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
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.
Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud
Publication date: July 30th, 2019
Zora Emerson has big ideas and the plans to accomplish them. Already heading major community programs in her black New Jersey suburb at age 17, she heads to a summer program on a prestigious college campus to learn more about community service and funding non-profits. A chance meeting on campus with fellow student Owen (who just so happens to be the prince of a small island near England) starts a sweet romance.
Truly Madly Royally is a quick and witty romance with themes of privilege and community building. Zora’s focus on Black Excellence and the contrast between her life and Owen’s adds additional interest.
Fans of sweet YA romances like those by Jenny Han will like this book, as will fans of Cinderella stories such as The Royals series by Rachel Hawkins. This book is also perfect for fans of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s romance.
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
HarperCollins; Balzer & Bray
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Bri loves rap music. It’s only natural, since her dad was a famous underground rapper, murdered by a rival gang. Bri longs to follow her dad and become a famous rapper herself. Struggling with poverty, particularly after her mom loses her job, and dealing with racist cops, rap music offers a way out for Bri. After a song she performs at a rap battle where go viral, Bri might be on the road to riches. But does she want people thinking she’s gangsta when she really isn’t?
Thomas’ rap songs are off the charts. She has created characters whom readers will wholly embrace, with all their dreams, fears, and challenges. Bri is a vibrant character, full of heart. Can she be herself and still be a successful rapper? Teens will want to find out.
Fans of Thomas’ The Hate U Give will love this second book as will those who enjoyed Sonia Patel’s Rani Patel in Full Effect and Jacqueline Woodson’s After Tupac & D Foster.
— Allison Gray
My Ideal Boyfriend is a Croissant by Laura Dockrill
Delacorte Press / Random House Children’s Books
Publication Date: July 16, 2019
Bluebelle “BB” is a proud big girl. A nurse tells BB her weight and asthma could be managed by diet and exercise and asks BB to keep a food diary. BB’s day to day life, as it relates to food, is revealed to readers through these entries. BB connects her love of cooking and eating with major events in her life; she wants to drop out of school, her younger sister Dove is injured in a parkour accident, their parents separate, and BB falls for Max, a co-worker at the local coffee shop.
This book features a body-positive protagonist and message. BB keeps it real about her body, her love of food, and society’s perception and treatment of people who are heavy. Chapters are short and quick thanks to BB’s direct and hilarious thoughts, actions, and interactions. There is a touch of romance teen readers will likely enjoy, but the love between the two sisters takes the spotlight.
Those who enjoyed the book and movie Dumplin’, its sequel Puddin’, or The Upside of Unrequited, all of which feature plus-sized heroines, will likely dig BB’s outlook. Fans of Donna Meagle from the show Parks and Recreation will see similarities in BB’s ‘treat yo’ self” attitude.
Here to Stay by Sara Farizan
Algonquin Young Readers
Published September 18th, 2018
Bijan was just called up from JV to play varsity basketball. He’s hoping his new star athlete status will give him a step up socially and help him talk to girls. But racism and bullying rear their heads on campus and his new visibility is turning into more of a problem than a solution. Bijan works on finding who is behind the cyber attacks while making new friends and playing good basketball, and maybe, getting the girl.
Here to Stay jumps right into the action when Bijan jumps up to varsity basketball. The story includes sports and racial representation as well as a side LGBTQ romance. While it hits hard topics it does so with a light hand for a delightful read with meaningful content.
Readers who enjoy contemporary fiction with representation like With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo and Jackpot by Nic Stone will enjoy this book.
Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, A Young Adult Adaptation by Sam Quinones
Bloomsbury / Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: July 16, 2019
This is a book about pain. Chronic pain and how it has historically been treated, and how it is currently being managed with opiate addiction that started with good intentions. Follow the story of Oxy that began in a small Kentucky town and is now successfully plaguing the country.
This young adult adaptation concisely recounts the history of opium from the Tigris and Euphrates to the encapsulation and the people along the way who both got rich on it and were hoodwinked by its addiction. In short chapters, Quinones illustrates this problem across industries and families.
This book will resonate with teens who have watched the reality TV show, Intervention, or the Netflix series, Narcos along with McGinnis’ book, Heroine (2019).
–Jessica Lorentz Smith