Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle was like that for me.
I know there's some trepidation about the novel-in-verse format. Concern that perhaps it's just a story told with line breaks. But novels-in-verse have many more opportunities for expressing internal dialogue, drawing focus to a certain description as a turning point, delving deeper into the relationships between characters. In short, novels-in-verse are unique. I personally, find it to be a great pick for reluctant readers at the library. My patrons who get panic attacks when they see pages full of words, often find novels-in-verse to be more manageable.
Silver People delves into the racial and class divides among workers in the digging of the Panama Canal. It shows the effect that this man made wonder had on the landscape, and the people of Panama as well. And in the way that Hogwort Castle is character in Harry Potter, I even felt that the forest itself was the main character of this endeavor with its own arc. It changed as it watched the divide between workers divided by the color of their skin and by silver and gold.
I've read other novels-in-verse by Engle. She's a master at the format, but I'd venture to say this is her best book yet, based on her own experiences in Panama and extensive historical resource. If you're looking to get lost in history, a lush forest or an intertwining network of characters, then this book is for you. It hits the shelves March 25, 2014.