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.
UNpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan Harper Teen / Harper Collins Publisher Publication Date: September 10, 2019 ISBN: 9780062876249
Veronica has everything: a great boyfriend, popularity, Ivy League college acceptance. She finds out she’s pregnant after her boyfriend poked holes in a condom without her knowledge. She decides to have an abortion, and must travel nearly 1000 miles from Missouri to New Mexico for the procedure. With her besties away for a study weekend, and her boyfriend/stalker now an unreliable option, Veronica asks former friend Bailey to drive her and nothing goes as planned.
This is a quick read, moving along with short chapters, comedic dialogue, and absurd adventures. The story focuses not so much on Veronica’s decision, which she is firm in, (though the details of her research, decision-making, and visit to Planned Parenthood will likely be eye-opening for young adult readers) but the challenges she faces along the way. Veronica and Bailey’s friendship rekindles, and hopefully readers will relate to having someone in their own lives who will support them during difficult times. The insane stalker boyfriend adds humor to a heavy topic.
Aftercare Instructions: A Novel by Bonnie Pipkin, As Many Nows As I Can Get by Shana Youngdahl and Belly Up by Eve Darrows are similar in topic, featuring female teenage protagonists facing decisions about unexpected pregnancy. Readers interested in viewing how the issue of abortion is portrayed in film and television can use the online database from the program Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health.
November 20th marks Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to remember those who have been killed because of their gender identity or expression. While there are not yet many children’s and young adult books featuring transgender characters, here are a few books that can be used in a display or program.
Picture books are a great way for a person to engage briefly with an idea, and most are written for children, so the language is accessible to a wide variety of people.
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall. This story of a blue crayon who is mistakenly labeled “red” is a great way to introduce young children to a character who doesn’t fit the label s/he’s been given.
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. This is the picture-book biography of Jazz Jennings, a transgender teen who publicly came out when she was still in kindergarten.
My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis. This story of a boy who enjoys sparkly, pink things is another way to introduce the idea of being gender-nonconforming in an accessible format.
Be Who You Areby Jennifer Carr. This picture book is the story of Hope, a fictional character who was born Nick and comes to the realization that she is, in fact, a girl.
Rough, Tough Charleyby Verla Kay. This is an account of Charley Parkhurst, a California stagecoach driver who was discovered, upon death, to be a woman who had been living life as a man.
Nonfiction books can provide information, especially when readers are reluctant to search online in fear that someone may see what they’ve been searching for.
Transparentby Cris Beam. Beam profiles four transgender teens at a school for transgender students in Los Angeles. This narrative nonfiction has been described as carefully written and sensitive to a sensitive topic.
Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews. Arin tells the story of his transition and life as a trans teen in this autobiography.
Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill. Katie, who at one time was dating Arin, tells her side of the story in her transition as a transfeminine teen.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin (2015 Stonewall Honor Book). This collection of photographs and interviews with transgender and gender-noncomforming teens is another easily accessible way for those who are not familiar with the concept of being transgender to take a brief walk in another person’s shoes.
My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein. Hands-down this was the most recommended book when I asked those in the trans* community to identify books that would be helpful to teens and those who work with teens.
Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein. While this book doesn’t focus singly on issues affecting the transgender community, it is true that transgender people have a higher rate of suicide than their cisgender counterparts. This book is a list of suicide alternatives, some silly and some serious.
Now that Spring feels finally here – the giant snow pile out my north of Boston apartment finally melted – I feel the need for a different kind of book. Like many of you, different seasons of the year make me want different kinds of books. In the winter I like to hunker down with a long, multi-book series and summer brings the annual “beach” reads and the time where I sneak some adult fiction into YA-to-read pile. The return of school in the fall makes me gravitate towards the boarding school story but what about spring?
When it starts to get warmer, it’s easy to ditch the book to head outside to enjoy the not so cold evenings. Breaking my winter hibernation born of cold weather, feet upon feet of snow, makes my concentration wander so I tend to turn to books that I can read in a day or two. There’s nothing like starting and finishing a book on rainy spring day to make you feel accomplished but not overwhelmed.
Here’s a list of recent books I’ve read in a day or maybe two or three. Many are graphic novels which I find great for my spring distraction.
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (2015 Caldecott and Printz honors): This book does an amazing job of presenting a chapter in the lives of two friends. They are growing up but also apart from the friendship that they thought wouldn’t change. The gorgeous and evocative art, done in shades of blue, makes you long for summer but also revel in whatever weather you’re in, letting you melt into the page.
Secondsby Bryan Lee O’Malley (2015 Great Graphic Novel for Teens): The bright colors of the art and acceleration of the plot makes this a great one day read. You will get sucked in by Katie’s seemingly perfect way to get rid of her mistakes – the magic mushrooms that allow her to fix anything – and tearing through the book as fast as you can as all of her changed mistakes come back to haunt her at the end. Continue reading Read it in One Rainy Day
Adults reading young adult books has been discussed here, and here and here, and let’s keep talking about it! YA has clearly been established as a force as we continue to see titles fly off the shelves at libraries and book stores (not to mention those virtually flying onto smart phones, kindles, and nooks.) Clearly it’s not only teens reading YA anymore.
Speaking of adults reading YA… do you know any adults stuck in a reading rut who might appreciate some suggestions? Two of the most widely-read adult fiction genres today are horror and romance. There are some truly wonderful YA alternatives out there — and it can be argued that YA authors take greater risks than their mainstream adult genre counterparts do– resulting in diverse, exciting, and ground-breaking books. Exclusively reading genre selections which follow an established and familiar formula (even when the formula works) can become tedious. Here are some suggestions to help a genre reader shake things up.
James Patterson fans will enjoy Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers series: a nail-bittingly suspenseful serial killer manhunt trilogy with a flawed hero. Lyga explores issues of identity, parenthood, nature vs nurture, race, and attraction.
Stephen King readers will like Daniel Kraus’s terrifying Rotters (2012 Odyssey Award winner)and Scowler (2014 Odyssey Award winner). Grave digging, monstrous fathers, rat kings, gruesome imagery… Kraus is truly a master of literary horror; nothing run of the mill here!
Dean Koontz lovers will enjoy TheGirl From the Well by Rin Chupeco: a terrifying tale of vengeful ghost named Okiko. This spooky tale was inspired by Japanese folklore.
In April of this year, the We Need Diverse Books campaign took the YA literary world by storm. Sparked by an initial Twitter exchange between Ellen Oh and Malinda Lo, the movement quickly grew to encompass a wide array of authors, librarians, publishers, bloggers, and readersâ€”a group fittingly representative of the diversity they seek to promote. We Need Diverse Books’ mission is straightforward: â€œto promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process.â€
So how can YA librarians actively support this campaign? Simpleâ€¦by reading more widely, by book talking and recommending diverse books, by promoting a culture of empathy, and by educating ourselves on the many layered and complex issues that accompany being both allies and agents of change.
To that end, I’ve decided to devote a monthly post to highlight author and books that truly exemplify the diversity we wish to see reflected in our literature at large. By diversity, I mean books that bring a rich, nuanced understanding of a particular viewpoint or experience to their readers; a viewpoint traditionally ignored or made invisible by the mainstream media. What this means is that while I love Cho Chang as much as the next Harry Potter fan, her presence does not qualify the series as being an example of diversity. Rather, the books I’m interested in promoting are those that move beyond mere representation (or worse, tokenism) to portraits of diverse individuals that are authentic, unique, and relatable.
That said, I can think of no better author to kick-off this series than Sara Farizan, author of If You Could Be Mine (2014 ALA Rainbow List Top 10 Title) and the upcoming Tell Me How A Crush Should Feel (out October 7th). The daughter of Iranian immigrants, Farizan grew up proud of her heritage while also fearful of what her community would think of her sexuality. Her struggle to reconcile her sexual identity and her cultural identity manifests itself in her writing and provides a compelling honesty to both her works. Continue reading We Need Diverse Books: Spotlight on Sara Farizan
Almost a year ago, I was sitting in a ballroom in Chicago, watching Benjamin Alire SÃ¡enz deliver a moving, and deeply personal speech during the Printz Award reception. Like most of the people there, I was listening intently and reaching up, at times, to brush away tears. Though his fellow awardees also presented beautifully eloquent remarks, it was SÃ¡enz’s words that left a lasting impression on me. He referred to himself as a “cartographer” who, in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2013 Stonewall Book Award, 2013 Printz Honor, 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten, and Pura Belpre Author Award), created a “roadmap…for boys who were born to play by different rules.”
During SÃ¡enz’s speech, I thought about my friend, Julian, and his struggles during our teens. Jules was just starting to come to terms with his sexuality – the summer before our senior year, he told me that he was pretty certain that he was gay. Growing up during the 1980s-90s in a middle class suburb of Los Angeles, with a predominantly Latino population, we didn’t really have access to the wealth of queer resources that are freely available today. Also, people simply didn’t talk about those things (unless it was to make some tasteless, hurtful joke). So it was hardly a surprise that he bided his time, waiting until college to come out and be himself completely. After reading Aristotle and Dante, I sent Julian a text, begging him to pick it up. I said, “This is the book you needed to read at 16.” It took him a while, but he finally read it and wrote me this message: “Thank you for recommending this book so many months ago. It made me laugh from the first few pages. I’ve been savoring every page as it pulls me in and reminds me of the awkwardness and possibilities of adolescence.”
June is Pride Month, which celebrates the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and affirms their right to live visibly in dignity and equality. In honor of Pride, I want to share some amazing LGBTQ novels (some of which aren’t out yet, but you’ll want to add them to your to-read pile) that had me laughing and crying all over the place. Continue reading Season of Pride: A Roundup of LGBTQ YA Lit