Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers (#QP2024) Feature Review: Chaos Theory by Nic Stone

  • Chaos Theory
  • by Nic Stone
  • Publisher: Penguin Random House
  • Imprint: Crown Books for Young Readers
  • Release date: February 28, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780593307700

Andy Criddle is at a party and drunkenly texts his ex-girlfriend: or so he thought.  Instead, he mistakenly texts Shelbi Augustine, a quiet classmate from school. Andy gets behind the wheel, receives a DUI, and must serve community service as a result. Andy and Shelbi’s paths cross again when they meet at the soup kitchen where Andy decides to volunteer. As time goes on their relationship deepens, but Shelbi is determined to stay in “just friends” territory only. Stone addresses self-harm, substance abuse, and mental illness in this novel.

Andy and Shelbi have been through “stuff”, as many teen readers have. Teen readers will find several things that they can relate to as they are reading this novel. Text messages are included through the novel, making it easy to navigate because large blocks of text are broken up by the text message conversations. Stone addresses the reader at the beginning and end of the novel, furthering the conversation around mental illness and the stigma that is often involved. 

Teens who cope with mental illness and/or support someone they care for who is struggling will appreciate this title. Readers should also look at Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert, Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

– Katie Guzan

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: April 4, 2023
Release Date: September 6, 2022

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2024) Featured Review: We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds

  • We Deserve Monuments
  • by Jas Hammonds
  • Narrated by Tamika Katon-Donegal
  • Recorded Books, LLC | Recorded Books, Inc
  • Publication Date: November 29, 2022
  • ISBN: 9781705069530

Seventeen-year-old Avery Anderson planned to spend her senior year with her best friends before following her mother into academia. Her plans derailed when her parents relocated their family from their DC home to Bardell, Georgia to care for her dying grandmother, Mama Letty. As soon as they arrive in Bardell, she encounters systemic racism and homophobia that bi-racial, queer Avery had never experienced in her privileged life in DC. Avery spends her days with Mama Letty, who has grown bitter from age, illness, and the lasting impact of her husband’s unsolved disappearance. As Avery learns more about her family and Bardell, she uncovers a history of racism and secrets about her grandfather’s disappearance that may be more sinister than she could have imagined.

Tamika Katon-Donegal artfully narrates Jas Hammonds’ winner of the John Steptoe Award for New Talent Award. Katon-Donegal breathes life into Avery as she struggles with uncovered secrets. The narration is heartfelt and perfectly expresses Avery’s emotions as she learns her family’s history and develops feelings for a new love interest. Yet, the audiobook’s greatest strength is the atmospheric reading that creates a mood that perfectly expresses the book’s underlying mystery. Fans of Camryn Garrett’s Off the Record, and Jumata Emill’s Black Queen will enjoy this LGBTQ+ slow-burn mystery.

-Rebecca Baldwin

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: February 28, 2023
Release Date: February 7, 2023
Release Date: January 10, 2023
Release Date: January 31, 2023

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2024) Featured Review: Saints of the Household by Ari Tison

  • Saints of the Household
  • by Ari Tison
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
  • Release date: March 28, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780374389499

Max and Jay are brothers who rely on each for everything. In shifts, they attempt to protect their mom from an abusive father. They felt sure they were managing things, but one day they hear a friend in trouble in the woods and find themselves beating up a classmate. Unsure whether they were in the right, Max and Jay begin a journey of healing and self-discovery through an exploration of their Bribri American identity as well as looking outward to others to give them space to be who they want to become.

Ari Tison’s novel is heartbreaking and beautifully written. She has given us a novel with highly relatable characters that alternate telling their stories in short vignettes and verse making it poetic and impactful as she navigates brotherhood, trauma, and recovery.

This novel will appeal to any teen reader who appreciates a dramatic story or for anyone looking for an original coming of age novel. Recommend this book to teens who enjoyed All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir or Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley.

-Gia Kruz

Other Nominated Titles

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.
The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: https://bit.ly/BFYA24TeenFB

Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers (#QP2024) Feature Review: A First Time for Everything

  • A First Time for Everything
  • by Dan Santat
  • Publisher: First Second
  • Release date: February 28, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781626724150

During the summer between middle and high school, author/illustrator Dan Santat took a life-changing trip with a group of students to Europe. Santat’s graphic novel memoir recounts his childhood and early adolescence, growing up in a small, do-nothing town as a child of immigrants. After a rough middle school experience, his chronically ill mother encourages him to sign up for a three week trip with other students on a cultural exchange journey across Europe. Filled with once-in-a-lifetime firsts, Dan discovers that beneath the exterior we share with the world, we are all much more alike than different.

Illustrated in Santat’s signature style, the full-color drawings are impeccably detailed and full of humor. Readers vicariously experience all the big emotions and experiences that accompany being a teen in the transitional space between middle school and high school: big humiliation, exhilarating freedom, first crushes, and being open to what the universe has to offer, all told with an engaging, feel-good touch. Backmatter includes information on Santat’s writing process, images of souvenirs, as well as actual photos taken on his transformative European adventure.

This book will appeal to teens in the 12-15 age range, graphic novel readers, and anyone with a love of or desire to travel. Also try Passport by Sophia Glock, Messy Roots by Laura Gao, and Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

-Katy Henderson

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: December 6, 2022

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2024) Featured Review: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

  • Warrior Girl Unearthed
  • by Angeline Boulley
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
  • Release date: May 2, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781250766588

Perry Firekeeper-Birch would far rather spend her summer fishing, which is in stark contrast to her college-bound twin’s plan to participate in the Kinomaage program’s internship. Perry’s plans for a “Summer Slack” are abruptly ended when she wrecks the twins’ Jeep trying to avoid a mother bear and her cub. To pay for the repairs, Perry’s Aunt Daunis requires her to participate in the internship program and hand over all earnings. What starts as a punishment quickly morphs into a fascinating internship as Perry navigates the NAGPRA regulations surrounding the recovery of the remains and funerary artifacts of Indigenous ancestors. 

Part heist, part ethical dilemma, part deep dive into tribal politics and issues, this book has importance beyond its audience appeal. Those who fell in love with Daunis in Firekeeper’s Daughter will welcome her role in this companion novel.  Perry is a fully formed character in her own right and is surrounded by characters who are equally well developed.  The family and relational dynamics are universally recognizable, inviting readers to feel the pain of the desecration Indigenous people’s ancestors in the name of “science” on a much more visceral level. Broken into week-long segments, an epigraph highlighting the real life struggle and injustice Indigenous people face in getting those remains and objects returned introduces the challenge Perry (and Cooper Turtle) will face in their quest.  Boulley also seamlessly weaves the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women as well as the loopholes surrounding the prosecution of domestic abuse perpetrated on them into the plot made more compelling by a strong female protagonist and evidence so great that readers don’t require an explicit message to feel the injury.  Boulley also brings the “receipts” by ending with “Cooper’s List of Repatriation Resources” which further allows readers to judge the inequities for themselves.

This is a solid mystery/adventure that will appeal to fans of true crime and history. Give this to readers of Boulley’s first book, Firekeeper’s Daughter (although they won’t have had to read it in order to appreciate this one) or readers who liked Kate McLaughlin’s Daughter, or the Agatha mysteries collaboration by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson.

-Jodi Kruse

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: November 15, 2022
Release Date: April 11, 2023
March 28, 2023
Release Date: March 14, 2023

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.
The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: https://bit.ly/BFYA24TeenFB

Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers (#QP2024) Feature Review: The Do-Over by Lynn Painter

  • The Do-Over
  • by Lynn Painter
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster BFYR
  • Imprint: Simon Pulse
  • Release Date: November 15, 2022
  • ISBN: 9781534478862

Emilie is excited for Valentine’s Day because she plans to tell her boyfriend that she loves him for the first time. The chance never comes, though, because of bad news happening at every turn. Then, Emilie wakes up the next day only to find out that she must relive Valentine’s Day over and over, including learning her bad news again. Literally colliding with her lab partner Nick pushes the two closer and closer, although he has his own burdens to come to terms with. Together, they realize that messiness is inevitable, and nobody can defy fate.

This title is a good candidate for QPRR because it is fast paced, funny, and blends three different genres: contemporary realistic fiction, science fiction, and romance. Painter does an excellent job at portraying how stressful high school is while trying to balance academic obligations, familial obligations, and friend obligations, and feeling like you can never get it all right. Reading about characters who earn high grades, yet still battle their own demons, is helpful for someone who may feel as though school is not the right place for them.

The teen reader who would most appreciate this title is someone who needs the reminder that just because our peers may seem to have their lives together, what is apparent on the surface is not always what it seems. Everyone has their own struggle, regardless of how they look on paper. Additionally, the story is an excellent example that teens should never force a relationship with someone just for the visual that they are in a relationship. Our own happiness is more important than trying to fit with anyone else’s personality. Similar titles to read include The Here and Now (2014) by Ann Brashares, Pretty in Punxsutawney (2019) by Laurie Boyle Compton and The Leaving Season by Cat Jordan (2016)

-Emma K. McNamara

Release Date: September 27, 2022
Release Date: February 28, 2023

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers (#QP2024) Feature Review: Promise Boys by Nick Brooks

  • Promise Boys
  • By Nick Brooks
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
  • Release Date: January 31, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781250866974

At Urban Promise Prep school for boys it is understood the young men will follow rules in order to succeed and Principal Moore is well respected; however, inside the school walls, the students experience a different side to Principal Moore and the strict rules of school. During a basketball game, Principal Moore is murdered in his office and only the three students in detention are the prime suspects – Trey, J.B., and Ramon. Each has faced demerits in the past, and the wrath of Principal Moore.  Now in order to prove their innocence they have to reconcile with their past behavior and decisions to work together and find the real killer.

This will catch the attention of readers both from the appealing cover showing the three suspects in front of a police lineup, to the brief description promising a unique mystery in the boy’s school. As the story unfolds alongside the police investigation, readers will enjoy this fast-paced mystery of the murdered principal and the three boys under investigation, all who have their own stories and different points of view.  The reader is sure to go through their own list of suspects as clues unfold in this page turner.

Trey, J.B., and Ramon are all characters with depth and who are multidimensional so the reader is invested in their innocence.This mystery takes into account school demographics, strict school rules, and how preconceived notions are hard to change. The voices are different both in writing and in life experiences. Each character struggles with how they view themselves compared to how they are viewed by family, school officials, and authority figures. Readers will appreciate the side characters with the quality of friendships and non-traditional families shown in a positive light. 


Readers who need a quick hook right from the start will find it easy to continue reading as there are new insights and clues throughout.  The male centered points of view are different, yet all relatable and likable characters. This is a mystery that also deals with the social and economic sides of an urban prep school and who the school is actually serving.  Similar reads include Golden Arm by Carl Deuker, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, or for fans of Tiffany D. Jackson, Karen McManus, and Jason Reynolds

-Sarah Carnahan

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: September 27, 2022

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2024) Featured Review: Dear Medusa by Olivia Cole

  • Dear Medusa
  • by Olivia Cole
  • Publisher: Labyrinth Road
  • Release Date: March 14, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780593485736

Alicia is starting her junior year of high school, but her reputation precedes her. What her classmates don’t know is why Alicia makes the decisions she does and just what happened between her and a beloved teacher. Abandoned by her best friend and disengaged with her home life, Alicia feels alone until anonymous letters start appearing in her locker to let her know she’s not the only one. 

Told using the metaphor of wolves, prey, and Medusa, this lyrical novel-in-verse shows just how isolating experiencing trauma can be, while also interweaving other complex issues that are important to teens. The book features a diverse cast of supporting characters who are allowed to shine in their own right. At the end of the novel, both Alicia and readers will feel as if they’ve undergone a transformation.

Teen readers who like a hard-hitting contemporary books that explore complex issues will be a fan of this one.  Similar titles include Lawless Spaces by Corey Ann Haydu and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Content warning for sexual assault.  

-Zoe Smolen

Other Nominated Titles

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.
The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: https://bit.ly/BFYA24TeenFB

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2024) Featured Review: Afterglow by Phil Stamper

  • Afterglow
  • by Phil Stamper
  • Narrated by Michael Crouch, Graham Halstead, Shawn J. Kain, Briggon Snow, Matt Ford, and Karissa Vacker
  • Publisher: Listening Library
  • Publication Date: February 7, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780593347720

In the sequel to Golden Boys, four best friends Gabriel, Reese, Sal, and Heath return from a summer apart and navigate their senior year. Throughout the year they band together to navigate life changes, discrimination, and love. While also exploring their own separate, intriguing paths. Gabriel creates his school’s first LGBTQ+ advocacy group and uncovers a mystery; Reese pursues an unlikely direction in fashion design; Sal considers what politics could look like for him, and Heath works out what a future in baseball could mean for his family. This group of friends move from an exploratory summer to a pivotal senior year focused on accomplishing dreams and advocating for themselves.

Skillfully performed by an ensemble cast, multiple narrators bring the main and secondary characters to life. Narration is steady and grounded while still being responsive to the suspenseful, angsty, sweet, and serious elements of the novel. Listeners will connect to the story through the individual narrators intonation and pace. 

Be sure to check out Golden Boys by Phil Stamper, first in the duology to reunite with the group again. Fans of Casey McQuiston, David Levithan, Nina Lacour, and Benjamin Alire Saenz will enjoy this heartfelt and fun production.

-Ileana Pulu

Other Nominated Titles

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers Featured Review: The Truth About Everything by Bridget Farr

  • The Truth About Everything
  • by Bridget Farr
  • Publisher: Flux
  • Release Date: October 11, 2022
  • ISBN: 9781635830804

Lark’s off-the-grid, conspiracy-theorist parents claim to homeschool her but in reality, her education stopped long ago. Now she spends her days completing chores on their farm and hanging out with her only friend Alex. Her first period, with no previous knowledge of menstruation, leads her to secretly enroll in school and her worldview is soon blown apart. Lark quickly begins to question everything she has been taught and to engage with the world from which she has been shut away. But there are consequences for her actions back home.

Many teens are used to complaining about school so the idea of education not even being an option and the loss of everything that comes is eye-opening. Lark’s struggle to come to terms with the fact that her parents are wrong is difficult but something teens will face, though probably not to this extent. Lark is a naive and smart character who grows by leaps and bounds. Readers get to experience every self-doubt with her. These themes will be familiar with readers.

Readers who enjoy books about difficult families or unique family situations will enjoy this novel. Hand this to fans of We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss and Smoke by Darcy Woods

-Cathy DeCampli

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: January 3, 2023
Release Date: February 28, 2023

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.