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.
Beast Rider by Tony Johnston and Maria Elena Fontandt De Rhoads
Publication Date: March 19, 2019
Manuel has one goal; to get to Los Angeles and his older brother. In order to do this he will have to jump on a train, The Beast, and ride on the roof until it crosses into the US. But it isn’t that easy when you are 12. Manuel encounters many setbacks on his voyage including police, gangs, thieves, starvation and someone even steals his shoes. Getting to his brother takes years.
While this story at first appears hopeless, Manuel never loses sight of his goal and shows his resilience to all of these obstacles and even meets some kind people who give him a meal and nurse him back to life after being left for dead.
This title is recommended for readers who have enjoyed Sedgwick’s Saint Death (2016), Anderson’s Border Crossing (2009) or Bowles poems They Call Me Guero (2018).
–Jessica Lorentz Smith
Copycat by Hannah Jayne
Publication Date: July 3, 2018
Addison loves the Gap Lake mysteries so she is thrilled when the author contacts her and gives her pieces of a new story. But when Addison discovers a classmate dead, she realizes that life imitating life is far scarier than she imagined.
This short, suspense-driven mystery with relatable characters is what appeals. Reluctant readers who may not want to spend too much time puzzling out clues, will enjoy this mystery for the intrigue. It reads like a summer movie.
Teens who enjoy the novels of April Henry and the movie, Scream, will want to pick this one up.
If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Viking / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: April 23, 2019
Cameron Bright is beautiful, popular, and a mean girl. When her crush is turned off by her nasty behavior, she looks inward and decides it’s time to change. What begins as a quest to win over her crush turns into a life overhaul to become a better person.
Although readers may not necessarily relate to the protagonist, they will enjoy the familiar plot of the school mate they love to hate and watch as she is brought down to size when things don’t go her way. The writing is strong and finds ways to elicit sympathy for the protagonist by bringing in her difficult relationships with both parents. The pacing is steady and it is rewarding to see Cameron change for the better.
For fans of teen personality makeover dramas, like Clueless and Ten Things I Hate About You and books about privileged kids like the Pretty Little Liars series.
Killing November by Adriana Mather
Knopf Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Random House
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Academy Absconditi is not your traditional boarding school. Everyone wields a weapon and deals in secrets. New student November is out of her league. With threats at every turn, she doesn’t know who to trust. Then a dead body is discovered and November has to find out who did it before she is the next victim.
Killing November is an intense thriller with surprises at every turn. The secret and mysterious boarding school sets the perfect atmosphere for the intrigue that keeps this mystery moving at a brisk pace.
Teens who enjoy People Like Us by Dana Mele and Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson will love this book. Pick up the sequel, Hunting November, in May of 2020.
Playlist: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound by James Rhodes, Martin O’Neill
Published October 8th, 2019
James Rhodes puts together a light, fast-paced narrative through the big names of classical music: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel. A spread on each artist is accompanied by a spread covering two of each composer’s major works. The curated Spotify playlist by Rhodes allows readers to listen to the music described.
Astonishingly beautiful artwork illustrates the quick look at some of the most famous classical artists. It includes a brief timeline of Western Classical Music. The light and quirky tone of the writing keeps readers engaged throughout.
Playlist will appeal to those looking for a short introduction into classical musicians. Those who like highly illustrated non-fiction like the DK series will find similarly eye-opening pages here.
— Cathy Outten
The Avant-Guards by Carly Usdin and illustrated by Noah Hayes
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Reformed basketball player, Charlie, has transferred into the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics and is looking for her new people. At the club fair, she is recruited by Liv, the team captain of the newly developed basketball team made up of other loner artists. Liv doesn’t know that Charlie is trying to leave that life of grueling competition behind her, but eventually the team wins her over as their newest recruit through individually propositioning her. She can’t resist their unique charm.
Each of these characters represents a different stereotype of people owning their identity and finding their place on this basketball team. They become fast friends and ultimately a family, through wanting to form their own, and the school’s first, club basketball team at this school for artists.
This is perfect for fans of the movies Guardians of the Galaxy or Avengers and stories about groups of misfits finding their own places.
–Jessica Lorentz Smith