ALAN Picks (October 2022)

ALAN Picks: A Verse Novel About Survival & Loneliness

This month’s ALAN Picks features a review of a January 2021 verse novel, Alone by Megan E. Freeman. A story that features a young girl trying to survive on her own in a dystopian world. 

ALAN Picks Update: ALAN Picks is now accepting reviews of books published as far back as spring 2020. This gives ALAN members who are interested in reviewing books more great titles to choose from, as well as accommodate some great books released during the beginning of the pandemic that deserve highlighting. If you have some books in mind that you would like to review, please reach out to me!

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–  Richetta Tooley, ALAN Picks Editor

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A Verse Novel About Survival

Alone by Megan E. Freeman

Book Details
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publish Date: Jan. 12, 2021
Page Count: 401
ISBN: 978-1-5344-6756-9
Genre: Survival/ Dystopia/ Novel in Verse/ YA Lit 
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Synopsis: 12-year-old Maddie is the only person left in her town…or any neighboring towns. She wakes up one morning after a failed attempt at a secret sleepover, and her entire town has been evacuated. Her mom thinks she is with her dad. Her dad thinks she is with her mom, and their cell phones have been discarded by the same government that forced them to leave their homes. Maddie is left to forage to survive as weeks turn to months and then months turn to years. Her biggest battle isn’t the looters or the wild animals who threaten her existence, it is the loneliness that she battles after so much time spent in isolation.


Reading a novel written in verse is an enjoyable experience for young readers due to the quick pace and limited narration, but when that novel is a survival story, those elements are heightened. The pacing of this book is quick due to the sparse text, which heightens the emotions of the main character and also allows the reader to immerse themselves in the world that is being crafted. It also eliminates the large blocks of text that would not be broken up by dialogue…since there is nobody for Maddie to talk to. 

Beyond this being an engaging read, this book helps to highlight mental health and how important it is to have not just physical safety but a safe mental space as well. When loneliness becomes almost as big a burden as a snow storm or a group of looters, it places the highlight on self-awareness and survival in every sense of the word.

Many of the poems that make up this novel could stand on their own, delving deep into what it means to be human. But some poems lighten the mood with the exploits of Maddie and her adopted/rescued dog as they traverse the town and celebrate triumphs. Maddie’s relationship with her family, despite their absence for a majority of the novel, is a special focus in this novel that will be relatable to student readers. 

Young readers will enjoy this book and the harrowing feats Maddie endures, but they will also enjoy the beautiful language on its own, as this book melds lyrical text with fast-paced action. 

Suggestions for Curriculum & Classroom Use

The themes in this novel are relatable for both young readers and adult readers, making this text not only enjoyable, but teachable. Some thematic topics explored in this novel include:

  • Survival in the face of natural disaster
  • Corruption of government
  • The loyalty of family
  • Beauty found in nature
  • Surviving loneliness
  • Recovery from trauma
  • The power of community
  • Power and corruption

Essential Questions

  • Is survival enough, or do we need more than mere survival as humans?
  • How do our families and communities help shape us as people?
  • What should we do when loneliness threatens to overwhelm us?

Student Engagement Activities: Favorite Poems

Before reading, give each student five post-it notes of one color and five post-it notes of another color with the following task: 

“As you read, place a post-it note (choose one color specifically) marking the five poems where Maddie seems to be at her emotional lowest. With the other color of post-it notes, mark the poems where Maddie is at an emotional high point. You may need to move your post-it notes as you read and make some decisions about which are the highest highs and the lowest lows.”

This activity encourages students to focus their energy on exploring Maddie’s emotional journey as she survives this familiar territory in an unfamiliar way.

Formative/Summative Assessments

Formative: Once students finish reading the book, they should have marked their 10 poems as having the highest highs and the lowest lows for Maddie’s emotional state. 

Now, ask students to revisit each of those 10 poems, on a post-it note, and write a sentence defending this particular poem as their choice. They should include textual evidence for why this poem demonstrates the lowest lows or the highest highs. 

Summative Activity: Once students have explained on their post-it notes why they chose each poem, have them work with a partner to compare poem selections. Have them work together to determine which single poem demonstrates Maddie’s lowest emotional point in the novel and which demonstrates her highest emotional point in the book. 

The partners can now analyze the language in the poems to determine what writing decisions the author made in each of these poems to demonstrate to readers Maddie’s emotional state. Perhaps the author used powerful diction or vivid imagery or particularly powerful metaphors. Whatever the students find, they should capture on two posters similar to the format below. 

Poem Title for Highest Point

Label the writing decision the author made
“Textual example”

Label the writing decision the author made
“Textual example”

Label the writing decision the author made
“Textual example”
Poem Title for Lowest Point

Label the writing decision the author made
“Textual example”

Label the writing decision the author made
“Textual example”

Label the writing decision the author made
“Textual example”

Once students complete the posters, they should hang them up around the room (or in a hallway) and students should do a gallery walk. This works nicely if you give every student in the class four small stickers and they can put their stickers on the posters they agree with most strongly. 

Reviewed by: Heather Garcia, Curriculum and Instruction Specialist for Secondary ELA and Media, Charlotte County, Florida.