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.
Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg
Bloomsbury YA / Bloomsbury
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
Allison “Ally” Smith loves the life that she and her father have built in small-town Wisconsin, at least until the day the F.B.I. arrives at her door. Kidnapped by her father as a toddler, Ally’s mother has been searching for her for 15 years. Caught in the middle of a devastating web of secrets, Ally is forced to leave her friends and her home behind in order to live in Florida with the family she didn’t even know existed.
In this thought-provoking family drama, Allison—and all of the main characters—must grapple with the nature of family and identity. Like every teenager, Ally struggles to define herself and her relationship to others, a process that becomes even more complicated when she fails to live up to her mother’s idealized expectations. Her father’s deception adds an extra dose of anxiety and anger to Ally’s self-reflections. Eventually, she begins to understand that she was not the only person hurt by her father’s decision. Ally’s extended network of friends, as well as a budding romance, offer pleasant diversions from the narrative tension, as well as a reminder that true families come in all shapes and sizes.
Perfect for fans of secret-filled family dramas, such as Brandy Colbert’s The Revolution of Birdie Randolph. Readers who enjoy stories that feature teens exploring their identities, including Sarah Dessen’s The Rest of the Story, or Natasha Diaz’s Color Me In, will find similar elements here.
–Kathleen J. Barker
The Good Son by Pierre-Jacques Ober, illustrated by Jules Ober and Felicity Coonan
Candlewick Studio / Candlewick Press
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Models and miniatures are set up and photographed to create a piece of historical fiction set during World War I in which soldier Pierre is caught by the French army for desertion. This pictorial narrative recounts how Pierre joined the forces and went to battle, only to learn the harsh realities of war and realize the harshest punishment coming to him due to deserting his army.
This visual tale makes a complex moral dilemma easy to peruse. The book reads quickly and the photographed miniature scenes bring the war and the darkness surrounding it–death and destruction–into real focus. Teens who are drawn to non-fiction narratives but aren’t easily excited by reading will easily be fascinated with this title. While this is a picture book in terms of format, young adult readers who are encouraged to pick it up will find that it’s not for children and will appreciate a format that reads similarly to a graphic novel.
For fans of historical graphic novel memoirs such as George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy, as well as classics such as Maus (Spiegelman) and Persepolis (Satrapi).
Wilder Girls by Rory Powers
Delacorte Press/ Penguin Random House
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
When the Tox overtakes a girls’ boarding school on a remote island in Maine, Hetty and her two best friends must do anything they can to survive and adapt, all while the Tox mutates their bodies into something unrecognizable. When Hetty discovers a secret conspiracy involved in the school’s quarantine, everything that they think they know about the virus and their lives at the school changes.
This is a fast-paced engaging climate-fiction/horror read that starts right in the middle of the action. There’s a great deal of body horror, and it’s both visceral and surprising. There is a love story between Hetty and Reese (one of her friends), and while it is low-key, it provides some needed LGBT content within the genre. Readers will be interested in the book from the cover alone, but there is plenty within the story to draw them in.
Fans of The Grace Year by Kim Liggett, Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand, and the movie or book Annihilation will love Wilder Girls.