Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2020) Nominees Round Up, December 10 Edition

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.

cover artJackpot by Nic Stone
Crown Books for Young Readers / Random House Children’s Books
Publication Date: October 15, 2019
ISBN: 978-1984829627

Seventeen-year-old Rico works long hours at the Gas ‘n’ Go to help support her mother and younger brother. When no one comes forward to claim a multi-million-dollar lottery prize, she teams up with Zan, whose wealthy family seems the opposite of hers in every way, in order to find the winning ticket.  

This is a sweet coming of age story featuring a interracial romance. Stone’s writing is very engaging, and the short chapters make this a compelling read. Told mostly from Rico’s point of view, the story includes some quirky chapters narrated by inanimate objects, like the winning lottery ticket.  Rico is a sympathetic and humorous character, and the book is manages to be somewhat lighthearted, even when tackling tough subjects like poverty and illness. 

An excellent choice for readers who enjoy the family-oriented themes in the works of Angie Thomas and Brandy Colbert. This selection will also appeal to fans of “opposites attract” romances, like those by Sandhya Menon, or Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star. 

–Kathleen J. Barker

cover artBorn Scared by Kevin Brooks
Candlewick Press
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
ISBN: 9780763695651

Something is coming. Elliot can sense its presence. It has stayed away for a long time with the appropriate cocktail of medication. But now it is snowing and Elliott is about to run out of pills. His mom left to the nearest store, but hasn’t returned. Now Elliott must decide whether to venture out into the blizzard or meet the beast head on.

This fast paced thriller has many elements that will keep reluctant readers hooked.  How does one escape the monster when it exists in your own head?

For the snow storm and survival aspect readers who enjoyed Trapped (2011) by Northrup or Laybourne’s Monument 14 (2012) will enjoy this. For the mental illness component, readers should pick this up if they liked A Danger to Herself and Others (2019) by Sheinmel.

–Jessica Lorentz Smith

cover artMean by Justin Sayre
Penguin Workshop / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
ISBN: 978-1524787950

Ellen is labeled “the mean one” because she doesn’t care much for drama or dating. She is frustrated by her parents, especially the lack of time and effort her mother puts into the family. She blows off her friends’ feelings without realizing and focuses instead on video games and preparing for her bat mitzvah.

This is a short read with relatable characters. Ellen is insensitive and self-centered at times because she is juggling family, friends, and heaps of emotions – a totally relatable experiences for young teens. Ellen attempts a love connection between two of her boy friends; her frenemy Allegra frustrates her to no end; she crushes on a boy in Hebrew class, Noah, and her thoughts about him are hilarious and sweet. Ellen eventually realizes the give and take that comes with relationships, and all ends well. 

Fans of Sayre’s Husky and Pretty, set in the same world, will enjoy Mean. Twerp and Finding the Worm by Mark Goldblatt are similar in nature. Readers who binge-watched the Netflix series No Good Nick with find this title fills that comedy/drama void.

–Aimee Haslam

cover artA Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
Publication Date: October 16th, 2018
ISBN: 9780062866561

One year after the events of September 11, 2001, Shirin suffers countless racist microaggressions including comments in the hall to outright assault for wearing a headscarf.  Her Persian immigrant parents move her family constantly around for better and better jobs, but it leaves Shirin feeling out of place. At her newest (third) high school, she meets Ocean, but navigating their interracial relationship in the hostile environment their small town has become may prove fatal to their connection.

In the first few pages we learn of Shirin’s constant moving, how she is frequently treated (with a harsh example of her first day in English class) to her getting kicked out of class. The sweet romance that develops slowly and the many faceted character of Shirin makes this a great quick pick.

Readers who enjoyed Here to Stay by Sara Farizan or Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram will enjoy this book.

–Cathy Outten

cover artUnpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice by Lawrence Goldstone
Scholastic Nonfiction
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
ISBN: 9781338239454

Murder is a crime punishable by law. Even in 1873. However, in this novel, Goldstone illuminates the true account of a group of white supremists who murdered over 100 unarmed African Americans and yet not one person was convicted.

Paving the way for Jim Crow laws, making it legal to oppress black Americans and deny people basic human rights, some that still exist today, Unpunished Murder, demonstrates how the Supreme Court helped institutionalize racism in America. This is the history that we need to teach in schools.

This book is for readers who are passionate about social justice and have been interested in books like We Are Not Yet Equal (2018) or Dream Country (2018). 

–Jessica Lorentz Smith

cover artThe Lonely Dead by April Henry
Henry Holt & Company
Publication Date: January 29, 2019
ISBN: 9781250157577

Seeing the dead is a gift, but one that Adele needs to keep hidden. Both her mother and grandmother had the same gift, and neither one is in her life anymore.  Now her “gift” is heavily medicated and labeled as a form of schizophrenia. But the medication makes her lethargic and slow. The one day she forgets to take her pill is the first day she has felt alive and energetic in forever. Even her teachers notice this new found energy.  

Adele hasn’t seen a dead person since she was five and she encountered a woman’s dog. So she is quite surprised when she discovers Tori in the woods on her way to the bus stop wearing only a halter dress. In fact, it is the same dress she was wearing on Saturday night, the last time Adele saw her, and she and Tori were fighting. Is Tori really dead?

Told on brand in April Henry fashion with short, cliff-hanger chapters, this is another one to add to the collection of fast-paced thrillers like Henry’s previous books, The Girl I Used to Be (2016), and The Body in the Woods (2014) along with her additionally nominated title from 2019, Run, Hide, Fight Back.

–Jessica Lorentz Smith

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Quick Picks

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers Blogging Team @ YALSA's The Hub.