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.
Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty
W. Norton Company
Publication Date: September 10th, 2019
Written by a mortician in question and answer chapters, this book explores some of the more icky and intriguing questions about human corpses. Examples include: Can I keep my parents’ skulls after they die? and What happens if you die in space? With a perfect amount of snark and lighthearted illustrations, this book is a fun (if morbid) read for readers of all ages interested in knowing the facts of death.
Easy to read and funny, with an eye-opening title, this book is a fun book for those who like real life ickiness or simply want to understand more about the processes bodies go through post-mortem. Doughty’s upbeat answers and fast pacing make the read go along quickly even for the most reluctant reader.
Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? is perfect for fans of Mary Roach’s non-fiction, the podcast Sawbones by Justin and Sydnee McElroy, and the podcast Death in the Afternoon by Caitlin Doughty, Sarah Chavez, and Louise Hung.
Fear of Missing Out by Kate McGovern
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr)
Publication Date: March 19th, 2019
Astrid’s brain cancer is back after years of remission. As a 16- year-old just starting out on life, this probable death sentence leaves her with questions. Is there any hope? If not by conventional means, maybe she can freeze herself and stop time. On her mission to explore cryopreservation, Astrid road trips with her best friend and boyfriend, all chronicled on her vlog. On her trip of self discovery, she reclaims her agency, and overcomes her fear of missing out.
This book has a great hook, we know right away that Astrid is facing probable death from cancer. This book explores feelings, science, and religion. There are also intense parent and social relationships. Astrid’s first person point of view takes us inside her head through her tragic life experience.
Readers of the Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Noggin by John Corey Whaley will find similar themes here. Those who liked Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott will also find tough medical decisions here.
The Justice Project by Michael Betcherman
Orca / Orca Book Publishers
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
When a serious injury derails Matt Barnes’s promising football career, he finds a new passion interning with the Justice Project, an organization dedicated to defending the wrongly convicted. While working on the case of alleged killer Ray Richardson, Matt and his fellow intern Sonya find themselves immersed in a decades-old murder mystery.
This quick read adds a dash of suspense and social justice to a coming-of-age story. Depressed and struggling to accept his injured body, Matt’s work with the Justice Project helps to rebuild his self-esteem. As Matt and Sonya attempt to investigate the cold case, and exonerate Ray, they learn a great deal about the intersections of racism, privilege, and criminal justice. The mystery element keeps the story moving at a brisk pace, as do the teens’ moving interviews with imprisoned clients. Despite making some questionable decisions during their investigations, Matt and Sonya succeed in exonerating Ray and finding the real killer.
Readers interested in the works of Angie Thomas and Tiffany Jackson will find similar thought-provoking discussions of race and social justice issues here. Murder mystery enthusiasts, including fans of The Amateurs series by Sara Shepard or the Truly, Devious series by Maureen Johnson will appreciate the cold case at the heart of this story.
–Kathleen J Barker
On A Scale of 1 to 10 by Ceylan Scott
Chicken House / Scholastic
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Admitted to a psychiatric hospital for teens, Tamar is the newest patient. At Lime Grove they ask endless questions trying to help Tamar discover why she is there and what really happened to her friend, Iris.
With large font and short chapters, this book is easy to read with the variety of characters and situations that will be familiar to teens. Tamar’s reactions to emotional experiences seem typical to others who have insulated themselves in their own mind. Readers will hope for the best for her as she continues to self-sabotage during her treatment.
This book is for readers who enjoy books by Ellen Hopkins and Amy Reed for their raw and gritty material. Also for fans of Glasgow’s Girl in Pieces (2016) for the denial during recovery.
–Jessica Lorentz Smith
Spooked! How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America by Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: August 7, 2018
The 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds sent many people into a panic, causing some to flee their homes to save themselves from the perceived Martian invasion. When it was discovered that the broadcast was fiction, it called into question fake news and propaganda.
This nonfiction exploration of the 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast is both timely and fascinating. Reluctant readers will surely be interested in how the events of that October played out and how it is relevant today.
Teens can listen to the original 1938 broadcast on YouTube to judge the dramatization for themselves. Readers who enjoy podcasts such as Serial and novels like Courtney Summers’ Sadie will find this non-fiction gem intriguing.
— Lorrie Roussin
The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkeller
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Thirteen-year-old, brown-skinned Moth Hush discovers she’s a witch when she gets mad at some bullies at school. Her mom confesses that they are part of a long line of witches and that her mother was actually born in the 1600’s. Unfortunately, Moth’s mom won’t say any more about it and refuses to teach her witchcraft. However, Moth finds her mom’s diary and learns about a secret world for witches that her grandmother created. Moth goes there and meets her grandmother, who is pretty negative about humans.
Moth is intent on learning to be a witch, unbeknownst to her that witch hunters are on the prowl. Soon Moth, her mom and her grandmother must work together if they want to defeat the witch hunters.
The artwork in this graphic novel is very easy to interpret, with attractive colors, clear panels, and expressive characters. Humor makes the story sing and the intergenerational conflict is relatable. Here’s hoping for a sequel!