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.
Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard
January 29, 2019
Eden McKinley wakes up one morning to find out that her best friend Bonnie has run away with their music teacher, Mr. Cohn. Eden hides her newfound knowledge from her parents and the police, who come pounding on her door to provide answers. Eden secretly continues texting Bonnie while the police search for her, trying to learn as much as she can about the illicit relationship her best friend hid from her for a year. She confronts the reality of what she thought was the “perfect” life of her friend. Ultimately she is faced with betraying her friend’s trust or doing what she knows to be the morally right thing to do and revealing her knowledge of Bonnie’s whereabouts to the police.
Eden is a well-rounded character with rough edges due to a difficult past. Relatable to teens, she has long ago decided her best friend was nearly “perfect.” With Bonnie on the run she learns that appearances can be deceiving. The novel deals with parental and self-inflicted pressures to be perfect that many teens can identify with. The plot moves quickly with the secret texts between Eden and Bonnie, creating added suspense and drama. Though the story is set in England, characters and the plot could take place anywhere in the Western world, with the issue of sexual abuse between a high school teacher and his underage student sure to attract attention and provoke thought in young readers.
For fans of suspense and drama, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is about fighting to be heard both in a peer environment and as a victim and gaining power from that. If you are looking for another story of self discovery, American Panda by Gloria Chao brings themes of breaking free from expectations and finding yourself with cross cultural themes. Or for something that still brings depth and complexity while trying to keep things a little bit lighter, All That I Can Fix by Crystal Chan is a layered novel and a coming of age story with many varied characters (and animals roaming all over the place).
SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson
Viking / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: March 12, 2019
SHOUT is Laurie Halse Anderson’s collection of poems about her turbulent childhood and teenage years, including her sexual assault by a trusted friend. Her battles and her bravery are revealed through emotionally-charged verses.
SHOUT makes a great Quick Pick because the writing is intense and direct, which reluctant young adults will appreciate. There is an awesome balance here; Halse Anderson’s experiences grip readers emotionally and keep the pages turning, while each powerful poem is worthy of re-reading and reflection. Young adults deserve a thoughtful book such as this that brings the issue of sexual assault to the forefront of the conversation. Readers will connect to the other topics addressed in this novel as well – struggles with parents, drug experimentation, finding one’s way, dealing with hardship, and forgiveness of self and others.
Readers should be sure to check out Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, both the original and the graphic novel, if they enjoyed SHOUT. Sexual assault is also at the center of All the Rage by Courtney Summers, Asking For It by Louise O’Neill, and Exit, Pursued By A Bear by E.K. Johnston. For fans of the novel in verse format, The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo and Solo and Swing by Kwame Alexander will be appealing.