Review: The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos

The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos (Carolrhoda Lab 2019)

Reviewed by Kathryn Leonard-Peck

In this hybrid review, Leonard-Peck combines poetry and critical reading to map the emotional landscape of this stunning YA novel, which as a 2019 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection and a 2018 New York Public Library Best Book for Teens. For more reviews that challenge the form, click here.

One man’s disturbed

is another girl’s normal

shrink notes scribbling

as the girl writes her book


by word

by reaching word

her own definition

of her own new life

from always

to zombie

while Daddy

cool his heels in clanging jail

and Mom

throws her heels up to the dingy ceiling

man after man

in her sagging bed

as CPS knocks

and snatches her brother

baby of the system

thumb in his silent mouth.

Macy rages



pen in hand

trying to define

a reality that works

a reality that hurts

just a little bit less

her teacher helping

friends at the door

Alma patient

always learning

George near mute

guarding his head

so the last breath of his dream

isn’t beaten out

so the last small spark isn’t snuffed

but still

despite the small letters of hope

trauma creeps, prowls

always waiting


just a jagged breath away.

Buy this book

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