tentative discovery ("She thrills in her little power over him, though she doesn't understand the power; it's like having a magic wand that moves on its own volition") to the inevitable end ("The ax, once fallen, loses its sharpness. Loses its terror"). As time passes from autumn to winter to spring, she moves from giddiness to deep despair and then to renewal and transformation. Rosenberg's thoughtful choice of each word, each spare sentence, conveys the complexity and insecurity of mismatched love and also the struggle in a dysfunctional family, the fear of mental illness, and the manic hope and sadness of adolescence. There's a lot packed into this small poetic novel, but the whole is remarkably effective. --Frances Bradburn

Publisher's Weekly Review

This series of prose poems voicing the many woes of 17-year-old Stephanie teeters between art and melodrama. Third-person narrative calls on specific details and imagery ("All day she tastes his lips and breathes in the dark, musty old smell of his wool jacket") to evocatively convey the angst of the heroine, but the author squeezes too many complex issues into this slim volume to delve into any of them deeply. The development of Stephanie's character is overshadowed by the conflicts arising from unstable relationships with her mentally disturbed mother and Denny, her fellow-poet boyfriend. Stephanie plummets into depression as she battles irrational fears that she is pregnant (before they have sex), experiences a strangely intimate moment with her boyfriend's alcoholic father and discovers Denny is gay. Her only positive distraction comes with high-school wrestler Ben, who amuses himself by writing rude comments in students' poetry journals. Teens will no doubt find Stephanie's struggles darkly intriguing, but her self-despair eventually becomes tedious. At one point, she makes an elaborate list of the things that make her cry ("The smell of onions frying. Denny's worried face; his long scrawled letters. Long-distance telephone commercials"), but readers may be left to ponder what, if anything, makes her laugh. Ages 14-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-At 17, but looking 14 with her slight, underdeveloped figure, Stephanie is "the girl" with long red hair who writes poetry and takes advanced classes at her Massachusetts high school. On the first day of her junior year, she attracts the eye of Denny Pistil, son of a rich attorney, who soon sweeps her off her feet with his interest in her poetry and his passionate attentions. He makes her wonder if she is "betraying- the world of her mother, the untouched, unscathed world of her self." Her mother works at home as a potter; her struggle with mental illness is an integral part of the family's life. Stephanie fears she may have inherited her mother's craziness in the guise of her own anxieties and her phobias about food. As the romance with Denny progresses, she fears pregnancy and feels a growing ambivalence about lovemaking. Denny begins to grow cold and distant, and Stephanie experiences symptoms of depression and anxiety when their relationship unravels over his nascent sexual attraction to a male friend. She recovers her hopefulness in the early spring as she begins a new friendship with Ben, who loves poetry and has the gift of putting her at ease. Rosenberg's sensitive writing is structured in complete sentences and paragraphs, like prose, with the figurative language and economy of word characteristic of poetry. Breaks are provided not by chapters, but by poem titles, to render a touching third-person narrative, enhanced by resonant images of nature and the changing seasons.-Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.