2020 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

This year’s final list consists of 64 titles selected from 133 nominations. The Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list identifies titles aimed at encouraging reading among teens who dislike to read for any reason.
 
The members of the Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers Blogging Team are:  

Coordinator Lorraine Roussin, San Antonio ISD, San Antonio, TX; Kathleen J. Barker, Rutgers University, Plymouth, MI; Allison Gray, Goleta Valley Library, Santa Barbara, CA; Aimee Haslam, E.B. Stanley Middle School, Abingdon, VA; Jessica Levy, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, CA; Elizabeth Nebeker, Jersey Village High School, Houston, TX; Catherine Outten, California State University, Long Beach, CA; Kathleen Reynolds, University of Southern California, South Pasadena, CA; Jessica Smith, Bend Senior High School, Bend, Oregon; Kelsey Socha, Ventress Memorial Library, Kingston, MA; and with the help of administrative assistant Dana Hutchins, Jackson Middle School, San Antonio, TX.


An asterisk (*) denotes a top ten title.

 

Nonfiction

 

Dreamland (YA Edition): The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones. Bloomsbury YA. 2019. $18.99. ISBN: 978-1547601318. This YA adaptation depicts the opiate epidemic that is ruling the United States.

 

Grand Theft Horse by Greg Neri. Tu Books. 2018. $18.99. ISBN: 9781620148556. Gail Raffu became an outlaw when she stole a horse she was part owner of, Urgent Envoy, because her partners wanted to race him to early and drug him to help him win. She battled the corrupt racing system for years to protect Urgent Envoy.

 

Monstrous: The Lore, Gore, and Science Behind Your Favorite Monsters by Carlyn Beccia. Carolrhoda Books. 2019. $19.99. ISBN: 9781512449167. Explore the real-world origins of eight popular monsters, including Dracula, werewolves, and Godzilla. Readers will learn how to separate monster fact from monster fiction, investigate detailed drawings of monster anatomy, and learn fun tips for everything from keeping a sea monster in your bathtub to recognizing blood-sucking animals.

 

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson. Penguin Random House. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0670012107. Laurie Halse Anderson’s collection of poems about her turbulent childhood and teenage years, including her sexual assault by a trusted friend. Her battles and her bravery are revealed through emotionally-charged verses. Other topics addressed include drug experimentation, finding one’s way, and forgiveness of self and others.

 

Spooked! How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America by Gail Jarrow. Calkins Creek. 2018. $18.95. ISBN: 978-1629797762. The 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds sent people into a panic, causing some people to flee their homes to save themselves from the perceived Martian invasion. When it was discovered that the broadcast was fiction, it called into question fake news and propaganda.

 

The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E. Pitman. Harry N. Abrams. 2019. $17.99 ISBN: 9781419737206. Explore the history of Stonewall through 50 “objects,” including protest signs, artifacts from the riots, photographs of participants, and newspaper articles describing the events of June 1969. An overview of LGBTQ+ activism prior to Stonewall culminates in a detailed account of the riots and their aftermath.

 

*We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories From Refugee Girls Around the World by Malala Yousafzai. Hachette Book Group. 2018. $18.99. ISBN: 978-0316523646. This title features Malala’s and others’ experiences as young people displaced by war and violence. Their tales remind readers that many people around the world have been uprooted from the lives they knew and are struggling to be heard.

 

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals about Death by Caitlin Doughty. W. W. Norton Company. 2019. $25.95. ISBN: 9780393652703. Written by a mortician in question and answer chapters, this book explores some of the more icky and intriguing questions about human corpses. With a perfect amount of snark and lighthearted illustrations, this book is a fun (if morbid) read for anyone.

 

Fiction

 

*10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston. Disney Hyperion. 2019. $17.99. ISBN:9781368027496. After Sophie’s boyfriend breaks up with her, she goes to spend the holidays with her loving grandparents and huge extended family. They set her up on 10 blind dates. Some of these dates are hilarious failures, some promising, while her ideal future boyfriend may be nearby the whole time.

 

500 Words or Less by Juleah Del Rosario. Simon Pulse. 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 9781534410442. Seventeen-year-old Nic tries to salvage her tarnished reputation by writing her classmates college application essays for a fee. In doing so, she discovers a lot the kids she goes to school with, but more about who she is.

   

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green. Penguin: Dutton. 2018. $26.00. ISBN:9781524743444. April May makes first contact with what might be an art installation, or might be an Alien. Her viral video of the encounter gathers likes across the internet. As more of the alien mystery reveals itself, April manages her online persona, without destroying her relationships, or even losing her life.

 

*Belly Up by Eva Darrows. HarperCollins Inkyard Press. 2019. $18.99. ISBN:9781335012357. Serendipity spends one night with a boy and gets pregnant. At 17, deciding what to do is difficult, and changes this will bring to her life are overwhelming. With the support of her family and best friend, as well as a new boyfriend, she makes her way through.

 

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi. Balzer + Bray. 2019. $17.99. ISBN:9780062698728. Short stories written by some of the biggest Black authors of YA. The young Black people in these stories confront all the typical teenage life experiences as well as some atypical ones. Some have tragedy and some romance, and all of the stories are shaped with rich plots and emotions.

 

Creep by Eireann Corrigan. Scholastic. 2019. $. ISBN: 978-1338095081. Olivia is excited to bond with her new neighbor Janie Donahue, not to mention Janie’s sweet older brother Ben. When threatening letters signed by “the Sentry” appear in the Donahue’s home, the three immerse themselves in local history in order to outsmart the perpetrator and keep the Donahue family together.
 

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. Bloomsbury YA. 2019. $18.99. ISBN: 978-1681195087. A Beauty and the Beast remake, where the Beast and Beauty are from two separate worlds. The beast (Rhen) repeats each autumn trying to break the curse. Having lost hope after 326 seasons, Rhen doesn't see the curse ending until Harper (Beauty) arrives.

 

A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel. Sourcebooks Fire. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 9781492667247. Hannah is institutionalized and knows it is a mistake. She slowly shares pieces of the mysterious tragedy that happened before she was committed. A new friend comes and helps her discover what really happened with an end twist to keep the reader guessing.

 

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. Penguin Dial Books. 2018. $17.99 ISBN: 9780525552963. Darius Kellner is a Persian American who has always felt out of place. He travels to Iran for the first time to visit family he formerly only knew through his computer screen. As he deals with clinical depression and his family, Darius meets Sohrab, a neighbor who turns best friend, and learns how to be himself.

 

Dry by Neal Shusterman. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 2018. $18.99. ISBN: 978-1481481960. Imagine what would happen if water become scarce. Would you turn into a water zombie, kill all your neighbors for their water, or try to find a savior?

 

Fifteen and Change by Max Howard. West 44 Books. 2018. $19.95. ISBN: 9781538382608. Zeke is desperate to help his mom escape their impoverished life with her loser boyfriend. Taking a job at a pizza shop, he meets labor activists who encourage him to fight for better working conditions. Will he raise his voice in protest, even if it means postponing his own dreams?

 

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 2018. $18.99. ISBN: 978-1534437333. Stella Grant's cystic fibrosis has kept her from living life as a "typical" kid. When she finally has a shot at a life-saving lung transplant, her resolve to stay six feet apart from anyone else is tested by fellow inpatient Will Newman when they decide if love is worth breaking that rule.

 

Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young. Simon Pulse. 2019. $18.99. ISBN: 978-1534426139. The girls at Innovations Academy resemble beautiful, pleasing and polished young women. But they are not quite what they seem.

 

The Giver by Lois Lowry. Art by Russell P. Craig. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2019. $22.99. ISBN: 9780544157880. This graphic novel adaptation of the Newbery Award-winning book by Lois Lowry beautifully depicts the dystopian tale of Jonas, who is given the lifelong assignment of Receiver of Memory. As he learns about his people’s history, his colorless world expands and he begins to question everything he has been told.

 

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard. Simon Pulse-Simon & Schuster Children’s. 2019. $19.99. ISBN: 978-1534402447. Eden McKinley thought she had problems in school and with her parents until her high-achieving best friend Bonnie runs off with their high school music teacher on the eve of final exams. Eden grapples with her morals as the police search for her friend and her loyalty to her friends and family is tested.

 

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki. Art by Steve Pugh. DC Ink. 2019. $16.99 ISBN: 9781401283292. Harleen Quinzel finds herself in Gotham City, parentless, and is taken in by a fabulous group of drag queens. As the gentrification of their neighborhood threatens them, Harleen, now Harley Quinn, wants to do what she can, with the help of her friend Ivy, and maybe the Joker?

 

*The Haunted by Danielle Vega. Razorbill. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0451481467. Hendricks and her family have relocated to a small town looking for a clean slate from a previous traumatic experience, but their newly purchased home has a long, dark history.

 

Here to Stay by Sara Farizan. Algonquin for Young Readers. 2018. $17.95. ISBN: 9781616207007. Bijan was just called up from JV to play varsity basketball. He’s hoping his new star athlete status will give him a step up socially and help him talk to girls. But racism and bullying rear their heads on campus and his new visibility is turning into more of a problem than a solution.

 

*Heroine by Mindy McGinnis. Katherine Tegen Books. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 9780062847195. When softball standout Mickey suffers a devastating injury, she turns to oxycodone to relieve her pain, and eventually her social anxiety. As her addiction spirals out of control, her family and her teammates struggle to keep Mickey from losing herself, and all she’s worked for, to the drug.

 

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan. G.P. Putnam Son’s Books for Young Readers. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 9780525516255. Lou loves her small town, especially the amusement park that she and her best friend Seeley at. She also loves Nick, a lifeguard at the park. When a fake-dating plan with Seeley to make Nick jealous goes awry, she’ll have to figure out who she really has feelings for.

 

I'm Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal. Sourcebooks Fire. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 9781492678892. Lena, the neighborhood black girl, doesn’t know Campbell, the out of state white girl, but when a violent outburst at their high school football game throws them together, they become a team focused on their own well-being, and survival, as a series of nightmares block their way home.

 

In the Key of Nira Ghani by Natasha Deen. Running Press Kids. 2019. $17.99.

ISBN: 978-0762465477. Nira Ghani challenges her Guyanese parents’ dream of her becoming a doctor by following her love for the trumpet instead. A coming-of-age tale with a twist.

 

It's The End of the World As I Know It by Matthew Landis. Penguin Random House. 2019. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0735228016. Since Derrick’s mother’s death, he lives in fear of doomsday. Derrick’s friends, father, and sister care for him deeply, but it is Derrick’s unusual friendship with his quirky neighbor Misty that helps him live in the present rather than feel weighed down by the past and worried for the future.

 

Jackpot by Nic Stone. Crown Books for Young Readers. 2019. $17.99. 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.

 

The Justice Project by Michael Betcherman. Orca Book Publishers. 2019. $14.95. ISBN: 978-1459822504. When a serious injury derails Matt Barnes’s promising football career he finds a new passion interning with the Justice Project to defend the wrongly convicted. While working on the case of alleged killer Ray Richardson, Matt and his fellow intern Sonya find new evidence that plunges them into a murder mystery.

 

Killing November by Adriana Mather. Knopf Books for Young Readers. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0525579083. Academy Absconditi is not your traditional boarding school. Everyone wields a weapon and deals in secrets. New student November is out of her league. With threats at every turn, she doesn't know who to trust. Then a dead body is discovered and November has to find out who did it before she is the next victim.

 

*Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable. Macmillan Roaring Brook Press/First Second. 2019. $17.99 ISBN:9781596437098. Amanda “Mads” does not understand kissing. Kisses 1-7 were nothing exciting at best, and hardly tolerable at worst. Kiss number 8, with a girl, threw her for a loop. As her own experience runs parallel to a family history she knew nothing about, Mads discovers much about kissing, and herself.

 

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki. Art by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. Roaring Books/ First Second. 2019. $21.00 ISBN: 978250312846. 17 year old Freddy finds herself in an on-again, off-again relationship with charismatic Laura Dean. She knows she needs to break things off so she can get on with her life, but can she?

 

The Liar's Daughter by Megan Cooley Peterson. Holiday House. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0823444182. Piper is dedicated to Father and his commands. She never complains, just does what she is told. Then one day, mean people show up and separate her from her family and turn her world upside down.

 

Life is Short and Then You Die by Kelley Armstrong (editor). Make Your Mark. 2019. $17.99. ISBN:9781250196392. Growing up means experiencing lots of things for the first time. The teens in this collection of short stories by well-known YA authors, are having their first experience with death and murder.

 

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 9781481438285. Ten short stories of young teens as they travel home from school. The stories are woven together as the kids head in different directions on their way home. Each story is poignant and heartfelt with pictures of realistic lives of the neighborhood kids.

 

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan. Scholastic Press. 2019. $17.99.

ISBN: 978-1338227017. Rukhsana cannot escape her family's conservative Muslim traditions when they learn she is gay. She risks losing everything when her parents hold her hostage in their native Bangladesh in order to "convert" her and marry her to a Bangladeshi man.

 

Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali. Salaam Reads. 2019. ISBN: 978-1534442726. $18.99. Adam and Zayneb, two Muslim teens, meet on a flight to Qatar. The fact that they meet at all is both a marvel and an oddity. The fact that they keep meeting again? It might just be love.

 

Michigan vs. The Boys by Carrie Allen. Kids Can Press. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 9781525301483. Michigan Manning is thrilled when she earns a spot on the boys’ varsity hockey team. Despite becoming the team’s leading scorer, her teammates make it clear she’s not welcome. Even when “harmless” pranks cross the line into assault, Michigan fears that speaking up will cost her everything she loves.

 

Mike by Andrew Noriss. Scholastic. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 9781338285369. Floyd, a 15 year old rising tennis star, starts seeing an imaginary boy named Mike during his tennis games. Floyd soon realizes that playing tennis isn't fun anymore, and wants to take control of his life.

 

New Kid by Jerry Craft. HarperAlley. 2019. $12.99. ISBN: 978-0062691194. Budding cartoonist Jordan Banks is sent to an academic private school where the stakes of middle school are elevated by him being one of only a few black kids in a sea of white faces.

 

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner. Aladdin. 2019. $12.99 ISBN: 9781534431454. Moth accidentally finds out she’s a witch in this graphic novel. She’s part of a long line of witches. Her mom isn’t thrilled about witches and her previously unknown grandmother isn’t so crazy about humans, which leaves Moth stuck in the middle. They must work together when witch hunters move into town.

 

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson. Simon Pulse. 2019. $18.99. ISBN: 9781481498579. Dino's family runs a funeral home and up until now, the bodies have stayed dead. July, Dino's ex-best friend, however, dies and then gets up and walks away. In her not-dead state, she and Dino must figure out why and how to fix it, while avoiding detection and grappling with current and past relationships.

 

Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg. Bloomsbury. 2019. $18.99. ISBN: 9781547600922. Allison Smith loves the life that she and her father have built in small-town Wisconsin, at least until the day the F.B.I. arrives at her door. Caught in the web of a devastating secret, Allison is suddenly forced to leave behind everything she knows to live with a family she didn’t know existed.

 

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay. Penguin Kokila. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 9780525554912. Jay is coasting out his senior year, about to enjoy Spring Break, and plans to start college in the Fall. Learning of his cousin’s death in the Philippines, his priorities are shaken. He heads to the Philippines to find answers about his cousin and President Duterte’s war on drugs.

 

Pretty in Punxsutawney by Laurie Boyle Crompton. Blink. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0310762164. 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.

 

*Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell. Art by Faith Erin Hicks. First Second. 2019. $21.99. ISBN: 9781250312853. Deja and Josiah (Josi) have worked at the seasonal pumpkin patch all through high school. On their last day, Deja helps Josi finally talk to "Fudge Girl". After adventuring throughout the who park, and tasting all the snacks on their way, Josi finally finds the girl of his dreams.

 

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 9780316448567. Chicago teenager Birdie Randolph studies hard and follows her parents’ rules, at least until she meets Booker. Now she’s sneaking out of the house and lying to her parents. With a secret boyfriend, and the arrival of a mysterious aunt bearing devastating family secrets, Birdie’s summer promises to be revolutionary.

 

Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry. Henry Holt and Co. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1627795890. A random group of teens try to survive after a mall is overtaken by a group of men with guns. After watching people around them die, they realize they have to work together to get out alive.

 

Salt by Hannah Moskowitz. Chronicle Books. 2018. $17.99. ISBN: 978-14522131511. An orphaned family of children are monster hunters in the sea, using all the skills they learned from their parents.

 

Since We Last Spoke by Brenda Rufener. Harper Teen. 2019. $17.99. ISBN:9780062571083. Aggi and Max grew up together and finally admit their love for one another. Then the unthinkable happens. Her sister and his brother are both dead after a car crash. Their families ban Aggi and Max from any contact. One wrenching year later, they reflect on their lost love.

 

Sleeping in My Jeans by Connie King Leonard. Ooligan Press. 2018. $16.00. ISBN: 9781947845008. Sixteen-year-old Mattie is homeless, living with her mom and her little sister in the family’s old station wagon. When their mother disappears, leaving them stranded on the streets overnight, it’s up to Mattie to keep their family together. Can she trust the police, or her new friend, Jack, to help her?

 

Smooth Criminals, Vol.1 by Kiwi Smith and Kurt Lustgarten. Art by Leisha Riddel. Boom! Box. 2019. $14.99. ISBN: 978-1684153859. When a computer hacker accidentally brings back a cat burglar from the 1960s, suddenly computer hacking is cool.

 

Swing by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess. Harper Collins Blink. 2018. $18.99. ISBN: 9780310761914. Noah, Sam, and Walt have been best friends forever. Walt wants to get Noah to tell Sam he loves her, however, Sam already has a boyfriend. Walt meets a girl who shares his fascination with jazz. Touching on topics including police violence and PTSD, Swing is a sweet romance from a boy’s POV.

 

Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia. Art by Gabriel Picolo. DC Ink. 2019. $16.99. ISBN: 9781401286231. This graphic novel origin story opens on a scene between Raven and her mother discussing a recent shocking revelation when their car is hit. The mother dies and Raven is left with amnesia. Taken in by her mother’s estranged sister, Raven has to relearn who she is while navigating high school.

 

This Book is Not Yet Rated by Peter Bognanni. Penguin Dial Books. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 9780735228078. Ethan has a passion for movies and a nostalgic love of the theater he and his late Dad spent so much time in. Now the university that owns the decrepit theater has plans to shut it down. Can Ethan and his “lost boys” band of employees save the art house?

 

*Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus. Delacorte Press. 2019. $19.99. ISBN: 978-1524714727. When Ellery and Ezra are forced to travel to their mother’s remote Vermont hometown, they don’t expect that their classmates will start going missing. When Ellery tries to solve the mystery, she’s drawn into the secrets of the town.

 

*The Unfortunates by Kim Liggett. Tor Teen. 2018. $17.99 ISBN: 9780765381002.

Grant Franklin Tavish IV, son of a wealthy senator, caused an accident that killed four teenagers. Racked with guilt, he is sent on the family traditional solo caving trip with the plan to kill himself. Instead, he and a group of stranded cavers, need to work together to escape the cave alive.

 

*UNpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan. Harper Collins. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0062876249. Veronica discovers she’s pregnant after her boyfriend poked holes in a condom. She decides to have an abortion but must travel 1000 miles for the procedure. With her besties away, and her boyfriend now an unreliable option, Veronica asks former friend Bailey to drive her and nothing goes as planned.

 

Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller. Feiwel and Friends. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 9781250189943. Rasmira, daughter of the village leader, was betrayed and exiled during her warrior trial. She has to complete an undoable task to be able to go back to her village and family. If she completes her task, will her people respect her?

 

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. Harper Teen. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0062662835. Emani is a teen parent who loves to cook and wants to graduate high school so she can continue to provide for her growing daughter. When a new culinary program starts at her school, Emani may find opportunities that she never thought possible.