2021 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

2018 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

The members of the 2021 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers Blogging Team are: Coordinator Molly Dettmann, Norman North High School, Norman, OK; Megan Baird Main Library-Yuma County Library District, Yuma, AZ; Kathleen J. Barker, History UnErased, Plymouth, MI; Sarah Carnahan Pulaski Academy, Little Rock, AR; Barbara Dinan Plymouth District Library, Plymouth, MI; Elizabeth Giles Kansas City Public Library, MO; Aimee Haslam, Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, VA; Marie LeJeune Western Oregon University, Monmouth, OR; Jessica Levy, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, CA; Kat Reynolds, University of Southern California, South Pasadena, CA; Maryjean Riou Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, NJ; Lorraine Roussin, San Antonio ISD, San Antonio, TX; Jennifer Sutton Lake Park High School-East Campus, Roselle, IL; Jade Valenzuela, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM; Emily Williams, Metropolitan Library System, Oklahoma City, OK; and with the help of administrative assistant Dana Hutchins, Jackson Middle School, San Antonio, TX.

This year’s final list consists of 64 titles selected from 81 nominations. Blog posts featuring the nominees can be found on The Hub. The Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list identifies titles aimed at encouraging reading among teens who dislike to read for any reason.

An asterisk (*) denotes a top ten title


All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christine Soontornvat. Candlewick Press. 2020. $24.99. ISBN: 9781536209457. In June 2018, twelve boys and their coach took a break from soccer practice to explore a cave system in Thailand. Trapped by heavy rains, the team spent seventeen days underground. This is the true story of their survival, and the heroic efforts of those who came to the rescue.

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha. Balzer + Bray. 2020. $22.99. ISBN: 9780062685100. Up through 8th grade Robin lived with her mom in South Korea, but when Mom takes Robin on a "vacation" to the U.S. and then abruptly announces they are staying in America permanently, Robin is forced to assimilate into American culture.

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang. First Second. 2020. $24.99. ISBN: 9781626720794. Award winning graphic novelist, Gene Luen Yang, tells the story of the varsity boy's basketball team's quest for a state championship at the high school he taught at before becoming a writer full time.

Free Lunch by Rex Ogle. Norton Young Readers. 2019. $16.95. ISBN: 9781324003601. Sixth grader Rex tries to fit in at school while battling deep shame about living in poverty as well as suffering physical and emotional abuse at home.

Games of Deception: The True Story of the First U.S. Olympic Basketball Team at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler's Germany by Andrew Maraniss. Calkins Creek. 2019. $18.99. ISBN: 9781629794389. Berlin, Germany, 1936. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime are the hosts of the summer Olympic Games. Basketball, a relatively new sport, will be officially included for the first time. Politics, Anti-Semitism, and racism take center court, veiled by the propaganda-driven Nazis, yet hinting at the atrocities to come.

Girls Who Run the World: 31 CEOs Who Mean Business by Diana Kapp. Illustrated by Bijou Kerman. Delacorte Press. 2019. $19.99. ISBN: 9781984893055. Short chapters introduce the background and successful careers of 31 contemporary women entrepreneurs in fields from food and fashion to science, apps/tech and media.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott. Art by Harmony Becker. Top Shelf Productions. 2019. $19.99. ISBN: 9781603094504. A graphic novel by George Takei, actor and activist, tells the story of his childhood shaped by his family's detention and internment when he was just five years old.

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. Dial Books. 2020. $12.99. ISBN: 9780525553908. This graphic memoir details the life of a young Somali boy, Omar, and his disabled brother in the Dadaab refugee camp. While Omar feels an obligation to watch over Hassan, he is pulled by the lure of school and a distant hope to one day be resettled in America.


All Eyes on Her by L. E. Flynn. Imprint. 2020. $18.99. ISBN: 9781250158178. When small-town golden boy Mike Forrester is found dead after a hike with his girlfriend, Tabitha Cousins, 17, everyone has their own theory about what happened. Chapters from the perspectives of Tabby and Mike’s friends, family and classmates are interspersed with articles and blog posts detailing the unfolding criminal case.

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen. Crown Books for Young Readers. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9780593119174. The Races. Where the ruling-class Ashlords race their divine phoenix horses for fame and glory. This time, though, will be different. This time, social-media sensation Imelda Beru, the impoverished Dividian known as “The Alchemist,” will show what it looks like to fight to be Champion, against all odds.

*Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis. Katherine Tegen Books. 2020. $18.99. ISBN: 9780062561626. After finding her boyfriend cheating on her during a party in the woods, Ashley takes off in anger and ends up lost, with a serious injury to her foot, and with only her wits and some survival skills to help her make it out alive.

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 2020. $16.99. 9780316493802. After getting suspended from Middlefield Prep, Donte takes up fencing in order to beat the ringleader of the racist bullying against him.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta. Balzer + Bray. 2020. $18.99. ISBN: 9780062990297. Michael is a mixed-race, gay teenager in London, struggling to find his place in the world. Follow him from childhood through his first year of university, where he is introduced to drag society, and thanks to the support of fellow members, performs as the Black Flamingo.

Blood Sport by Tash McAdam. Orca Soundings. 2020. $9.95. ISBN: 9781459824362. When his older sister dies of a supposed drug overdose, trans teen Jason knows that something doesn’t add up—his sister didn’t do drugs. After uncovering a box of suspicious photos, he traces the clues to a boxing gym and takes up the sport in order to investigate more closely.

Bloom by Kenneth Oppel. Alfred A Knopf. 2020. $16.99. ISBN: 9781524773007. Strange rain unleashes an invasion of black vines that overrun and devour everything from crops to buildings and their pollen causes severe allergic reactions. Even more ominous, the vines can trap and consume humans. Three teens discover they are immune to these noxious plants and band together to fight them.

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron. Bloomsbury YA. 2020. $18.99. ISBN: 9781547603879. In Mersailles, teen girls are required to attend an Annual Ball, and those not selected for marriage are “forfeit,” never to be seen again. Rejected by her childhood love, Erin, Sophia escapes the Ball and searches for a way to end the King’s toxic patriarchal rule forever.

Class Act by Jerry Craft. Quill Tree Books. 2020. $22.99. ISBN: 9780062885517. Companion book to New Kid: Drew (Jordan’s friend) is another Black student at the same mostly white private school. Through Drew's story, we see issues about growing up, evolving friendships, identity, race and class differences, and acceptance, portrayed in a graphic novel that is honest and relatable, smart, and funny.

Clean Getaway by Nic Stone. Crown Books for Young Readers. 2020. $16.99. ISBN: 9781984892973. William, nicknamed “Scoob” by his Grandmother, G’ma, joins her for an RV road trip across the south returning to locations in the “Traveler’s Green Book” she and his grandfather visited in 1968 as a biracial couple. On the road, they share adventures and Scoob learns more about family, including G’ma.

Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare. HarperTeen. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9780062854599. Quinn and her father move to Kettle Springs looking for a fresh start. What she finds is the creepy clown mascot of the old corn syrup factory. And when the clown turns homicidal, Quinn resorts to desperate measures to survive.

Cracking the Bell by Geoff Herbach. Katherine Tegen Books. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 9780062453167. Football is the thing that turned Isaiah’s life around, but after he suffers a potentially dangerous concussion, will he continue to risk his life in order to have the future that football offers him?

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone. Crown. 2020. $18.99. ISBN: 9781984829665. In this follow-up to Nic Stone's Dear Martin, readers meet 17-year-old Quan, who processes his own pain and conflict while incarcerated by writing letters to Justyce, a boy from his own neighborhood who he feels both connected to and worlds apart from.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. Balzer + Bray. 2020. $18.99. ISBN: 9780062820273. High school senior Felix wants to fall in love, but secretly worries that being queer, black, and trans makes him too complicated to love. When an arts program classmate displays a gallery of his pre-transition photos that includes his deadname, Felix sets up a catfishing scheme to get revenge.

Find Layla by Meg Elison. Skyscape. 2020. $16.99. ISBN: 9781542019804. 14-year-old Layla is an aspiring scientist who struggles to keep her brother safe in a home environment of extreme neglect. When Layla’s video for a biome project at school goes viral, it exposes the toxic mold, fungi, and maggots in their apartment and draws the attention of Child Protective Services.

*Found by Joseph Bruchac. 7th Generation.2020. $9.95. ISBN: 9781939053237. After a Native American teen witnesses a murder on a train, he's thrown down a ravine and left for dead. Will his wilderness survival skills and his grandfather's wisdom be enough to help him outwit the men hunting him?

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett. Knopf Books for Young Readers. 2019. $18.99. ISBN: 9781984829962. 17-year-old Simone doesn't know how to tell her new boyfriend that she's HIV-positive. When an anonymous note in her locker threatens to expose her status unless she dumps him, she fears a repeat of the bullying and public hysteria she faced at her last school.

The Girl in the White Van by April Henry. Henry Holt. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9781250157591. When Savannah is kidnapped, at first everyone assumes she's run away. Only Daniel doesn't believe she's a runaway and he's determined to find her before something terrible happens. In the meantime, Savannah must team up with another kidnapped girl to try to escape her attacker.

Girl on the Run by Abigail Johnson. Underlined. 2020. $9.99. ISBN: 9780593179819. Katelyn’s plan to surprise her widowed mother with an online dating profile goes awry when they’re attacked and chased from their home. Separated from her mom and on the run, Katelyn and her companion, Malcolm, try to unravel the mysteries of her mom’s past, as well as her present whereabouts.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. Delacorte Press. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9781984896360. Five years ago, Sal Singh killed his girlfriend, Andie Bell, and then committed suicide. Or did he? Pippi Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure, and she’s determined to review the case for her senior project.

*Golden Arm by Carl Deuker. HMH Books for Young Readers. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9780358012429. When Lazarus’s school baseball team is disbanded, he is given the opportunity to pitch for ritzy Laurelhurt, across town and a world away from the soon-to-be-demolished trailer park where his family lives. Rising star Laz aspires to the major league draft, but his brother’s drug-dealing threatens Laz’s chances of success.

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson. Katherine Tegen. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9780062840356. Enchanted Jones dreams of a music career, but falls prey to master seducer and much older R&B mega-star Korey Fields. After Korey is found murdered, she must acknowledge the truth about what happened to her and help reveal the monster he truly was.

Hard Wired by Len Vlahos. Bloomsbury. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9781681190372. Fifteen-year-old Quinn’s average life implodes when he discovers that he is the first sentient artificial intelligence and that his entire existence has been a 45-minute simulation. Subject to cruel experiments in a lab, Quinn fights for the recognition of his rights and plots his escape.

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis. Dial Books. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9781984814531. The daughter of a celebrated horror director, Lola is shipped off to stay with her grandmother in the eerie small town where her father filmed the cult classic Nightjar. Local legend tells of a cannibalistic monster called Mr. Jitters, who Lola senses while exploring the mystery of her mother’s disappearance.

*Heartstopper Vol. 1. by Alice Oseman. Graphix. 2020. $14.00. ISBN: 9781338617443. This graphic novel recounts the story of Charlie and Nick's growing friendship and camaraderie. Charlie feels more than friendship for Nick. Nick is trying to figure out what he feels for Charlie.

How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi. Viking. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9780593202876. On the eve of his high school graduation, 18-year-old Amir runs off to Italy in order to avoid coming out to his Persian family. Over the summer, he finds himself in a gay community in Rome, coming to terms with himself and how to approach his family, who is desperate to reconnect with him.

I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan. AW Teen. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9780807535080. After witnessing her best friend’s abduction while they were young children, Dee is now the (secret) host of the true-crime podcast Radio Silent, which investigates missing-persons cases. When another little girl disappears from their street under similar circumstances, she risks her anonymity and attempts to solve both cases.

I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson. Razorbill. 2019. $18.99. ISBN: 9781595148544. Ruthie returns to Anchorage to find her former and beloved-by-all best friend Zahra missing. As the investigation narrows in on what happened, Ruthie is determined to get to the bottom of it all. Who can be trusted?

I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee. Katherine Tegen Books. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9780062936943. Used to being told that “fat girls can’t dance,” Korean-American Skye Shin auditions for a K-Pop reality show to prove everyone wrong. Once cast, Skye struggles to retain her confidence as fat-phobic judges tell her to lose weight and a budding romance with an influential competitor leads to online bullying.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Little, Brown and Company. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: Shocked and confused, Avery Grambs is pulled from class and whisked away to the reading of billionaire Tobias Hawthorne’s will--a man she’s never met--and inherits his fortune. Moving into his mansion filled with puzzles, secret passageways, and disinherited family members, Avery tries to understand why she has become Tobias’ heir.

Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz. Wednesday Books. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 9781250303707. “Jane” was kidnapped and held captive in a locked basement for seven months. Once free of the monster who imprisoned her, Jane must battle other demons as she tries to reconstruct her life. Who was her captor and why was she taken? What happened to her friend and fellow captive, Mason?

The Last Witness by Claire McFall. Sourcebooks Fire. 2020. $10.99. ISBN: 9781728200248. Five friends head off on a camping trip along the remote Scottish coast. While hiking, Heather removes a talisman from an old burial site and a malevolent force descends on the group. One by one, they vanish. In now/then segments, Heather unravels the aftermath from a psychiatric hospital.

Layoverland by Gabby Noone. Razorbill. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9781984836120. Beatrice (Bea) Fox is dead. Stuck in purgatory (which looks a lot like an airport), Bea has been assigned to work in the Memory Experience Department, helping other souls move on to heaven. Her job gets complicated, however, when she’s assigned to assist Caleb, the boy who caused her death.

*Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds. Illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books. 2020. $19.99. ISBN: 9781534444959. The Rules. #1 Don't Cry. #2 Don't Snitch. #3 Revenge. When Will's older brother, Shawn, is shot and killed, Will plans to follow rule #3. Taking the elevator, he encounters a ghost from the past at each floor. Stories are told, memories surface, and the gun Will carries is heavy.

*The Loop by Ben Oliver. Chicken House. 2020. $18.99. ISBN: 9781338589306. In a near-future dystopia, 16-year-old Luka Kane has spent 736 days in the juvenile prison known as “the Loop,” enduring torture and medical experimentation in exchange for a delayed execution date. When war breaks out, Luka and fellow prisoners escape and are hunted through the fallen city by dangerous foes.

Lucky Caller by Emma Mills. Henry Holt. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9781250179654. Nina's senior year begins with a journey into radio broadcasting, new family dynamics, and first love in this charming romantic comedy.

Lux: The New Girl by Ashley Woodfolk. Workshop. 2020. $15.99. ISBN: 9780593096024. When Lux is kicked out of yet another school, she has one more chance to fit in and make things work at Harlem's Augusta Savage School of the Arts. Starting over with new friends (even if they're as cool as the Flyy Girls) is harder than she thought.

Manning Up by Bee Walsh. West 44 Books. 2019. $9.95. ISBN: 9781538382677. Jack faces pressure on the football field and with himself, as he battles an eating disorder that he exacerbates by taking steroids.

A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 9780316522588. New Jersey sophomore Simi comes from a long line of Punjabi matchmakers. After reluctantly acknowledging her own talent for matchmaking, she and her best friend create an app to set up students at their school. The app makes them instantly popular, but the unlikely matches it generates leads to controversy.

*#NoEscape by Gretchen McNeil. Freeform. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9781368026260. Persey solves an unbeatable escape room and gets invited to an escape room competition where the winner can walk away with ten million dollars. However, when she and seven other contestants start playing the game they realize not everything is as it seems especially when things get deadly.

Not Hungry by Kate Karyus Quinn. West 44 Books. 2019. $9.95. ISBN: 9781538382707. June is starving but says she's not hungry. She also secretly binges and purges. When a popular athlete catches June purging in the bushes, they begin an unlikely & secret relationship. Is this yet another unhealthy choice for June?

Nowhere on Earth by Nike Lake. Knopf Books for Young Readers. 2020. ISBN: 9781984896445. After a bush plane crash leaves them stranded in the Alaskan wilderness, teen ballerina Emily Perez will do whatever it takes to protect her little brother Aidan. But the unforgiving natural world isn’t the only threat--heavily-armed men are in pursuit, intent on capturing her brother and exposing dangerous secrets.

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales. Wednesday Books. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9781250315892. Ollie's senior year begins in North Carolina and it also turns out that his summer crush, Will, attends the same school. While Ollie is excited to see where things go, he must contend with the fact that Will isn’t willing to reveal his sexuality.

*Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam. Blazer + Bray. 2020. $18.99. ISBN: 9780062996480. Convicted of a crime he did not commit and incarcerated, Amal Shahid deals with the injustice of it all with support from his mother and his art.

Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotungo. Balzer + Bray. 2020. $19.99. ISBN: 9780062803375. Marin is confused and angry when her favorite teacher, Mr. Beckett, tries to kiss her. Upon reporting his bad behavior, Marin is further harassed and ostracized by classmates, even her best friend Chloe. Marin begins to fight back against these unfair rules for girls, but will others join her crusade?

Shuri: A Black Panther Novel by Nic Stone. Scholastic Inc.. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9781338585476. Princess Shuri must race to figure out what is happening to the Heart Shaped Herb, (the source for the Black Panther’s powers), before her brother’s rule as the Black Panther and Wakanda itself are threatened.

*Snapdragon by Kat Leyh. First Second Books. 2020. $12.99. ISBN: 9781250171115. ISBN: 9781250171115. Magic happens when Snapdragon (Snap) befriends Jacks, the town witch. They bond over their shared love of animals, but soon discover their lives are intertwined in ways they could not have imagined. This is a sweet graphic novel that combines magical realism with stories of self-acceptance.

These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin. Inkyard Press. 2020. ISBN: 9781335145871. After years molding herself into the perfect candidate, Ember Williams is finally invited to be a member of the dangerous and exclusive favor-trading secret society: the Red Court. Her ultimate goal? To implode the group once and for all, exacting vengeance and ending the Red Court’s reign over Heller High.

Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley. HarperTeen. 2019. $18.99. ISBN: 9780062908025. Liv’s world is shattered when her older brother, Jonah, accidentally shoots himself with a neighbor’s gun. Life in small-town Maine is hard enough, but now Liv must navigate school, friendships, and a blossoming romance under the shadow of Jonah’s traumatic brain injury and a trial that has divided the community.

Throw Like a Girl by Sarah Henning. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9780316529501. Liv Rodinsky is a star softball player until after one wrong move she loses her scholarship and has to transfer to another school. With her future as a college softball player on the line, Liv has to convince Northland's softball coach to put her on the team.

The Truth App by Jack Heath. Simon & Schuster BFYR. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9781534449862. High school student Jarli creates an app that tells you when people are lying and releases it for beta testing. His app goes viral, but before he can even understand how that will affect his life, someone tries to kill him.

The Upside of Falling by Alex Light. Harper Teen. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9781534449862. Brett is a popular jock and all around nice guy with a seemingly perfect life. Becca is a smart, quiet, hard-working girl who flies under the radar. The two start a fake relationship that evolves into the real deal.

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert. Disney-Hyperion. 2020. $18.99. ISBN: 9781368053297. Duke and Marva “meet cute” when Duke is turned away from his polling place and Marva rescues him when his car won't start. Told in alternating chapters during one chaotic day, they talk about activism, voting rights, police brutality, gun violence, family, citizenship, racism, relationships, and cute cat memes.

What Unbreakable Looks Life by Kate McLaughlin. Wednesday Books. 2020. $18.99. ISBN: 9781250173805. After being freed from human trafficking, Lex heals from her trauma with the help of her family and a new love while also seeking justice for what happened to her.

*You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson. Scholastic. 2020. $17.99. ISBN: 9781338503265. Liz feels different as a poor, Black, queer, awkward, not part of the in-crowd senior in high school. In order to get a scholarship she needs to attend college and fulfill her dreams, she must step far out of her comfort zone…so she runs for prom queen!

Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed by Laurie Halse Anderson. Illustrated by Leila Del Duca. DC Comics. 2020. $16.99. ISBN: 9781401286453. While rescuing refugees off the coast of her homeland, Diana of Themyscira accidentally becomes one herself. Eventually landing in New York, Diana is angered by the social injustices she witnesses. Working to support her neighbors, she uncovers a human trafficking ring that only a wonder woman can defeat