Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, September 29 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Quick Picks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
Brazer + Bray / Harper Collins
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
ISBN: 978-0062996480

Amal Shahid was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Now he is incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. Amal is a victim of the justice system with only his mother for support and his art to give him hope. While the truth is currently in a coma, will Amal receive justice before it is too late?

The hook of the mystery surrounding the crime that has put Amal behind bars, combined with the beautiful lyrical verse that breaks up the narrative into powerful chunks, will keep readers turning the page. This book has it all when it comes to resonating with reluctant readers. The very short chapters and abundant white space with occasional artwork also created a visually appealing experience for such a visceral read. It truly packs a punch.

Those interested in social justice, and those familiar with the Central Park Five case and subsequent documentaries and the Netflix miniseries will clamor for this book. After finishing, fans of Punching the Air will also enjoy the This is My America by Kim Johnson, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina, and All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brandon Kiely

— Molly Dettmann and Jade Valenzuela

What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin
Wednesday Books / Macmillan
Publication Date: June 23, 2020
ISBN: 9781250173805

Lex became Poppy in order to survive. She was human trafficked, made to do things no teen girl should ever be forced to do. When she is rescued and goes to live with her aunt and uncle, Lex still feels like Poppy, and healing from her trauma is not an easy task. When she is again victimized, Lex learns that one way to heal is to find her voice and use it against her abusers.

This makes an excellent quick pick due to the overall raw, gritty, and unflinchingly real look at a girl who was human trafficked and how hard it is to heal from that trauma. This is a book that has a shocking hook that will then lead it to become a well worn and passed around title that gives insight to not only horrible abuse and exploitation, but gives hope for survivors of these evils to then find justice. The chapters are short and readers will race through as realistic and suspenseful events unfold.

Fans of this one will also enjoy a fellow cathartic survivor stories such as Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston and A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti.

–Molly Dettmann

White Bird by R. J. Palacio
Alfred A. Knopf / Random House Children’s Books
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-525-64553

When Julian interviews his Grandmere for a humanities class project, he learns about her time as a young Jewish girl during World War II. She became separated from her parents soon after the Nazis occupied France and hid in a classmate’s barn for over a year. When she is finally reunited with her father in 1946, the world has changed forever.

This gripping story captures readers’ interest in the first few pages as Grandmere steels herself to talk about World War II. The illustrations in this graphic novel are simple and clear, with lots of white space, bright monotone backgrounds, and expressive character faces. Splash pages amplify emotional moments. Wolves, Nazis, guns, and hidden secrets bring elements of danger and suspense.

Hand this multi-faceted graphic novel to fans of Wonder, war stories, or the I Survived series.  This will also appeal to fans of historical graphic novels including

–Emily Williams

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