Click here to see all of the current Quick Picks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Hachette / Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
Shocked and confused, Avery Kylie Grambs is pulled from class and whisked away to the reading of billionaire Tobias Hawthorne’s will-a man whom she’s never met-and inherits his fortune. Abruptly moving into his mansion filled with secret passageways and disinherited family members, Avery tries to solve the puzzle of why she is Tobias’ heir rather than his four brilliant, handsome teen grandsons and their families.
The Inheritance Games is built on short, dialogue-driven chapters and the promise of puzzles, passageways, and mysteries to uncover in every page turn. Avery is clever, likeable, and well-developed as she navigates the treacherous waters of her newfound fame and fortune after a lifetime of financial struggle. Equally likeable (albeit each in their own ways) are the competitive Hawthorne grandsons, who set aside their discontent at disinheritance to work with (and sometimes against) Avery to try and solve the riddle of her inheritance. While there are many characters to follow throughout, each is distinct and developed enough that they are not difficult to track. In true Barnes fashion, clues are interwoven throughout the story and, if the reader is clever enough, they might be able to take a guess at the final big reveal, which both solves the question of Avery’s inheritance and sets up neatly for an upcoming sequel reluctant readers can look forward to devouring.
Fans of Knives Out, Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson, and The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin will appreciate this fast-moving, twisting, turning, danger-around-every corner mystery/thriller.
The Last Witness by Claire McFall
Sourcebooks Fire / Sourcebooks
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Heather and four friends head off on a camping trip along a remote portion of the Scottish coast. On a hike, Heather removes an old brooch from an ancient burial site. Later, interpersonal squabbles and relationship drama cause the group to splinter, and one teen heads off on a walk and never returns. Then a second group member disappears into the sea, a third falls severely ill, and a fourth loses touch with reality as Heather senses a dark, supernatural presence over the group. Told in now/then sections, readers learn that Heather is now in a psychiatric hospital and the only other surviving member of the group is in a coma.
Reluctant readers will be drawn in by the discrepancies between the information revealed in the “now” and “then” portions of the book, filled with unsettling details that suggest Heather is now a potential suspect in the deaths of her friends. On the camping trip, petty drama believably spirals into larger conflicts and each disappearance ramps up the tension and keeps the pacing strong. The setting is appropriately bleak and an ominous, chilling atmosphere permeates the narrative. A disturbing twist at the end will shock readers.
Hand this dark thriller to reluctant readers who enjoy twisty plots and unreliable narrators, such as in Tiffany Jackson’s Allegedly, Jennifer Donaldson’s I Know You Remember, or Chelsea Ichaso’s Little Creeping Things.
— Elizabeth Giles