May B. by Caroline Starr Rose is a blank verse novel set in the western Kansas prairie in the late 19th century. It has received some favorable buzz since being released in January, so when my library processed its copies I checked one out to see for myself. I liked it about as much as I'm ever going to like a blank verse novel set on the Kansas prairie.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
May is helping out on a
neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She
wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by 15
long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned.
Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and
neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to
survive, May's memories of her struggles with reading at school come
back to haunt her. But she's determined to find her way home again.
There is quite a lot going on in this book. It is a story about life on the prairie, it is a story about a girl trying to figure out where she belongs, it is about a reading problem, it is a survival story. All that combined with the blank verse made me feel it was trying just a little to hard to be Educational. I am not easily wowed by blank verse novels. I find it difficult to find a character's unique voice in them. They often all sound the same to me. May B. was no different. May is just like all the other plucky prairie girls that have ever been written about, easy to lose in the crowd of all the others who sound exactly like her. That being said, the action in the story is interesting. May finds herself alone for a few months and must survive without the assistance of anyone. Instead of dwelling on long scenes about lack of food, fear of cold, loneliness, the story takes care of these quickly and with heart. This is where the blank verse is an advantage to the story being told.
Anyone who loves a good survival tale, prairie story, or May's character type should find much to enjoy with this one. There is comfort in the predictability of it. I think that and the quickness of reading the blank verse will make it appealing to the children who enjoy these type of stories.