#QP2018 Nominees Round Up

Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios
Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
ISBN: 9781627797726

Grace’s life is already pretty difficult, honestly. Between her extremely controlling stepfather, her cleanliness-obsessed mother, caring for her young brother, school, work, and theater she barely has time to breathe. Grace has had a crush on a senior from her drama club named Gavin for a while, and when brooding, tortured Gavin seems interested in her, at first she thinks it may be a turning point. Finally – she’ll have someone other than her two best friends who support and encourages her, and she’ll be the girlfriend of THE Gavin Davis. From the very beginning, though, Grace lets the reader know that this fairy tale love does not have a happily-ever-after ending. Continue reading #QP2018 Nominees Round Up

#QP2018 Nominees: Sports Stories

Grit, Motivation, Passion, Focus, Teamwork, Resilience, Tenacity. These are the tenets that Newbery Award winner Kwame Alexander outlines in The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life. The characters in the three sports novels recommended here exhibit all that and more.

In Patina, Jason Reynolds continues the story that began with Ghost, of tenacious Patty and the motley group of runners who win on the the track but struggle in their lives. Top Prospect, by veteran sports writer Paul Volponi, tells the story of a resilient boy pressured way too early to be the quarterback his older brother is, partly based on the true stories of young athletes who are promised college scholarships before they even hit high school. Passionate Tessa, in Thatcher Heldring’s The Football Girl, is an exceptional athlete who loves the game too much to let it go, even at the risk of disappointing her friends and family.

These stories, along with Alexander’s sage advice, will be winners with reluctant readers of all shapes, sizes and athletic skills.

The PlaybookThe Playbook  52 Ways to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life by Kwame Alexander
Photographs by Thai Neave
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
February 14, 2017
978-0544570979

While traditional playbooks guide athletes in strategies for winning on the scoreboard, Alexander’s release, The Playbook, has 52 rules for enriching the game of life.  This uplifting rendition contains anecdotes from some of the world’s most influential athletes, leaders, and poets.  LeBron James, Michelle Obama, Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, and many more are included. A diverse selection of thought-provoking, practical narratives includes quotes and photographs that embrace a variety of sports, gender, race, and compelling individuals. Alexander himself shares encouraging stories about overcoming obstacles while struggling in football and basketball as a teen, before his persistence culminated in finding his niche and success in tennis.  Continue reading #QP2018 Nominees: Sports Stories

#QP2018 Nominees: Immigrants and Refugees

Immigrants and refugees are such a timely topic, that many new books are being written to inform the public of the realities those seeking sanctuary endure. The following selections put a face to the issues…faces that cannot be denied. Whether historical fiction or non-fiction memoirs, these Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers nominees help raise awareness for teens.

RefugeeRefugee by Alan Gratz
Scholastic Press
July 25, 2017
978-0545880831

Three countries in strife…three different periods in time…three families seeking one universal goal: FREEDOM. Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud offer realistic, fictionalized accounts of attempts to find refuge from 1939 Nazi Germany, Castro’s 1994 Cuba, and war-torn Syria in 2015. Methods of escape include a ship, raft, trains, taxi, and tedious, wearisome treks by foot. With obstacles like Nazis, sharks, police, the coast guard, fences, and thieves along the way, realization of both freedom and safety are not guaranteed.

The cover portrays a black and white, very lifelike image of a boy in a boat facing a storm, with the title and boat in bold red, clearly foreshadowing the story and igniting curiosity. The action is fast-paced and intensifies during the heartwrenching journeys of the three families. Although three separate tales, Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud face similar struggles across different lands and eras. Told from three alternating points of view, each protagonist has authentically courageous, yet vulnerable qualities that will have readers sympathizing with their plight and supporting their quest for deliverance for their families. Each compelling chapter seems to end  with a mini-cliffhanger, just as the narrator changes. This suspenseful technique naturally makes the reader keep going to find out what happens next with each of the three refugees. The intricately plotted storyline eventually comes full circle, as connections are made amongst the three families. Continue reading #QP2018 Nominees: Immigrants and Refugees

#QP2018 Nominees: Science Fiction

Science fiction is the perfect place to find imaginative and inventive hooks. In this post, we feature four science fiction stories with fabulous hooks.

Exo by Fonda Lee is a story of life on an alien occupied earth, and ponders the question of whether it is better to cooperate or rebel.

Nemesis by Brendan Reichs features a terrifying premise where two protagonists are killed every two years, only to be resurrected the next day with no memory of their demise.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman imagines a future where technology has advanced to the point that nobody dies anymore. The creation of Scythes, humans whose role is to kill other humans, is the only way to ensure the world isn’t overpopulated.

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy balances a science fiction premise, protecting the Earth from a possible alien invasion, with a healthy injection of humor.

Landscape With Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson delivers a science fiction tale chock-full of fascinating ideas in a short, digestible package that will appeal to reluctant readers.

These five books feature captivating hooks, engaging writing, and well drawn characters that will tempt many reluctant readers.

Exo by Fonda Lee
Scholastic Press
January 31, 2017
9780545933438

What if the earth were a colony, a useful military outpost? What if humans were the “indigenous” species–their intelligence the only quality that kept them from being completely overrun by a superior alien race that benevolently talked down to them?

Welcome to the new earth. Under the new political order, the alien race of zhree have created a feudal-like system in which they incorporate humans into their protective clans. Donovan Reyes,  son of the new Prime Liaison between the humans and the zhree, is a valuable political pawn. His father selected him to undergo the “hardening” process, a process that provides him with an exoskeleton similar to that of the zhree race.  The exoskeleton is critical in his role as a peace keeper between humans and zhree, but it can’t protect him when he is kidnapped by the terrorist organization, Sapience. The hits just keep on coming when he realizes that the terrorist are being led by someone who causes him to question everything his father and the zhree have created. Continue reading #QP2018 Nominees: Science Fiction

#QP2018 Nominees: Novels in Verse

Too. Many. Words.

For a reluctant reader who may not be able to create that internal video that brings a narrative to life, a book in verse is a lot less intimidating. We loved these four titles with four very different approaches that still manage to capture contemporary concerns.

 In Bull, author David Elliott gives a famous Greek myth a facelift that transforms it into a tale that can be paired with George O’Connor’s graphic novel Poseidon: Earth Shaker to bring a whole new perspective to an old story.

Sonya Sones grabs readers by the heart as she tackles youth homelessness and mental illness in Saving Red.

Then Nikki Grimes pairs brilliant art with classic verse and provides current context with One Last Word.  

We round out our four with Solo by Kwame Alexander who mastered this style of writing with predecessors like The Crossover and Booked.  

These four titles contain just the right number of words to build a powerful emotional response in our reluctant young adult readers.

Bull by David ElliotBull by David Elliott
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
March 23, 2017
978-0544610606

Bull is a retelling of the ancient Greek Minotaur myth told in verse. Fans of Greek mythology know the basic story. Poseidon curses the King of Crete, his wife gives birth to a monster child with the body of a human and the head of a bull, he’s put in a labyrinth where the hero Theseus eventually vanquishes him. But in the modern trend of reimagining old tales from unique perspectives, David Elliott, gives us insight into the mind of the fabled Minotaur, named Asterion, as well as his family, the god Poseidon, and his eventual conqueror Theseus. David Elliott reimagines these ancient characters with fresh modern voices. The writing is in verse, and is at times lyrical, humorous, and heartbreaking. Potential readers should take note that there is a LOT of cursing in this book. The third page opens with Poseidon saying “whaddup bitches?.” And emphasis is placed on adult elements found in the original myth, such as the episode of bestiality between the bewitched queen and a bull that produced the minotaur.

Points of interest: the cover is eye-catching, the text is sparse with plenty of white space, and the book itself is short. The characters feel modern and engaging. Elliott doesn’t pull any punches with regards to cursing and references to adult themes.

Suggested for mature teens who can handle some adult humor and references. Recommended for fans of mythology retellings, Kwame Alexander’s novels in verse, and readers looking for a short engaging read. Continue reading #QP2018 Nominees: Novels in Verse

#QP2018 Nominees: Social Media in YA Fiction

Social media is a huge part of the lives of most teens. Naturally, this is being reflected in young adult books. While platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, to name just a few, are hugely popular, the magnetism they develop can have serious consequences when intentions are unethical or downright sinister. The following selections serve as fascinating yet cautionary tales of sorts due to cyberstalking, catfishing, cyberbullying, and the exposing of deep secrets. The following nominees for Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers 2018 all explore how social media can effect the lives of teens. 

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
Delacorte Press
May 30, 2017
978-1524714680

One of Us is LyingFive teens show up for detention after school, but only four make it out alive. Simon Kelleher, the creator of a malicious gossip app targeting his classmates, dies of an allergic reaction during detention. Somehow, his epi pen has gone missing, in addition to the unaccounted for stash of them kept in the school nurse’s office. When police discover peanut oil was in Simon’s water, the facts start adding up that this was no accident.

Cover image is intriguing with the four suspects depicted as faceless inside a yearbook type layout with contrasting red title. The fast-paced first chapter snags the reader’s attention right away, and the plot intensifies throughout the book as more secrets are exposed. Each chapter consists of brief points of view from the detention survivors, unfolding the menacing tone Simon has created via social media in a disturbing and twisted way. Diversity in ability, culture, and LGBTQIA are present amongst the characters. Some results in bullying and threats of exposure as the gritty app reveals secrets the survivors, now suspects, want kept under wraps.  The social media aspect, diverse character representation, and suspenseful plot will appeal to a broad range of teens.

Characters considered the Brain, the Beauty, the Criminal, and the Athlete are reminiscent of The Breakfast Club, with a modern day mystery twist. Fans of Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars series or books featuring social media/internet bullying such as Nerve by Jeanne Ryan or Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Abertalli are ideal readers.

-Lisa Krok

bombshellBombshell by Rowan Maness
Simon Pulse
July 4, 2017
978-1481441643

Online, Joss can be anyone she wants, so she is a lot of different people. Rosie restores art in NYC, Emma is a lonely Southern beauty queen, and Anna’s a jet-setting international model, just to name a few of the people Joss pretends to be, and each has their own distinct identity fabricated entirely by Joss on the Internet – identities she uses to meet people and to escape the drudgery and boredom of her regular life. Unfortunately, someone has figured out what she’s up to and is threatening to reveal her secret on a website called josslies.com to the people she’s met by pretending to be Emma, Anna, Rosie, and all the others. When “Believer” really starts to close in on her, Joss has to decide whether to give up her catfishing and be herself or run away and try to make a life as someone else. Continue reading #QP2018 Nominees: Social Media in YA Fiction

#QP2018: 5 World War II Tales

There are teens who want to read about the here and now, and then there are teens who love to know what it was like to live in the past. World War II has been a rich and rewarding theme for fiction and non-fiction for teens – modern classics like The Book Thief and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas pique their interest and enhance their understanding of the world at that time.

These five books, three fiction and two non-fiction, offer events and perspectives that are unique but carry a common thread – resistance to the Nazi regime. All are based on actual events, and each one reminds the reader that the human spirit will always prevail.


Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali
Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali, translated by Penny Hueston
Roaring Brook Press/A Neal Porter Book
March 7, 2017
978-1626720718

 In Nazi Germany, Max is created as a designer baby to increase the Aryan population, and is even born on Hitler’s birthday. In this appalling glimpse into the Third Reich’s Lebensborn program, Max “Konrad” tells the haunting story of what it meant to be a gift to the Fuhrer, and how he helped the Brown Sisters kidnap Polish children who fit the Aryan ideal.  Trained to become a fighter in the Hitler Youth, he is raised by the medical arm of the Nazi regime to hate Jews, homosexuals, and anyone perceived as weak. The chink in Konrad’s armor is Lukas, a Polish teen who has been selected in the raids as the perfect Aryan specimen. His internal conflict is heightened when he discovers that Lukas, who has taken on the role of Konrad’s older brother, is Jewish.

The stark red cover portraying a fetus wearing a Nazi armband definitely grabs attention. Max is told from the unusual perspective of one who is seasoned beyond his years, while still quite childlike. Narration begins in utero and grows along with Konrad.  The plot-driven, compelling text depicts an irreverent view of one of the most disturbing time periods in history.  Blunt, gritty language is bound to appeal to readers due to shock value.  Though Konrad is certainly flawed and twisted from his upbringing, he possesses a naiveté that will make readers alternately dislike him intensely and pity him. Although the pacing is inconsistent, the suspense and menacing plot is enough to keep readers engaged.  The Author’s Note at the end is jarring, as readers discover that Max is inspired by actual events, and that the Lebensborn program did, in fact, exist. Continue reading #QP2018: 5 World War II Tales

#QP2018 Nominees: Find Your Style and Botanical Beauty

It’s no secret that many teens find a creative outlet and personal expression through style. Beauty vlogging has become a huge trend on Youtube and most teens I know are aware of at least a few famous ones. Common Sense Media has even created a list of popular beauty vloggers for interested parents. And it’s not just women, there are also quite a few famous male beauty vloggers. This interest in style and grooming can extend to making their own beauty products as well. Quite a few teens have even created successful businesses selling their creations.

The following are two books that hone in on that eternal interest in personal style and DIY creation.

Find Your Style
Find Your Style: Boost Your Body Image Through Fashion Confidence by Sally McGraw
Twenty-First Century Books
February 1, 2017
978-1467785693

Find Your Style by Sally McGraw introduces reader to fashion concepts and their deeper meanings. Readers will learn basic style skills, like how to put together outfits, shop on a budget, and choose pieces that flatter their figure. Standard fashion topics are presented with a body positive spin. For example, the chapter on “figuring out your figure” includes section headings like “what do you love about your body?” and “dress to feel good.” Includes tips and opinions from actual teens.

This book features a high interest topic (fashion) and presents it in a way that is incredibly relevant for today’s teens. Connections are drawn between what readers see in the media and their beliefs about fashion, beauty, and their own self-worth. And it doesn’t skimp on the practical style advice. The diverse models and inclusion of different body types makes it relatable for a wide range of teens from many backgrounds. The engaging voice and clear, informative text should be appealing to reluctant readers. Overall, a positive and informative book that encourages teens to think critically and cultivate a healthy self-image. Great for fans of Teen Vogue and Project Runway. Continue reading #QP2018 Nominees: Find Your Style and Botanical Beauty

#QP2018 Nominees: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson and Overturned by Lamar Giles

Questionable Convictions: Guilty, or Not Guilty?

The emergence of advanced scientific forensics has resulted in the ability to re-evaluate convictions. DNA via hair, blood, saliva and other bodily fluids have been used to overturn some guilty convictions for violent crimes. Newer technologies can pinpoint details better. Highly trained dogs can sniff out corpses or drugs. Appeals must be filed, but rarely a change in verdict results. With so many crime fiction and forensic television shows on the air, it may look easier than it is in reality.

These two Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers delve into this world of questionable convictions and their suspenseful plots and gritty topics make them great books for readers interested in the criminal justice system.

Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson book cover Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen Books
January 24, 2017
ISBN: 9780062422644

The jury said she did it. The media said she did it. Only nine years old and convicted for manslaughter, Mary B. Addison didn’t say anything. Three-month-old Alyssa was in the care of her babysitter, Mary’s mother, when she died of suspicious circumstances while sleeping in Mary’s room. Six years later Mary, now fifteen, is released from “baby jail” and is living in a supervised group home wearing an ankle monitor. The issue-oriented storyline is brought to the forefront when a pregnant Mary now finally wants to attempt to clear her name, so that her own baby is not taken away by social services.

This dramatic hook grabs the reader’s attention very quickly, and pacing intensifies throughout the saga. Although flawed in character, Mary is somewhat vulnerable and garners sympathy at times. Portrayed by the media as a baby killer with rage tendencies, Mary struggles with revealing her true self while in a group home with violent criminals as roommates. The home is a menacing place full of bullying, brutality, theft, and much verbal abuse.   Continue reading #QP2018 Nominees: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson and Overturned by Lamar Giles

#QP2018 Nominees: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Bang by Barry Lyga

The impact of shootings on survivors, families and communities is a timely topic. 

Unfortunately, the daily news may include incidents of gun violence including school shootings, police brutality, domestic violence, and tragic accidents.

Young Adult authors have increasingly been writing books that address these issues, to give teens touchpoints to identify with and help them understand their world. The following two recently published books, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and Bang by Barry Lyga, help to tackle these issues for readers.

The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Balzer + Bray
February 28, 2017
978-0062498533

Starr struggles to balance her life at home living in a poor black neighborhood and the private prep school she attends with much wealthier students. When she witnesses her childhood friend shot needlessly by a police officer, her whole world is turned upside down.

This compelling story is told from Starr’s point of view, where readers follow her thought processes as she navigates difficult situations and harsh, contradictory realities. The timely social issue of police brutality in black communities will grab readers’ attention. Starr’s experience perfectly illustrates one of the biggest issues faced by African-American people in the United States today. “The talk” may be familiar to many marginalized populations, and an eye opener to others. Starr is a complex introspective character that many teens will identify with, while she must come to terms with the sobering, unequal roles society has forced upon her community.

Many juxtapositions help show the complexity of the social issues being tackled within the story. Police are shown in both negative and positive lights, through officer “one fifteen”, the shooter of Starr’s friend, Khalil, and her Uncle Carlos, a police officer who is striving for justice. A poor community is depicted doing its best to protect its youth against gangs and drugs, while the youth’s attraction to the money and power brought by gangs and drugs is a heart-wrenching cycle. The conflicts between Starr’s neighborhood friends and her prep school friends serve to illuminate the complicated relationships between race, class, and privilege. Continue reading #QP2018 Nominees: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Bang by Barry Lyga