The 2020 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list has been announced. The list of 64 titles is drawn from 133 official nominations, which…
Tag: Quick Picks
Questionable Convictions: Guilty, or Not Guilty?
The emergence of advanced scientific forensics has resulted in the ability to re-evaluate convictions. DNA via hair, blood, saliva and other bodily fluids have been used to overturn some guilty convictions for violent crimes. Newer technologies can pinpoint details better. Highly trained dogs can sniff out corpses or drugs. Appeals must be filed, but rarely a change in verdict results. With so many crime fiction and forensic television shows on the air, it may look easier than it is in reality.
These two Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers delve into this world of questionable convictions and their suspenseful plots and gritty topics make them great books for readers interested in the criminal justice system.
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen Books
January 24, 2017
The jury said she did it. The media said she did it. Only nine years old and convicted for manslaughter, Mary B. Addison didn’t say anything. Three-month-old Alyssa was in the care of her babysitter, Mary’s mother, when she died of suspicious circumstances while sleeping in Mary’s room. Six years later Mary, now fifteen, is released from “baby jail” and is living in a supervised group home wearing an ankle monitor. The issue-oriented storyline is brought to the forefront when a pregnant Mary now finally wants to attempt to clear her name, so that her own baby is not taken away by social services.
This dramatic hook grabs the reader’s attention very quickly, and pacing intensifies throughout the saga. Although flawed in character, Mary is somewhat vulnerable and garners sympathy at times. Portrayed by the media as a baby killer with rage tendencies, Mary struggles with revealing her true self while in a group home with violent criminals as roommates. The home is a menacing place full of bullying, brutality, theft, and much verbal abuse.
The impact of shootings on survivors, families and communities is a timely topic.
Unfortunately, the daily news may include incidents of gun violence including school shootings, police brutality, domestic violence, and tragic accidents.
Young Adult authors have increasingly been writing books that address these issues, to give teens touchpoints to identify with and help them understand their world. The following two recently published books, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and Bang by Barry Lyga, help to tackle these issues for readers.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Balzer + Bray
February 28, 2017
Starr struggles to balance her life at home living in a poor black neighborhood and the private prep school she attends with much wealthier students. When she witnesses her childhood friend shot needlessly by a police officer, her whole world is turned upside down.
This compelling story is told from Starr’s point of view, where readers follow her thought processes as she navigates difficult situations and harsh, contradictory realities. The timely social issue of police brutality in black communities will grab readers’ attention. Starr’s experience perfectly illustrates one of the biggest issues faced by African-American people in the United States today. “The talk” may be familiar to many marginalized populations, and an eye opener to others. Starr is a complex introspective character that many teens will identify with, while she must come to terms with the sobering, unequal roles society has forced upon her community.
Many juxtapositions help show the complexity of the social issues being tackled within the story. Police are shown in both negative and positive lights, through officer “one fifteen”, the shooter of Starr’s friend, Khalil, and her Uncle Carlos, a police officer who is striving for justice. A poor community is depicted doing its best to protect its youth against gangs and drugs, while the youth’s attraction to the money and power brought by gangs and drugs is a heart-wrenching cycle. The conflicts between Starr’s neighborhood friends and her prep school friends serve to illuminate the complicated relationships between race, class, and privilege.
One of best programs I attended at the recent ALA Annual Conference in Vegas was the very popular session on Monday afternoon presented by Jennie Rothschild and Angela Frederick called Stranger Than Fiction: Reader’s Advisory for Nonfiction.
It seems like everyone’s talking about nonfiction these days because of the emphasis on the Common Core. Rothschild and Frederick suggested a large number of interesting and appealing nonfiction titles for teens, many from YALSA’s award and selection lists like the Alex Award, Excellence in Nonfiction Award, Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, and Outstanding Books for the College Bound. They also had a lot of suggestions for great nonfiction read-alikes for popular fiction titles.
The books they recommended are notable for their interesting subject areas that can be read for pleasure, not just for assignments; have appealing layout/style or design, and, despite that so many are published for adults, still have great teen appeal. Rothschild noted that since there isn’t a lot of teen nonfiction published compared to children’s and adult, teens are used to reading up or down. Many of the nonfiction titles are notable for their narrative style that reads like fiction and the fact that they complement so many popular fiction books.
Here are some of the highlights:
Subject read-alikes for Bomb: The Race to Build â€“And Steal â€“The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (YALSA 2013 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, 2013 Sibert Award Winner, 2013 Newbery Honor Winner; National-book-award-finalist for Young People’s Literature):
- The Ultimate Weapon: The Race to Develop the Atomic Bomb by Edward T. Sullivan (YA)
- Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, graphic novel (adults and older teens)
- The Radioactive Boy Scout by Ken Silverstein (adult)
- The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Keiran (adult)
- The President Has Been Shot by James L. Swanson (YA)
- Lincoln’s Last Days by Bill O’Reilly & Jon Zimmerman (YA adaption from adult book)
- Ghosts in the Fog by Samantha Sieple (Middle Grade)
- The Notorious Benedict Arnold: a True Story of Adventure, Heroism and Treachery by Steve Sheinkin (YALSA 2012 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction and YALSA’s 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound (OBCB)