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Quick Picks (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, March 3 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Quick Picks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott, art by Harmony Becker
Top Shelf Productions / IDW Publishing
Publication Date: July 16, 2019
ISBN: 978-1603094504

George Takei, best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek, tells of his family’s forced removal from their home and detention in internment camps in this graphic memoir. The drawings show the grim realities of their lives even as the text tells the story from George’s perspective as a five year old whose parents undertook heroic efforts to shelter him from their dire circumstances. George’s parents largely succeeded in protecting him from the harsh truth that they were prisoners and he still has some fond memories games, treats, and friendships in the camps. When the camps closed, the Takei family began an even more precarious existence as they struggled to rebuild their lives in a world that viewed them with suspicion and hostility. Interspersed throughout the book are depictions of milestone events in Takei’s life that demonstrated how the residual effects of a childhood spent as an “alien enemy” impacted his personal relationships, his career, and his activism.

The story has plenty of heart and compassion. It also packs a lot of history into an accessible and appealing format. The popularity of Star Trek, Takei’s social media presence and his activism on behalf of LGBTQ+ rights and the Japanese American National Museum will bring many readers to this graphic memoir. Those following current immigration headlines will also want to check out this timely read.

Readers may be interested in other graphic memoirs, such as John Lewis’s March or the novel Internment by Samira Ahmed. 

— Barb Dinan

Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley
HarperTeen / HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
ISBN: 978-0062908025

Liv’s world is shattered when her older brother, Jonah, accidentally shoots himself with a neighbor’s gun. Life in small-town Maine is hard enough, but now Liv must navigate family relationships, friendships, and a potential romance under the shadow of Jonah’s traumatic brain injury. Can she forgive her neighbors—and her daredevil brother—for their actions leading to the accident?

This thought-provoking story, written in verse, tackles the issue of gun control, as told through the eyes of a fifteen-year-old girl. Liv’s spare and introspective musings provide a glimpse into the bittersweet ways in which Jonah’s accident, and the family’s lawsuit against the neighbor who owned the gun, have affected Liv and her community. Liv is a resilient character who remains devoted to Jonah and his care, even as their mother struggles–psychologically and financially–with the family’s new reality. Culley, a former pediatric hospice nurse, offers a realistic, but not overwhelming, glimpse of Jonah’s medical condition. In spite of the tragedy, Liv finds hope in the company of Jonah’s ever-present nurses, supportive townspeople, and her brother’s best friend.

Readers interested in stories about gun violence and its aftermath will find similar themes in works such as Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, Every Moment After by Jason Moldover, Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer, and This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijcamp.

–Kathleen J. Barker

Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Wednesday Books / St. Martin’s
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
ISBN: 978-1250303707

“Jane” was kidnapped and held captive in a locked basement for seven months. Once free of the monster who imprisoned her, Jane must battle new demons as she tries to reconstruct her life. Who was her captor and why was she taken? What happened to her friend and fellow captive, Mason?

In this fast-paced novel, Jane recounts her captivity and escape in harrowing detail. These tense and suspenseful chapters alternate with those detailing Jane’s attempts to recover from her experience. As law enforcement begins to sort through evidence, and Jane questions her own memories and feelings, readers will wonder what—and who—to believe. This is a powerful story about trauma and perseverance, and many readers can likely empathize with Jane’s feelings of fear and loneliness, as well as her attempts to regain control over her body and mind. The combination of psychological drama and physical danger (plus the short, easily digestible chapters) will keep readers turning pages. 

Perfect for fans of missing person mysteries like Sadie by Courtney Summers, We Told SIx Lies by Victoria Scott, or I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson. The book will also appeal to readers interested in stories of recovery, such as Scars With Wings by Erin Stewart and Speak or Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson.

–Kathleen J. Barker

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Quick Picks

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers Blogging Team @ YALSA's The Hub.