Click here to see all of the current Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
A Sky For Us Alone by Kristin Russell
Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
This novel depicts the hardships and heartbreak of life in rural Appalachia. Eighteen-year-old Harlowe’s brother turns up dead, his mother is addicted to opioids, the town is polluted with runoff from coal mines, and his new love Tennessee lives in fear of her abusive father. Despite it all, Harlowe finds hope for a better future.
A Sky for Us Alone tackles tough subject matter – addiction, loss, and poverty – with sensitivity. The rural Appalachia setting is unique and the opioid crisis portrayal is brutally honest. Harlowe and Tennessee form a fast and intense bond that teens will likely connect to, and readers will root for the couple as the characters navigate their feelings, their circumstances, and their future. This novel is a solid Quick Pick; it’s dark, gritty, well-paced with a bit of action and suspense and has love, promise, and an overall feeling of hopefulness.
Readers with an interest in the environment and the effects of coal mining on the land and people will find this book appealing and could pair with a viewing of the documentary Blood on the Mountain. Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick is similar in content and tone, about a young man trying to make a better life for himself by escaping the drug trafficking and violence in his poor neighborhood along the U.S. Mexico border.
The Size of the Truth by Andrew Smith
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
March 26, 2019
Sam Abernathy fell into a well when he was four. He is now 11, and is being jumped ahead to eighth grade. This fantastically funny story alternates between Sam’s memories of his experience in the well and finding his way as a small eighth grader. Sam survives his father’s extreme camping trips and figures out how to be a good friend.
This book makes a great quick pick. It is short and has a great hook. The characters are quirky, flawed, and relatable. Funny moments (some involving a talking armadillo) and sad ones are balanced. There is no romance for those who aren’t interested, but navigating middle school friendships and family relationships is addressed. The main theme of finding one’s own way in spite of parents’ ideas will resonate widely.
This title may entice readers to read Smith’s Winger and Standoff, the series for which this is a prequel. Readers of James Patterson’s Middle School series will find the liveliness of middle school reflected here as well. Those who appreciate heart wrenching coming of age stories like Holes will also find similarities. This book is for readers who like fantastical elements and stories of being lost in your own head.
— Cathy Outten
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