Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2020) Nominees Round Up, November 12 Edition

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

Past Perfect Life Book CoverPast Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg
Bloomsbury YA / Bloomsbury
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
ISBN: 978-1547600922

Allison “Ally” Smith loves the life that she and her father have built in small-town Wisconsin, at least until the day the F.B.I. arrives at her door. Kidnapped by her father as a toddler, Ally’s mother has been searching for her for 15 years. Caught in the middle of a devastating web of secrets, Ally is forced to leave her friends and her home behind in order to live in Florida with the family she didn’t even know existed.  

In this thought-provoking family drama, Allison—and all of the main characters—must grapple with the nature of family and identity. Like every teenager, Ally struggles to define herself and her relationship to others, a process that becomes even more complicated when she fails to live up to her mother’s idealized expectations. Her father’s deception adds an extra dose of anxiety and anger to Ally’s self-reflections. Eventually, she begins to understand that she was not the only person hurt by her father’s decision. Ally’s extended network of friends, as well as a budding romance, offer pleasant diversions from the narrative tension, as well as a reminder that true families come in all shapes and sizes.  

Perfect for fans of secret-filled family dramas, such as Brandy Colbert’s The Revolution of Birdie Randolph. Readers who enjoy stories that feature teens exploring their identities, including Sarah Dessen’s The Rest of the Story, or Natasha Diaz’s Color Me In, will find similar elements here. 

–Kathleen J. Barker


The Good Son Book CoverThe Good Son by Pierre-Jacques Ober, illustrated by Jules Ober and Felicity Coonan
Candlewick Studio / Candlewick Press
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
ISBN: 978-1536204827

Models and miniatures are set up and photographed to create a piece of historical fiction set during World War I in which soldier Pierre is caught by the French army for desertion. This pictorial narrative recounts how Pierre joined the forces and went to battle, only to learn the harsh realities of war and realize the harshest punishment coming to him due to deserting his army.

This visual tale makes a complex moral dilemma easy to peruse. The book reads quickly and the photographed miniature scenes bring the war and the darkness surrounding it–death and destruction–into real focus. Teens who are drawn to non-fiction narratives but aren’t easily excited by reading will easily be fascinated with this title. While this is a picture book in terms of format, young adult readers who are encouraged to pick it up will find that it’s not for children and will appreciate a format that reads similarly to a graphic novel. 

For fans of historical graphic novel memoirs such as George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy, as well as classics such as Maus (Spiegelman) and Persepolis (Satrapi).

–Jessica Levy


Wilder Girls by Rory Powers
Delacorte Press/ Penguin Random House
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
ISBN: 978-0525645580

When the Tox overtakes a girls’ boarding school on a remote island in Maine, Hetty and her two best friends must do anything they can to survive and adapt, all while the Tox mutates their bodies into something unrecognizable. When Hetty discovers a secret conspiracy involved in the school’s quarantine, everything that they think they know about the virus and their lives at the school changes.

This is a fast-paced engaging climate-fiction/horror read that starts right in the middle of the action. There’s a great deal of body horror, and it’s both visceral and surprising. There is a love story between Hetty and Reese (one of her friends), and while it is low-key, it provides some needed LGBT content within the genre. Readers will be interested in the book from the cover alone, but there is plenty within the story to draw them in. 

Fans of The Grace Year by Kim Liggett, Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand, and the movie or book Annihilation will love Wilder Girls

–Kelsey Socha

Jukebooks: We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg

wecanworkitoutNow that the Lonely Hearts Club has expanded to almost thirty girls, Penny Lane finds her enthusiasm for the club waning. Sure, it would never had happened if Penny had not started the club herself, building on the successful theme of girl empowerment. Who needs a guy to make them happy? Then Penny meets Ryan. Things get awkward. No longer lonely, Penny’s clout with her girls diminishes.

As a follow-up to Eulberg’s The Lonely Hearts Club, this novel is also brimming with references to Beatles songs. Sections are introduced with a Beatles lyric, such as, “If I love you, please don’t hurt my pride,” from “If I Fell,” a beautiful example of Fab Four harmony. But the Beatles went in so many interesting directions with their music that I was reluctant to highlight one more pretty song. So instead, we’ll go with a song from Abbey Road, “Carry That Weight.”

The song is part of a long medley that constitutes the flip side of Abbey Road. The songs, bits and pieces that have little relation to each other, are melded together wonderfully by the Beatles’ long time producer, George Martin. “Carry That Weight” was recorded along with the song that precedes it on the album, “Golden Slumbers.”

Below is a recording of “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” and the final song on that side of Abbey Road, “The End,” set to a photographic montage of the Beatles.

Diane Colson, currently reading an advance readers copy of Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge.

What Teens Are Saying About What They Are Reading, vol. 5

It is snowing at my library.  It might be snowing at your library too.  Even when I am not reading I like to imagine things.  I wonder what people are doing other places.  Sometimes I like to role play and suppose I am another person.  If I were a teen and not a librarian,  would I read the same books? Would I suggest the same books I suggest now?  Below are suggestions of awesome teen fiction as recommended by young adult patrons.

Alex Rider series Book 5 Scorpia by Anthony Horowitz (Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)

choice 5-6


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Happy Birthday, Jane Austen

Jane Austen was born 238 years ago today in Steventon, England. Her work has grown more popular, even though she only finished six novels. Who could forget the masterpiece Clueless (based on Emma)?

With so many spin-offs, prequels, and modernizations of her work, we’re celebrating her today with a list of teen titles.

Titles inspired by Pride and Prejudice:
Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman (2013 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)
When Julie’s best friend geeks out, she goes all in. Ashleigh’s decided that Julie’s love of Pride and Prejudice is the next big thing. Soon Ashleigh’s convinced Julie to wear a vintage gown while sneaking into a dance at the local all boys prep school. Could they find true love waiting for them?

I was Jane Austen’s Best Friend by Cora Harrison
Jane’s cousin Jenny chronicles their daily routine, where we get an in-depth look into the Austen’s way of life. When Jane falls deathly ill, Jenny sneaks out of school to mail a letter to Jane’s mother. While outside, she meets a boy and fancies herself in love.

Pies and Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick
The 4th book in the Mother-Daughter Book Club series takes Emma and her family to England for her first year of high school with a house swap. To make the others feel included, the club reads Pride and Prejudice and chat via video. The remaining members of the club at home start a pie business in order to bring Emma back home for spring vacation. The family who swapped houses with Emma’s family has two teen boys that act just like Bingley and Darcy.

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Don’t Judge a Book by Its Page Count

I was recently approached by someone looking for a book recommendation. When I asked what kind of books she liked, she responded, “big, thick, chapter books.” We worked through what she was really looking for and I was able to make some recommendations, but ever since this interaction, I have had page counts on my mind.

Like they did with that patron, longer books seem to make an impact. They are easy to see on a shelf, and working through long books can sometimes feel like an accomplishment. Goodreads values page count by displaying stats on how many pages users have read in a year and highlighting the longest title off to the side. When I read Night by Elie Wiesel, a 109-page non-fiction title, I noticed that the cover of this particular edition had a New York Times quote calling the book “a slim volume of terrifying power.” It may not have been the intention, but this seems like it is justifying the book’s page count. Would that have been necessary if it was 400 pages?

I certainly have nothing against long books (thanks to Goodreads I know that the longest book I have read so far this year had 694 pages), but I do appreciate finding good stories that will not weigh down my purse on my commute.  I have compiled a short list of books with 260 or fewer pages* that have been award winners, list makers, and/or simply fun reads.

Boy meets boyPaper Covers Rock coverspeakThe Lovers Dictionarymonster_calls_coverprom and prejudice elizabeth eulbergan abundance of katherines john green coverdramalove and other perishable items laura buzo morris sealwhere things come back john corey whaley paperback cover printz morrisgraffiti moon 4Dash-Lilys-Book-of-Dares

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Love Me Some Paperbacks: 2013 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults

What isn’t to love about paperbacks? They are easy to bend and squeeze into a backpack or pocket, they’re (relatively) cheap, they’re light and easy to carry … but what do paperbacks really represent? While avoiding a long-winded (and boring) explanation about the publishing industry and paperback distribution, I’ll cut right to the chase: paperbacks are usually books that are fun, popular, and widely accessible — in both format and subject matter. The tiles chosen for YALSA’s 2013 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults definitely hit this mark.

This year’s PPYA list highlights titles that fall into these four categories: Boarding Schools to Summer Camps; Gowns, Greasepaint and Guitars; I’m New Here Myself; and More Books that Won’t Make You Blush. There are 90 (90!) titles in the full list created by YALSA — and even a Top Ten List.

Here are some of my teen patrons’ favorites:

dramaSmile and Drama by Raina Telgemeier. SmileRaina speaks to every readers’ inner awkwardness in these fun graphic novels about the roller-coaster ride through middle school. Both titles are regular hits with my local teens and ‘tweens; in fact, these are your “never on the shelf” type of graphic novels.


beat the bandBeat the Band (Swim the Fly #2) by Don Calame. Coop, always quick to come up with “perfect” plans, decides that in order for him and his friends to get some girls, they need to enter into the Battle of the Bands. One slight problem: none of them play any instruments. This second book in the Swim the Fly series is hilarious; put down whatever it is you are reading and give this series a try. SRSLY. Right now.


heist societyHeist Society by Ally Carter. Katrina can’t help that she comes from a family of criminals. In fact, Kat pulled a major con in order to end up in a boarding school far, far away from them. But when her father is in the cross-hairs for a crime he didn’t commit, it appears that only Kat has the talent to pull off the biggest heist yet to try to save him. This book has it all: adventure, suspense, travel … and a bit of romance.


FireFire by Kristin Cashore. Fire is a human monster, the last of her kind. If that isn’t bad enough, she was also the daughter of infamous Cansrel, who abused the Kingdom with his power to control the previous King and his family. But now war is coming, and the young brothers protecting the land need Fire’s help using her powers over the human mind to interrogate prisoners. Can Fire compromise her aversion to using her monster abilities in order to save her kingdom? Fans of Graceling will eat up this second installment of the Graceling Realm (and be sure to grab Bitterblue after this one!).

— Dena Little, currently reading The Running Dream by Van Draanen (on the PPYA 2013 list!)

The Next Big Retelling: Gothic Novels

YALSA’s upcoming YA Literature Symposium will explore the future of young adult literature. The symposium begins on November 2nd, but we wanted to get a head start here at The Hub, so we’re devoting October to 31 Days of the Next Big Thing. Each day of the month, we’ll bring you forecasts about where YA literature is headed and thoughts on how you can spot trends and predict the future yourself.

We’re all pretty familiar with retellings of classic stories; Pride and Prejudice took up a great deal of the second half of the 2000s, from Enthusiasm to Prom & Prejudice. Then fairy tales became huge, with authors like Alex Flinn producing awesome tales like Beastly, A Kiss in Time, and Cloaked. And that’s not to mention the resurgence and reprinting of stories by Robin McKinley and Gail Carson Levine. But the past couple of years have shown us the start of a new Big Thing: the retelling of Gothic novels.

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Like Peas and Carrots: Girls’ Friendships in YA Lit

The month of September celebrates women’s friendships, which lead me to think about friendships within books and some of my favorite books dealing with friendships. There are times when I feel so closely connected to a character that I wish they were real so we could be best friends. When I was in middle school, I adored Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume. I read that book until it fell apart — and then kept reading it. I loved the new friendship between Stephanie and Alison. I really believe in the idea of having more than one BFF.

Teen literature is full of strong female friendships. Sure, there are books about frenemies, or fake friends, or even the BFF who betrays you. The ones that stand out the strongest in my mind are the books about true best friends: best friends who wouldn’t date the boy you might like, best friends who stand behind your decisions even if they don’t agree with them, and best friends you know you can count on even if you just had a massive fight.

Some of these books don’t start out with the main characters as best friends. Instead, something throws the girls together. Going through the situation creates and cements the bond of friendship.

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Prom: A Night to Remember?

For me, the word “prom” brings to mind bejeweled taffeta and satin gowns, rented tuxes, stretch limos cruising the strip (hey, I’m from Vegas, what can I say?), spiked punch bowls, and … the fact that I never went. To prom, that is.

Dare I admit it, but now I understand what the adults in my life had meant when they told me I would regret not going to prom. After all, prom is that culmination of everything “adult” that teens strive to reach, a night for celebrating the transition from high school to the great beyond (or, as Miles Halter might quote, “the great perhaps”). So, instead, I live vicariously through all the proms—both good and bad—that live on in teen lit. Here are some faves:

24 Girls in 7 Days by Alex Bradley (Dutton Juvenile, 9780525473695)
Jack Grammar wants to go to prom. Unfortunately, he is dateless and prom is only 2 weeks away. So Jack’s best friends, Percy and Natalie, come to the rescue … kinda. They post an ad in the school newspaper without Jack’s knowledge, seeking a prom date for Jack. Hilarity, confusion, and a plethora of quasi-dates ensue for Jack. Whom will he choose?

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Chase away those winter blahs with some romance!

Winter is here! I am one of those rare breeds who actually love winter, and it’s not because I love getting out in the cold. There’s just something wonderful about being able to snuggle in with a good book, some hot chocolate, and a blanket when it’s bitterly cold outside that invigorates me. And lucky for readers, there are so many excellent books that will take away those winter blues. For this reader in particular, I happen to adore a good love story in winter. Maybe it’s because Valentine’s Day is already being pushed onto us (have you seen the candy aisles at your local stores?) or maybe it’s because love is the perfect antidote to those cold winter days. Who knows! In any case, here are some of my favorite teen romances to push away those winter blues.

There is, of course, no shortage of YA writers who include romance in their books. It’s what I love about young adult lit so much, that it is about relationships, whether romances or not. Of course, I do happen to enjoy a book that makes my heart go pitter-patter a bit, and these authors and their books definitely do that!

Jenny Han’s fabulous Summer series (The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without You, and We’ll Always Have Summer) is one of my absolute favorite go-to series for romance. Belly is in love with two boys and while readers know how boring the love triangle can get, Jenny Han also knows this and shows just how complex being in love can be. Belly (you’ll have to read to understand the nickname) is a fabulous character.

Stephanie Perkins is becoming a name-brand for well written teen romances. Anna and the French Kiss recently became a finalist in the Young Adult Fiction category of the Cybils (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards). This is a book that has gotten a lot of press and buzz and it lives up to the hype! France, a boarding school, a cute guy with an accent, and a strong female character? It’s a win/win! The second book, very loosely connected, Lola and the Boy Next Door, also has a great romance at its center. If you haven’t read Stephanie Perkins yet, what are you waiting for?

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