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Quick Picks: Not always what you expect

While we adore all of the YMAs and the lists produced by YALSA, we occasionally find ourselves overwhelmed by so many lists and so many titles. There is one, list, however, that I find myself referencing throughout the year. That list? Quick Picks.

Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers is an annual list compiled by a selection committee of YALSA members. It was created in 1996, with the implementation of the Top Ten list the following year. It is a great place to start when you encounter someone (or are some one) who doesn’t like to read, for any reason. Quick Picks, like many of YALSA’s lists, has both a fiction and a nonfiction section, since we all know there is that very large, very bizarre group that has no interest in made-up stories.

The fabulous thing about Quick Picks is the very variety of reads. If you look at the list across the fifteen years that it has been produced, you’ll see books that are still going strong, like Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries and Angela Johnson’s The First Part Last; stories that mark a period in popular history (books on N’SYNC and Star Wars come to mind); and hidden gems that sadly, a lot of people might not search for these days.

One issue that can occasionally come up when trying to recommend a book for someone who doesn’t like to read is relevance. Why would I bother reading this book? Why should I read about people who aren’t like me? What do I care about a world in which I don’t exist? The goal of Quick Picks is to counter that with people, places and ideas that can cross experiences, worlds, and situations that anyone might find interesting. Also, anyone can nominate a book for the following year’s Quick Picks, as long as it matches criteria that include attractive physical appearance, clear writing, and emotional appeal for novels, and approachable, objective nonfiction.

This year’s Top Ten list features some gems in both the fiction and nonfiction categories (and some in between). My most interesting title award goes to Whoogles: Can a Dog Make a Woman Pregnant?…and Hundreds of Other Searches That Make You Ask ‘Who Would Google That?Cover for WhooglesAfter having watched students start typing in a query or phrase, only to look at the other questions that would come up below it, there are definitely people I could give this book to.

Those not interested in some of the most bizarre Google queries might be more inclined towards a book whose tagline is “Welcome to the Apocalypse.” Ann Aguirre’s Enclave immediately grabs readers with its intriguing cover featuring futuristic metals, and then three lines in you find out no one in this world lives past forty.  Why? That question alone would make most people keep reading–but if not, the easy flow of the text and Ann Aguirre’s impressive world building definitely help.

On the completely opposite end of the spectrum–and a lot less gutblastingly funny than Whoogles–is Brenda Haugen’s The Zodiac Killer: Terror and Mystery. The story of the 1960s California killer has been the basis for films both fictionally centered and aiming to tell the true story. There might not be a lot of photographs, but the letters the Zodiac killer supposedly sent to area newspapers and interesting tidbits in the side space could lend to not only a quick read, but a fascinating one, too.

Of course, everything on this year’s 117-book list is not set in an alternate universe or an insight into a serial killer. There are also those books that depict the lives of teenagers just like our readers. They may be enduring issues that make life more than difficult for them, or maybe they’re just agonizing their way through normal life. Realistic fiction, descriptive nonfiction, fantastical fiction and everything in between finds its way onto the Quick Picks list.

But the greatest thing about Quick Picks? You never know what will be on it.

Did you find anything unexpected on this year’s Quick Picks list or any other list?

— Jessica Pryde just finished Fracture by Megan Miranda and is trying to figure out what’s next.