The Poetry: Burg's novel in verse is told primarily in short lines of lyric, free verse. Throughout the verse novel, Burg makes use of a dialect that drops Gs and uses "what" in place of "that," and while she does note in the end pages of her novel that she used research from "narratives of the formerly enslaved... prepared by the Federal Writers' Project" (348) and consulted the work of anthropologist Dr. Daniel O. Sayers and historian of the African diaspora Dr. Sylviane A. Diouf to assist her in writing her novel, I was hoping for a bit more discussion in her Author's Note and Acknowledgement sections relating to her use of dialect and her linguistic choices. In terms of poetic devices, Burg makes use of some lovely imagery, simile, and lyricism throughout her narrative. For instance, in the first section of the verse novel, Grace feels her resolve begin to crumble:
like a clap of thunder
in a sweet blue sky,
all my promisin
starts feelin like
a fistful of thorns
is scratchin my brain. (4-5)and in the lines that end the second section of the narrative as Grace's family moves closer to freedom:
on a dark lake
what's set before us
like a shimmerin
piece of fallen sky. (282)Although these lines evoke some engaging images, they do not make up for the overall sense that something in this project is missing in terms of language and poetic technique. I am wary of the use of dialect in this verse novel, particularly by a white writer, without citation of any source material or discussion of these linguistic choices in her end pages.
The Page: Unlike most other verse novels for young readers, Burg does not separate her narrative into individual poems. Instead the verse novel is divided into three parts: part one is around 170 pages, part two around 100 pages, and part three around 75 pages. Each poem is untitled, but is a few pages long and its ending is denoted with a grey dot. As previously noted, Unbound does include an Author's Note and an Acknowledgements section, but Burg could have included much more information about her research, her sources, and her use of dialect throughout her narrative. I give Unbound three stars.