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.
This is our last post of the year, so please excuse the length, we wanted to fit them all in!
XL by Scott Brown
Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
The morning of his sixteenth birthday, four foot and eleven inches tall Will wishes for two things: a girlfriend and to be taller. After he chickens out of telling his good friend Monica how he really feels, he sees his best friend/step brother kissing her. However, one of his wishes does come true: he starts growing and doesn’t stop. As Will’s life begins to change, he soon realizes that your character matters more than your height.
The concept of the story was unique and told in an interesting way. The plot moves quickly. All of the characters are well-developed and well-rounded. The relationship drama, risk-taking and a little bit of humor make this an engaging read for reluctant readers.
Readers of Rainbow Rowell and John Green will enjoy this fun quick read. It will also appeal to those who enjoyed the slight magical realism of The Opposite of Always by Justin Reynolds.
We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories From Refugee Girls Around the World by Malala Yousafzai
Little, Brown and Company / Hachette Book Group
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
This title features Malala’s experience as a young person displaced by war and violence and also the shared stories of others who have lived through similar ordeals. Their tales remind readers that many people around the world have been uprooted from the lives they knew and are struggling to be heard.
A wide variety of teen refugee experiences are featured in short and engaging chapters. Readers can dip in and out and chose those they are interested in, making this book readable in one sitting. The tone feels as though the reader and storytellers are friends sitting down to a conversation.
Read alikes include the narrative nonfiction title A Hope More Powerful than the Sea: The Journey of Doaa Al Zamel: One Teen Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival by Melissa Fleming. Also The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani and Refugee by Alan Gratz are fiction titles of similar topic.
Wicked Fox by Kat Cho
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
Wicked Fox by Kat Cho is a debut urban fantasy-romance novel set in modern-day Seoul that tells the story of Gu Miyoung, a gumiho or nine-tailed fox, who must feed on the energy of men to survive. One night while feeding, Miyoung sees a human boy, Jihoon, being attacked by a ghoul. Breaking the rules that have kept her alive and safe, Miyoung interferes and saves Jihoon’s life, and loses her fox bead for her troubles. Now, Miyoung has one hundred days to put her fox bead back inside her or risk losing her life.
What makes Wicked Fox by Kat Cho a quick pick for reluctant readers is that it attracts the reader, not only with the eye-catching cover, but it brings to life a creature from Korean folklore that readers will find unique and intriguing. From the beginning, readers are pulled into Miyoung’s life and what she does to survive as a gumiho. Rich with Korean culture and well-developed characters, this is a descriptive novel that has an intensifying build up to the end.
Fans of Korean dramas, or those interested in Korean mythology will find a home here. Those who like diverse romances such as those by Mauren Goo and Jenny Han will enjoy this #ownvoices paranormal romance.
The Haunted by Danielle Vega
Razorbill / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
The legend of Steele House haunts the small town of Drearfield because someone died there a long time ago. But Hendricks doesn’t know that. She is just looking for a fresh start after a life altering incident. As home renovators, her parents are excited about remodeling this old house. For Hendricks, this means unwanted attention and popularity, which she is trying to avoid.
The first sentence of this prologue will have readers hooked. There is something so creepy about Steele House that people won’t even walk by it alone. Once kids from the local high school discover that the new girl moved into it, they are already planning the weekend party. Without even knowing the history behind her house, Hendricks feels something strange that gives her chills and often hears strange noises that she can’t identify. Is it her own fear of the past following her, or something else completely?
Read this tucked tightly under a blanket with all the lights on. For fans of Anna Dressed in Blood (2011) and There’s Someone Inside Your House (2017).
–Jessica Lorentz Smith
Suggested Reading by Dave Connis
Katherine Tegen Books / Harper Collins
Publication Date: September 17, 2019
When her school bans “prohibited media,” a list that includes many of her favorite reads, good girl Clara starts a secret library of titles in her locker. This forces Clara, her classmates, and the administration to think about literature’s importance.
This is a timely read about standing up for what one believes in. Reluctant readers will relate to Clara’s passion and efforts to buck the system, even if they don’t share her love of literature just yet. The plot moves quickly along thanks to short chapters, and Clara’s quirkiness and sense of humor will hook readers as well.
Readers who enjoyed Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak will find similar themes here. Movies like Dead Poets Society, The Neverending Story, and The Princess Bride all speak to the power books have in affecting lives.
Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry
Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Miranda and a group of five other teens are caught in the mall when a terrorist type attack occurs, and people are killed and taken hostage. The teens have the choice to either run, hide or fight back. Each of them has their own issues they are working through, but they must come together as a group to survive this deadly nightmare.
In true April Henry fashion, the reader will be on the edge of their seat waiting to see what will happen next. The coverage of many issues facing teens today also makes this story very relatable to teens.
Readers who enjoy Henry’s other suspense and mystery novels will not be disappointed in Run, Hide, Fight Back.
Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Deja and Josiah have become friends working together every autumn at the local pumpkin patch. On their last day of their last shift of senior year, they abandon their Succotash Hut post and go on an adventure around the park searching for the girl Josiah has had a crush on for four years. During their trek, they discover good food, fun activities, and what it means to be a good friend.
The artwork by Faith Erin Hicks is beautifully crafted and tells a wonderful story of one exciting adventure. The plot moves quickly through their adventure in the pumpkin patch full of food and fun. There is a touch of an LGBT arc, as well as honest portrayals of teens. Pumpkinheads is suitable even for the youngest of teen readers.
Readers of Rowell’s other books, such as Fangirl, and fans of Friends with Boys and other graphic novels illustrated by Hicks will enjoy this fun quick read. This would also be a perfect pick for readers who have aged out of Svetlana’s Chmakova’s Berrybrook Middle School series and are looking for something similar.
Pretty in Punxsutawney by Laurie Boyle Crompton
Blink / HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 15, 2019
A new school year; a new school. Andie hopes her first day will go smoothly, especially since the boy she likes has promised to be her guide. But the day doesn’t go exactly as planned and when Andie is doomed to repeat it, she wonders how to break the loop.
Pretty in Punxsutawney reads like a rom-com. Even though the days repeat themselves, it only gives Andie the opportunity to learn new things, learn more about herself, and learn about the different people who go to high school with her.
Teen readers who like rom-coms, the movie Groundhog Day, and films by John Hughes will enjoy this book.
— Lorrie Roussin
Life is Short and Then You Die: First Encounters with Murder edited by Kelley Armstrong
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
The 18 short story collected in this anthology, written by prominent young adult authors all deal, in someway, with a teen’s first brush with death and murder. Some stories stood out more than others such as Kelley Armstrong’s Floater, R.L. Stine’s The Day I Killed Coach Duffy and Barry Lyga’s Six Ways to Kill Your Grandmother. Each of the stories is unique and compelling in their own way.
This the first anthology for teens that has been compiled by Mystery Writers of America, and the authors included were chosen well. This book is a great introduction to mystery and suspense stories, and the short story (or play) format makes it a good choice for reluctant readers.
Readers of any of the included authors such as R.L. Stine or Jonathan Maberry will enjoy this book and possibly find new authors to start reading.
The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake
Disney-Hyperion/Disney Publishing Group
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
When Violet’s brother Sam tries to commit suicide, she’s sent away to Lyric, Maine, for the summer to stay with her uncle Toby in the town that her ancestors founded after a shipwreck. Once there, she promptly shaves her head, gets a volunteer job at the local aquarium, and unexpectedly begins to fall for a bright amateur local historian. As she tries to navigate the summer, she sets off on a quest to find the missing shipwreck of her ancestors, something that Sam always dreamed of doing.
The book starts off with an immediate hook–Sam’s suicide attempt has immediate consequences for everyone, and drawns the reader into a life in crisis. Violet’s life in small-town Lyric is a stark contrast to her partying days in New York City, and she becomes more and more likeable as the story goes along and she regains her sense of self. An engaging but brief love triangle followed by a delightful LGBTQ romance adds charm and additional interest to this modern Twelfth Night retelling. Drake’s writing is funny, engaging, and romantic, while also being sweepingly epic.
The Last True Poets of the Sea is perfect for fans of the movie She’s the Man, modern classic retellings such as Ariel Kaplan’s Grendel’s Guide to Love and War or E.K. Johnston’s Exit, Pursued By a Bear, or poetic and funny realistic fiction such as Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun.
Heart of the Moors: An Original Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Novel by Holly Black
Publication Date: October 8th, 2019
Aurora is now Queen of Percefort and the Moors. Both faeries and humans are under her rule. Aurora wants to bring them all together, but fear between them is rampant, and none, including her beloved Godmother Maleficent and her court, want to trust each other. While Aurora is working on signing a treaty and holding a festival, people close to her are plotting betrayal. Taking place between the original Maleficent movie, and the one coming out in 2019, Heart of the Moors expands on Maleficent, Aurora, and Prince Phillip’s stories.
Maleficent turns a storyteller into a cat in the first few pages and the action packed climax and resolution make this a quick read. Movie tie-in and well-known faerie author Holly Black will attract readers as well.
Readers who enjoy faerie stories and lovers of the Maleficent movies will love this book.
— Cathy Outten
Grand Theft Horse by Greg Neri
Illustrated by Corban Wilkin
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Gail Ruffu loved horses from an early age. She has an unorthodox, but caring humane way to train horses. She becomes part owner of a horse, Urgent Envoy, and then to save him, she has to hide him away. She is stripped of her training license but still won’t give him up. She becomes embroiled in a decades long legal battle. She struggles with not being able to train horses, but always keeps up her fight against animal cruelty.
Greg Neri shows his cousin Gail Ruffu’s grit and determination with every word of this story. She stands against animal cruelty above all else. Wilkin’s illustrations greatly enhance the story. The concept of standing up for what you believe in makes this a must read.
Reluctant readers will be drawn to the quick pace of this story, and readers who enjoy animal stories such as Eliot Shefer’s Rescued will too.
Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Knoft Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
It’s the year 2380, and the star cadet of Aurora Academy, Tyler Jones, gets to pick the squad of his dreams. However, after rescuing a girl lost in space, he misses the draft and is left with the dregs of the Academy as his new squad, Squad 312. Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley has been in cryo-sleep for 220 years and finds herself in need of help especially when she starts having visions and realizing things aren’t making sense like no record of her father or Octavia, the planet she was headed to, being inhabitable. With only a note as a guide, Auri stows away on Squad 312’s Longbow. Soon Auri is being chased by the terran government’s Global Intelligence Agency and Squad 312 is reluctantly pulled into a conspiracy that can spell the end of the galaxy.
Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff would be a great nomination for Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers because the cover itself is eye-catching, the story hooks you in the beginning with action in space, and the multi-character POV chapters help keep the story moving. Giving readers the chance to learn about the rag-tag team.
Aurora Rising has action, mystery, humor, romance, and an emotional and exciting ending. Fans of Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward series or Marie Lu’s Warcross series will enjoy this book.
500 Words or Less by Juleah Del Rosario
Simon Pulse / Simon and Shuster
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Her absent mother, the loss of her best friend, the loss of her boyfriend and the stress of a new school year makes the start of Nic Chen’s senior year less than stellar. She decides to start a business (even though she doesn’t need the money) writing her classmates college entrance essays. She learns many secrets while writing their essays, but learns more about herself and forgiveness.
Written in verse, this fast paced novel is a perfect choice for reluctant readers. The plot flows smoothly through the school year. Through the short verses, Del Rosario builds the characters thoroughly, and readers experience the pain and sadness as Nic discovers about classmates and herself. The relationship struggles, college stress and parent stress are concepts easily relatable to teens.
This title will appeal to John Green readers as well as readers who enjoy Ellen Hopkins quick but sad and gritty novels such as Crank.
Through the White Wood by Jessica Leake
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Through the White Wood by Jessica Leake is a YA fantasy novel that follows Katya who is banished from her village to the palace of Prince Sasha in Kiev after a terrible accident that was caused by Katya’s ice powers. Fearing the worst, Katya is surprised to find Prince Sasha offers her friendship instead of punishment. She is also more surprised to learn that Prince Sasha has the power to summon fire and those surrounding him have powers too. Soon Katya learns that Prince Sasha is gathering an army to face his enemies who are trying to destroy Kiev with the help of those with earth powers and the Prince wants Katya to join them. Not to mention, the main duo learn that there is also a prophecy in the mix about fire and ice saving the day.
Jessica Leake’s novel, Through the White Wood, would make a good quick pick for reluctant readers because it is filled with luscious world-building, action, and fantasy. The elemental magic, band of friends on a journey, and the battle scenes will interest readers. Leisurely-paced, this character-driven story slowly builds to its climax as readers follow Katya’s journey to learn more about herself, the history of her parents, and her growing relationship with Prince Sasha as they work together to learn more about their powers.
Fans of fantasy novels like Tricia Levenseller’s Warrior of the Wild and Adrienne Young’s The Girl the Sea Gave Back will enjoy Jessica Leake’s Through the White Wood.
— Kat Reynolds
Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin is a YA fantasy novel about witches and witch hunters. Louise Le Blanc is a witch who has left her coven, stopped using magic and has hidden herself for two years in the city of Cesarine where she survives as a thief in the hopes of avoiding the faith of her fellow witches who are hunted, feared, and burned. After successfully stealing a magical ring and escaping the Chasseurs, witch hunters for the Church, Lou unfortunately finds herself in the hands of Reid Diggory, captain of the Chasseurs. Caught in a delicate situation, Lou and Reid are forced to wed in order to save Reid’s reputation, as well as the reputation of the Chasseurs and the Archbishop. What follows is a story centered on the war between the Church and witches, and the growing relationship between Lou, who is trying to keep her secret of being a witch, and Reid whose life’s mission is to rid the world of witches.
Shelby Mahurin’s Serpent & Dove would be a good quick pick for reluctant readers because not only is the cover eye-catching to attract a reader, but with its descriptive writing-style and strong world-building, the story provides readers with action, magic, witty banter, and strong characters.
Fans of Shea Earnshaw, Sarah J. Maas, and Leigh Bardugo will enjoy Shelby Mahurin’s Serpent & Dove.
— Kat Reynolds
Mike by Andrew Norriss
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
Floyd is an amazing tennis player on his way to winning international competitions. He is at one of his competitions and becomes distracted by a teenage guy walking onto the court. No one else but Floyd can see him. Floyd starts going to a psychiatrist who helps him understand that Mike is a manifestation of Floyd realizing he only playing tennis because it his parents dream and not his. He starts applying himself more in school, and realizes he has different dreams. Mike becomes a guide throughout Floyds life, helping him find his happiness.
Floyd will appeal to teens, because he is like most teens, and trying to figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life, while trying to be a good son. It is interesting to see how Mike pops up at the times that Floyd needs him most. Norriss writes about mental health issues and without stigmatizing them. The subtle hints of humor add to the story. The quick pace and short chapters make this a great choice for reluctant readers.
Readers who enjoyed John Green or Ned Vizzini will enjoy this entertaining, enlightening quick read.