Click here to see all of the current Quick Picks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Blood Sport by Tash McAdam
Orca Book Publishers
Publication Date: January 28, 2020
Jason, a trans 17-year-old, is only months away from aging out of the group home and going to live with his older sister when she dies of a supposed drug overdose—except Jason knows she didn’t do drugs. While sifting through her photographs, he finds news clippings about missing girls and a photo of a boxing gym. Determined to uncover the truth, Jason signs up for a boxing class as cover for his own investigation. Jason forms close friendships at the gym and discovers an unexpected talent for boxing, but worries that revealing his identity will compromise his new relationships and his search for the truth about his sister.
At only 118 pages, Blood Sport is a brief, fast-paced sports thriller that many reluctant readers will fly through. While the initial impetus for Jason’s involvement in boxing is to investigate his sister’s death, this mystery ultimately takes a backseat to the more central boxing plotline and Jason’s journey to finding friendship and acceptance as he moves towards adulthood. While Jason is trans, this is not the central focus of the plot. The mystery and suspense will engage a variety of readers, and clear writing and straightforward action make this a top choice for teens who struggle with longer or more complex reads. Heartwarming friendships, a happy ending, and #ownvoices trans representation extend the appeal, including to teens who may not typically gravitate to sports books.
Hand this to fans of quick, thoughtful sports reads, such as Monique Polak’s Straight Punch, Bee Walsh’s Manning Up or Jeff Ross’ Shark.
Home Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
Kayla’s two homes could not be more different from each other. Her home home is in colorful, vibrant Trinidad, where her mom and friends are. Her new home is in cold, gray Canada, where the only people she knows are her Aunt Jillian and Julie, her aunt’s partner. In both homes, Kayla struggles to cope with anxiety and depression. With her Aunt Jillian’s and Julie’s support and lots of long-distance calls to her best friend in Trinidad, Kayla begins to find her way toward new friends, a boy she likes, and a more hopeful future.
The eye-catching cover of this slender book will attract readers’ interest and Kayla’s straightforward, honest account of coping with mental illness will have them rooting for her success.
Give this book to teens looking hopeful and realistic depictions of mental illness. Stories with similar themes are: Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, Challenger Deep by Neal and Brendan Shusterman and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez.