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.
Belly Up by Eva Darrows
Harlequin Inkyard Press
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
Serendipity (Sara) spends one drunk post-breakup night with a boy she meets at a party. She can’t find the boy, but does discover soon after that she’s pregnant. As a high-achieving 17 year old, Sara is faced with unexpected and challenging choices, as well as a brand new school and town. When Sara decides to keep the baby, she has to figure out how to balance her priorities, navigate dating, and finish her senior year, all in maternity jeans.
Belly Up starts with a quick hook– Sara gets pregnant on the first page. Darrows tells a refreshingly upbeat–if sometimes overly simplified–story of a girl who makes a mistake that dramatically changes her life but does not ruin it. That said, the book does not shy away from the traumas of pregnancy. The cast is somewhat diverse: Sara is Mexican and Swedish-American, while her new love interest is Romani. Supporting characters range a full spectrum of race and sexual identities, and asexual and demisexual readers will appreciate some solid representation.
Readers who enjoyed the supportive environment shown in E. K. Johnston’s Exit, Pursued by a Bear, will find similar support here, though this is a much lighter read. Fans of the movie Juno will also appreciate a similarly flippant and wisecracking approach to a serious situation. Those who like diverse and charming groups of friends like those found in John Green and Jeff Zentner novels will find more engaging friendships in Belly Up.
Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
It’s the middle of summer. Half of the country is experiencing a heat wave. Finding air conditioning is a must for the day. The only thing that will alleviate this heat is a nice glass of icy-cold water, only when you pull on the faucet, the tap is dry. This must be some kind of plumbing issue until the mandates start rolling in and the government gets involved. For Alyssa, living in the drought of Southern California, a war over water is about to break out.
In true Shusterman style, Dry sucks you right into the action. Readers will relate to the craziness of shopping at Costco when bottled water is in limited supply. The anxiety of not knowing when, or if, your parents will return and if they will find fresh water. When neighbors come over to visit, are they coming to check on you, or inventory your pantry? Who can you trust? Running out of water has always been a threat, but when it really happens, Alyssa is forced to make some tough decisions that are a matter of survival.
This realistic dystopian novel is perfect for fans of McGinnis’ Not a Drop to Drink (2013) and Mullin’s Ashfall (2011) where natural disaster strikes and pits humanity against each other.
–Jessica Lorentz Smith
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
Publication Date: Jun 18, 2019
Jay is coasting through his senior year and about to enjoy a video game-infused spring break, when he learns of his cousin’s unexpected death in the Philippines. A last minute decision lands him in the island home of his birth trying to find answers about his cousin in the backdrop of President Duerte’s war on drugs.
The mysterious death of Jay’s cousin and the intense setting of the current human rights disaster of a war on drugs in the Philippines make this a quick pick that will draw readers interested in world events and keep the attention of anyone looking for answers. While a bit complicated, the excellent writing will keep readers hooked. In the incoming wave of much needed diverse voices in YA, Patron Saints of Nothing is an exemplary #ownvoices novel perfect for even the most reluctant of readers.
Teens who want coming of age stories with a broader scope that are similar to Don’t Date Rosa Santos will love Jay’s journey. Those who like mysteries surrounding death and an insular community like Two Can Keep a Secret will also be hooked on Patron Saints of Nothing.