Click hereto see all of the current Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Creep by Eireann Corrigan Scholastic Press / Scholastic Publication Date: October 1, 2019 ISBN: 9781338095081
Olivia is excited to bond with her new neighbor Janie Donahue, not to mention Janie’s sweet older brother Ben. When threatening letters signed by the “Sentry” appear throughout the Donahue home, the trio immerse themselves in local history in order to outsmart the perpetrator and keep the Donahue family together.
This is a quick thriller, as well as a modestly creepy read. Olivia is a quiet and thoughtful protagonist drawn to the loud and dramatic Donahue family, whose members are harboring a wealth of secrets. The Sentry is just threatening enough to keep the tension high, and the mystery moves along quickly, thanks to engaging glimpses into the past of the town and its inhabitants. The story wraps up neatly, and Corrigan sprinkles plenty of clues throughout the narrative to make the ending believable. The interesting setting– a historic home full of secret rooms and hiding places–adds additional excitement.
A great selection for fans of light horror, especially stories involving stalkers or watchers. Readers who appreciated The Missing Season by Gillian French or The Haunted by Danielle Vega will enjoy this book.
Click here to see all of the current Best Fiction for Young Adults nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins Publication Date: March 5, 2019 ISBN: 978-0062748379
If you could save someone you loved, would you? That is the premise of Opposite of Always with an added Groundhog Day twist. Jack has no idea he is going to fall for Kate until he meets her at a party while he is doing a college visit. Her charm and sense of humor provides the antidote Jack needs to get over his crush on Jillian–one of his best friends who also happens to be dating Franny, his other best friend and basketball phenom. Things get complicated when Kate begins acting shady and Jack discovers that she suffers from sickle cell anemia, the life-threatening disease that ultimately kills her. . .over and over. Each time Kate dies, Jack is thrown back in time to the party when they met and is given the opportunity to try and save her, but with each changed decision he discovers there are changed consequences.
Middle school (usually 5th through 8th grade) is an incredible time. Kids begin to see themselves as part of a larger world, their minds and bodies go into development overdrive, and their relationships with everyone can shift dramatically. Middle schoolers are heavily invested in figuring out their identities; they push for increased independence from adults while often desperately seeking a sense of belonging among their peers. These experiences can be especially confusing, painful, or frightening for kids who feel different–such as kids whose gender identities or sexual orientations stand out in our still very binary and heteronormative culture.
This spring, Buzzfeed published an article titled “Coming Out As Gay in Elementary School,” which interviewed a few children and their families on their experiences coming out as gay, genderless, and queer at ages ranging from 7 to 13 years old. The article also cites research and interviews with Dr. Caitlyn Ryan of San Francisco State University’s Family Acceptance Project. In a 2009 practice brief, Dr. Ryan notes that their research shows that “both gay and straight children have their first ‘crush’ or attraction to another person at age 10” and on average, adolescents in their studies identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual at age 13.4 (2). In the same report, she reiterates that children develop and express gender identity at ages 2-3 (2).
As a librarian, I want to be able to provide all of my students with stories that both reflect their lives, experiences, and identities and expand their understanding of our diverse world. Since these studies and testimonies clearly illustrate the relevance of LBGTQ+ stories to middle school students, I wondered: how many middle school age characters who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum show up in middle grade and young adult fiction?
Happily, we are beginning to see more and more novels featuring 10-14 year old LGBTQ+ characters. However, I struggled to find representations of girls who like girls or transgender boys, which was disheartening. We’ve got some great titles currently available and several exciting titles set to be published this year. But I’d love to see even more, especially featuring lesbian/bisexual/queer girls and transgender boys!
While her painfully bad singing rules out a future as an actor, theatre fanatic Callie has found her place backstage as a set designer. When talented twins Justin and Jesse join the middle school musical, the drama on and off stage reaches new heights. Callie’s thrilled to have a fun new friend in openly gay Justin and she hopes that quiet Jesse might be the boy to help her get over her crush on her old friend Greg.
So Hard To Say – Alex Sanchez
Thirteen year old Xio is confident, bubbly, and ready for first kisses and romance. When shy Frederick starts at school, Xio is happy to lend him a pen and invite him to join her lunch table. The two quickly become close friends but as Xio’s attempts to transform their relationship into romance escalate, Frederick finds himself increasingly attracted to handsome soccer player Victor.
When thirteen year old Nate hears about open auditions for the lead in the upcoming Broadway production of E.T. : The Musical, he will stop at nothing to get to New York City and claim his rightful space in the spotlight. Along the way, Nate faces merciless competition, perilous public transportation, and growing questions about his sexuality and identity. Nate’s adventures continue in the sequel, Five, Six, Seven, Nate!
As this recurring feature on The Hub clearly indicates, I love fantasy fiction. But even a fan like myself must acknowledge that the genre has limitations, especially in terms of diversity. Speculative fiction has remained a fairly white, cis-gendered, & straight world for a long time. The fact that there seem to be more dragons and robots than LGBTQ+ characters in fantasy & sci-fi novels is shameful and disheartening, especially to the genres’ LGBTQ+ fans. So in celebration of LGBT Pride Month, I set out to overview the current status of LGBTQ+ representation in young adult fantasy and science fiction.
For readers interested in issues of diversity & representation in speculative fiction, Malinda Lo is one of the most exciting authors and insightful bloggers out there. Her work is also the perfect introduction to high fantasy featuring LGBTQ+ characters. For readers favoring fairy tale retellings, Malinda Lo’s Ash (2010 Morris Award Finalist, 2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)is an ideal romantic read.In this delicate Cinderella story, an orphaned young woman seeks escape from pain in the promises of a dark fairy but begins to question her choice when she falls in love with the king’s huntress. Meanwhile, readers looking for quest narratives featuring complex heroines should pick up Lo’s Huntress(2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Rainbow List, 2012 Amelia Bloomer List), which follows the journey of two very different young women as they attempt to restore balance to the world–and understand their intense connection.
Last Patriot’s Day – a state holiday observed predominantly in Massachusetts but Maine and Wisconsin get in there Massachusetts honoring the first American patriots of the Revolution – was a strange and hard day for many of us in the Bay State. It was a day off for many, and a start to school vacations for most students. There was the perennially inspiring promise of the Boston Marathon with such big stories as the amazing elite runners, the Hoyt father/son team running their last race, and the triumphs of every day people running their first or special race.
Then the bombs went off and the difficulty began. Over the next few days and since then, I’ve thought how about the marathon bombings might affect teens and especially those teens who may have been on lockdown in their homes in Boston and many surrounding cities as the hunt for the subjects spewed gunfire along their streets.
One year later, I’ve looked to YA literature to see if anything can help us and help those teens near the disaster to deal with it. A far as I know no YA novels have been written about the tragedy yet, but it may happen as it does with many major news stories. Instead here are some books deal with running injuries or terrorism and the healing that can come after those.
Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowtiz– Set in 2002 with the two main characters still reeling from the September 11 attacks in their two respective hometowns of Washington D.C. and New York, Craig and Lio try to figure out how to be normal teens in love when the Beltway sniper attacks start. I admit to having mostly forgotten about these murders when I picked up the book, but Moskowtiz captures what I would the imagine the paranoia and terror of that situation would feel like. Through her two characters, she allows us to ponder the meaning of safety and how that affects who we love and how we recover from trauma.
This morning, the winners and honor books for ALA’s Youth Media Awards were announced to an enthusiastic crowd in Seattle during ALA’s Midwinter Meeting. Here are the YA titles that were recognized (children’s books recognized by these awards have been omitted from the list; find the full list of winners on ALA’s website):