2021 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers

2021 Quick Picks Top Ten

The 2021 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list is now available!

The list of 64 titles is drawn from 81 official nominations, which were posted and discussed in blog posts on The Hub. The list identifies titles aimed at encouraging reading among teens who dislike to read. View the full list.

In addition to the full list, the blogging team chose the following titles as its top ten:

  • Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis. Katherine Tegen Books. 2020. $18.99. ISBN: 9780062561626.
  • Found by Joseph Bruchac. 7th Generation. 2020. $9.95. ISBN: 9781939053237.
  • Golden Arm by Carl Deuker. HMH Books for Young Readers. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9780358012429.
  • Heartstopper Vol. 1. by Alice Oseman. Graphix. 2020. $14.00. ISBN: 9781338617443.
  • Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds. Illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books. 2020. $19.99. ISBN: 9781534444959.
  • The Loop by Ben Oliver. Chicken House. 2020. $18.99. ISBN: 9781338589306.
  • #NoEscape by Gretchen McNeil. Freeform. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9781368026260.
  • Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam. Blazer + Bray. 2020. $18.99. ISBN: 9780062996480.
  • Snapdragon by Kat Leyh. First Second Books. 2020. $12.99. ISBN: 9781250171115. ISBN: 9781250171115.
  • You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson. Scholastic. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9781338503265.

The suggestion form for the 2022 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list is open. If you’d like to suggest a title to the blogging team for consideration as a nominee, please fill out the form.

YALSA’s portfolio of book and media awards helps strengthen library services for and with teens by identifying quality, age-appropriate resources for librarians and library workers to share with the teens in their communities. Learn more about YALSA’s other book and media lists here.

A huge thank you goes out to the members of the 2021 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers Blogging Team for all the great work they put into curating this list. The members are:

Coordinator Molly Dettmann, Norman North High School, Norman, OK
Megan Baird, Main Library-Yuma County Library District, Yuma, AZ
Kathleen J. Barker, History UnErased, Plymouth, MI
Sarah Carnahan, Pulaski Academy, Little Rock, AR
Barbara Dinan, Plymouth District Library, Plymouth, MI
Elizabeth Giles, Kansas City Public Library, MO
Aimee Haslam, Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, VA
Marie LeJeune, Western Oregon University, Monmouth, OR
Jessica Levy, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, CA
Kat Reynolds, University of Southern California, South Pasadena, CA
Maryjean Riou, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, NJ 
Lorraine Roussin, San Antonio ISD, San Antonio, TX
Jennifer Sutton, Lake Park High School-East Campus, Roselle, IL
Jade Valenzuela, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM
Emily Williams, Metropolitan Library System, Oklahoma City, OK
Administrative assistant Dana Hutchins, Jackson Middle School, San Antonio, TX

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, December 29 Edition

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 Book Cover
The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Hachette / Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
ISBN: 978-1368052405

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.

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, December 29 Edition

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, December 15 Edition

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

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis Book Cover
Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis
Dial Books / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
ISBN: 978-1984814531

Lola Nox, daughter of famed horror film director Nolan Nox, is shipped off to stay with a grandmother she’s never met after her father is stabbed in their Manhattan apartment. She arrives in Harrow Lake, Indiana, the small town that was the setting of her father’s cult classic film Nightjar—a film that her mother starred in as a young woman before disappearing years later. The town is eerily timeless and rife with superstition around a local cannibalistic monster called Mr. Jitters. As Lola learns more about her mother’s childhood, she seeks to unravel the mystery of her disappearance before the town’s darkness can engulf her. 

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, December 15 Edition

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, December 8 Edition

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

Bloom by Kenneth Oppel The Overthrow Book 1 Book Cover
Bloom by Kenneth Oppel

Bloom: The Overthrow: Book 1 by Kenneth Oppel
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 4, 2020
ISBN: 978-1524773007

First came the rains, then the vines grew and grew until they took over. The vines pose a triple threat to the inhabitants of a small island. They crowd out plant life and encase roads and buildings, they cause bizarre allergic reactions, and they can trap and eat people. Three teens discover that they are immune to the allergens and then discover each other. Will  they band together and will they be able to defeat the plant invasion?

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, December 8 Edition

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, December 1 Edition

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 Book Cover
Class Act by Jerry Craft

Class Act by Jerry Craft
Quill Tree Books
Publication Date: October 6, 2020
ISBN: 9780062885517

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. 

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, December 1 Edition

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, November 24 Edition

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

Lux: The New Girl by Ashley Woodfolk Book Cover
Lux: The New Girl by Ashley Woodfolk

Lux: The New Girl by Ashley Woodfolk
Workshop / Penguin
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
ISBN: 978-0593096017

When Lux is kicked out of yet another school for fighting, she has one more chance to fit in and make things work at a local high school. At Harlem’s Augusta Savage School of Arts, she meets a group of students known as the Flyy Girls. Being a good friend and leaving her old life behind is hard, even with the best of intentions.

This book is less than 150 pages and is smaller in size than a regular hardcover YA novel, with straightforward text and short chapters that include diary entries and lots of dialogue. The simple but real plot is not overly complicated and readers will end up caring about and relating to Lux’s success, stress over social media, family dynamics, and everyday obstacles. 

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, November 24 Edition

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, November 17 Edition

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

Find Layla by Meg Elison Book Cover
Find Layla by Meg Elison

Find Layla by Meg Elison
Skyscape
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
ISBN: 978-1542019804

Layla is a 14-year-old aspiring scientist observing a world that doesn’t make sense. She knows that other people don’t live the way she does—in a dangerously run-down apartment filled with toxic mold, mushrooms, and maggots, and without electricity or a working door. Her unstable mother comes and goes as she pleases, leaving Layla to care for her younger brother with few resources. At school, Layla’s unkempt appearance makes her the target of relentless bullying. When a biome project is assigned in science class, Layla films her home and the organisms living in it—and when the video goes viral, her brother is picked up by Child Protective Services. Desperate for them to be reunited, Layla goes into hiding while seeking ways to tell her story on her own terms.

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, November 17 Edition

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, November 10 Edition

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

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland Book Cover
Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
Simon Pulse / Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 11, 2020
ISBN: 978-1534448636

Three years ago, ICE deported Sia’s mother to Mexico, and now she’s presumed dead after attempting to cross the Sonoran Desert. Ever hopeful, Sia retreats to the desert, lighting candles to guide her mother’s return. Eventually Sia’s mom does appear, flying an alien spacecraft and claiming that extraterrestrials are hunting her. Together with her best friend Rose and would-be boyfriend Noah, Sia tries to find the truth in her mother’s fantastical claims.

This is a fast-paced genre mash-up with elements of mystery, fantasy, and Mexican folklore. Short chapters keep the story moving, along with discussions of compelling issues such as deportation, racism, sexual assault, and grief. The alien subplot, however, adds a dose of levity and intrigue. The main characters are a diverse lot with engaging backstories that highlight Sia’s Latinx heritage, Noah’s mysterious family life, and Rose’s tense relationship with her fanatically religious father. Over the course of the story, Sia learns a lot about the people in her life, and that everyone faces challenges or carries scars that aren’t always visible to others.

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, November 10 Edition

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, November 3 Edition

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Blood Sport by Tash McAdam
Orca Book Publishers
Publication Date: January 28, 2020
ISBN: 978-0399547966

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.

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, November 3 Edition

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, October 27 Edition

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

The Girl in the White Van by April Henry
Henry Holt & Co. / Macmillan
Publication Date: July 28, 2020
ISBN: 978-1250157591

Savannah is tired of moving every time her mom finds a new boyfriend and she’s finally happy living in Portland where she attends Kung Fu classes and is making friends. After a fight with her mom’s boyfriend, Savannah is kidnapped from a parking lot and must rely on her wits and self defense skills to try to escape–and help the other girl her kidnapper has also abducted.

This thriller is fast paced and action packed; readers are pulled immediately into the conflicts in Savannah’s life and then the frightening events of her abduction.  Although the book shifts points of view, including chapters from Savannah, Jenny (another kidnapped girl), family members, etc. the point of view changes only heighten the suspense of the book.

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, October 27 Edition