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.
Simon & Louise by Max de Radiguès
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
(Originally published 2017 in France, Éditions Sarbacane)
Young love is tested in this (translated) French graphic novel told from a “his” and “hers” perspective. Louise is heading to Montpelier for the summer with family, and the day after she leaves Simon receives a break-up text from her. In Simon’s story, he sneaks away from home and hitches a ride to Montpelier to find Louise and win her back. Her story reveals that her decision to break up with Simon was less black and white and more about testing out her feelings and what she wants in relationships.
The clean art style makes it easy for young adult readers to visually follow the plot, and the accompanying text is easy to read and often humorous. The dual narrative makes this story interesting and accessible to teens, who will want to learn more about Louise’s perspective after reading Simon’s story. This is a quick, compelling read that deals with common themes in adolescence. Teens will appreciate the honesty in this book: that figuring out who they are in relation to others isn’t usually easy.
Teens who grew up with graphic novels like Awkward, by Svetlana Chmakova and any books by Raina Telgemeier will enjoy this next step up in adolescent drama as young teens explore first love. Also for fans of the Netflix movie (and book) To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in which tender feelings and coming out of one’s shell are explored.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Harper Teen / HarperCollins
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Emoni is unlike your average high school student. After having a baby her freshman year, her priorities change and become about caring for Babygirl. She looks forward to graduating and just goes through the motions of high school until a new elective is offered; culinary arts. This just might be the class Emoni needs to tolerate senior year. And there is an opportunity for international travel in the spring.
Just as Acevedo did in her debut novel, The Poet X (2018), this novel examines how one thing doesn’t define you. Inspired by wise words and unconditional support from Emoni’s abuela, she is able to prove her talent for culinary arts through integrating her Puerto Rican culture, determination and sass. Another outstanding novel from this year about a strong woman proud of her heritage.
This book is perfect for readers who also enjoy shows like Masterchef and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, based on the novel of the same name (2014). Additional similar reads include The Way You Make Me Feel (2018) and Not the Girls You’re Looking For (2018).
–Jessica Lorentz Smith
In the Key of Nira Ghani by Natasha Deen
Running Press / Perseus Books
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Nira is torn between pursuing her Guyanese parents’ dream of her becoming a doctor or lawyer or following her own desire to become a jazz musician. She is relentlessly caught in a battle of wills with her father, but in spite of his attempts at controlling her, she manages to sneak out and audition for jazz band at school. The struggle for acceptance and independence from her family pushes Nira to a breaking point where she has to decide for herself what is most important in life.
Told in the first person, Nira’s account is easy to read and picks up the pace after the first couple of chapters. Like many teens, she is caught in the throes of asserting herself in the world while trying to please her family. Young adults from all backgrounds will see themselves in her character: she has trouble feeling like she fits in with her (very white) community in addition to being at odds with her family’s dreams for her. Her emotions are relatable as she swings from argumentative and angry to elated and excited to pursue her passion.
For fans of realistic fiction featuring first-generation American characters who clash with their parents’ old world values, such as Sabina Khan’s The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali and Gloria Chao’s American Panda.