Click here to see all of the current Quick Picks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Class Act by Jerry Craft
Quill Tree Books
Publication Date: October 6, 2020
In this follow-up to New Kid, familiar characters Jordan, Drew, and Liam return, but this time most of the story focuses on eighth grader Drew, one of the only Black students at the mostly white private school. The boys wrestle with typical middle school things like puberty, and evolving friendships, but also more important, complex issues like identity, acceptance, and race and class. Despite being friends, Jordan, Drew, and Liam live very different lives and that becomes more apparent for them in this installment.
This engaging graphic novel, broken up into different chapters (with fun chapter headings that play off of other popular graphic novels), is honest and relatable, smart, and funny. The characters are authentic and there is plenty of wit and humor throughout the book. The illustrations offer a lot of engaging details for readers to explore, including puns and other fun references. This book will have high appeal to a variety of readers.
Fans of New Kid and other middle grade comics will run to pick up this one, but reading the first isn’t necessary. While it shares some of the growing up and friendship struggles we see in other middle school tales like Wimpy Kid, there is also plenty of depth and important themes. Similar titles include What Lane? By Torrey Maldonado or even Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes.
— Jade Valenzuela
Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds
Illustrator: Danica Novgorodoff
Atheneum-Caitlyn Dlouhy Books / Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: October 13, 2020
The Rules. The Rules are very important. #1 Don’t Cry. #2 Don’t Snitch. #3 Revenge. When Will’s older brother, Shawn, is shot and killed, Will plans to follow rule #3. Taking the elevator, he encounters a ghost from the past at each floor. Stories are told, memories surface, and the gun Will carries is heavy.
The story is as weighty and relevant as it was when it was first published as a novel in verse. The art, however, makes the story even more nuanced and profound. The watercolors bleed onto the page and the coloring enhances the different scenes in the book. The code is in black and white; those who have died in blue and white. Certain actions are written in red and orange: fire and blood. It’s a quick read, but so full and rich. It’s perfect for reluctant readers.
Jason Reynolds’ fans will absolutely love this graphic novel adaptation. This is perfect for readers of Walter Dean Meyers’ Monster: A Graphic Novel and I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina.
They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman
Razorbill / Penguin
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
Shaila was murdered by her boyfriend, Graham, freshman year. Best friend Jill, now a senior and a member of an exclusive society admired by all, receives a text proclaiming Graham’s innocence. Jill’s search for the truth could jeopardize her friendships, her future, and her life.
What makes this elite prep school mystery appealing are the morally grey characters, their friendships, and the alliances they form all in the name of being part of a not-so-secret society, The Players. The lengths these students will go in order to secure their perfect future will keep readers invested in the story even as the whodunit keeps them engaged.
Fans of the Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, the Debutantes series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, and Dana Mele’s People Like Us will enjoy this book.
How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi
Viking / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: September 22, 2020
On the eve of his high school graduation, 18 year old Amir runs off to Italy in order to avoid coming out to his Persian family. Over the summer, he finds himself welcomed in by a gay community in Rome, and he begins to come to terms with his identity and his family, who is desperate to reconnect with him.
At under 270 pages, the novel is short enough to be approachable to a reluctant reader. Early on the text hints at the drama to unfold by featuring short chapters wherein Amir and his family are being interrogated at the airport separately for reasons unknown. Subsequent chapters are short and descriptive, with lively descriptions of Italy, its language and food culture, as well as the collective of friends and gay scene that Amir falls into. The colorful Roman setting and dramatic unfolding of Amir’s coming out will keep readers engaged and wondering how the protagonist will rise up from the web of lies he created.
For fans of a realistic (and earnest) gay coming of age tale such as Adib Khorram’s Darius the Great and Darius the Great Deserves Better, and the Heartstopper graphic novel series.