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.
Creep by Eireann Corrigan
Scholastic Press / Scholastic
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Olivia is excited to bond with her new neighbor Janie Donahue, not to mention Janie’s sweet older brother Ben. When threatening letters signed by the “Sentry” appear throughout the Donahue home, the trio immerse themselves in local history in order to outsmart the perpetrator and keep the Donahue family together.
This is a quick thriller, as well as a modestly creepy read. Olivia is a quiet and thoughtful protagonist drawn to the loud and dramatic Donahue family, whose members are harboring a wealth of secrets. The Sentry is just threatening enough to keep the tension high, and the mystery moves along quickly, thanks to engaging glimpses into the past of the town and its inhabitants. The story wraps up neatly, and Corrigan sprinkles plenty of clues throughout the narrative to make the ending believable. The interesting setting– a historic home full of secret rooms and hiding places–adds additional excitement.
A great selection for fans of light horror, especially stories involving stalkers or watchers. Readers who appreciated The Missing Season by Gillian French or The Haunted by Danielle Vega will enjoy this book.
–Kathleen J. Barker
Disaster Strikes!: The Most Dangerous Space Missions of All Time by Jeffrey Kluger
Publication Date: May 7th, 2019
Disaster Strikes consists of 12 chapters, each describing a different trip into space. Missions attempted by both the astronauts of the United States as well as the cosmonauts of Russia are included, and the problems and catastrophes that plagued each are described fully.
The excitement of space travel and the disasters and risk that entails will be attractive to readers who like space, science, history and real life tragedy.
Readers who like films such as Apollo 13 or The Martian will like this book. Those who like suspense and nonfiction will also find interesting stories here.
— Cathy Outten
In the Hall with a Knife: A Clue Mystery by Diana Peterfreund
Amulet Books / Abrams
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
A dangerous winter storm leaves a group of Blackbrook Academy students stranded in a historic mansion on campus with their dead headmaster’s body. Was his death a random act of violence, or a murder perpetrated by a student with a dark secret?
This fast-paced mystery, based on the board game Clue, features a diverse and quirky set of characters (all of whom have colorful names or nicknames). Most of the action takes place in a mansion-like dormitory that features the requisite spaces, including a ballroom, a conservatory, and a library. The mystery unfolds through multiple viewpoints, but the characters are fairly conventional (a science genius, an athlete, a scheming mean girl, etc.), making it easy to tell them apart. Peterfreund builds suspense by revealing that each student is hiding something, from secret identities to expulsion-worthy honor code violations. With so many motives, and unreliable narrators, the ending will likely surprise some readers.
A great selection for fans of the board game, as well as readers who enjoyed mysteries such as I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson, or fans of boarding school intrigue, such as the Truly, Devious series by Maureen Johnson.
–Kathleen J. Barker
Salt by Hannah Moskowitz
Publication Date: October 30, 2018
As orphans lost at sea after their parents disappeared during a sea monster hunt, Indi and his siblings continue to float through the sea hunting other monsters. But he hates it and desperately wants a different life for his siblings. One with more stability and foundation. This can only happen if they go on the treasure hunt promised by their parents. The journey will be dangerous and they might encounter some monsters that they have never met before.
There is something to love about each of these siblings floating in the open ocean, pirating for sea monsters on a boat one huge wave away from sinking. With short chapters that each end with a black page of salt, this short book contains many adventures and hunts for both supernatural and metaphorical monsters.
In a similar format to Ness’s And the Ocean was Our Sky (2018) and the tone of Shusterman’s Challenger Deep where each reader will take away something different.
–Jessica Lorentz Smith
Smooth Criminals by Kurt Lustgarten and Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith and Illustrated by Leisha Riddel
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
After computer hacker, Brenda, aka “Killa-B,” accidentally hacks her way into a top secret government machine she finds in storage and wakes up Mia, a notorious jewel thief from 1969, they have a lot of catching up to do before they can start on heists of their own. It doesn’t take them long to figure out that they know some of the same people and share similar distaste about them.
Thirty years doesn’t seem to be an issue for Brenda and Mia once they decide to do a heist together. It is pretty funny to see Brenda’s reaction to Mia’s ignorance about new technologies and culture, but when it comes to stealing jewels, time is irrelevant. Brenda needs Mia’s catsuit and feisty personality while Mia needs Brenda’s brain and expertise of technology.
This graphic novel is for fans of the movie Ocean’s 8, Sala’s graphic novel Cat Burglar Black (2009), and Lacey’s The Island of Thieves (2011).
–Jessica Lorentz Smith
The Liar’s Daughter by Megan Cooley Peterson
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Bleach burns the scalp when you use it directly to dye hair. But Piper knows how to soothe her little sister who is fussing while having hers brightened, like Father prefers. In fact, Father has quite a few rules that the children must follow including what to wear, daily chores, and rituals. Even though he only has infrequent visits, the children always need to be ready for when he does.
Piper has been ripped from the security of her Father’s protection, separated from her siblings and forced to live in a strange house, with a strange woman. She has to attend weekly counseling sessions and they ask all kinds of questions about her life before. Well, she has many questions about her life now and wants nothing more than to get back to where she came from. In quick chapters that alternate from, “before” and “after,” readers learn that Piper might actually prefer her cult lifestyle and commune living to a private bedroom and the outside.
This novel about brainwashing and cult fiction is for readers who also enjoyed Blood and Salt (2015) and After the Fire (2018).
–Jessica Lorentz Smith