YALSA has announced the books on the 2019 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. The list identifies nonfiction and fiction books of high quality that will appeal to teens who don’t enjoy reading. This is always one of my favorite lists to explore since it includes many titles I’ve missed during the year. They have a Top Ten List:
#MurderTrending by Gretchen McNeil
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Animal Zombies!: And Other Blood-Sucking Beasts, Creepy Creatures, and Real-Life Monsters by Chana Stiefel
Game Changer by Tommy Greenwald
Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Sadie by Courtney Summers
Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Emily Carroll
Track Series (Sunny and Lu) by Jason Reynolds
Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu (9780062689801)
Elodee’s family faced a tragedy this year and had trouble recovering from it. Elodee is always angry and her twin sister, Naomi, is getting quieter. Given those circumstances, moving to Eventown seemed like the best plan. The family had vacationed in Eventown and had great memories of being there. When they move into their house that is just like every other house in town, they discover a life filled with hikes into the hills, no cars, walking to school past a waterfall and woods, and rosebushes everywhere. Their lives find a comforting rhythm there. But things are a bit too perfect: there are no clouds in the sky, no rainy days, and ice cream doesn’t melt down your wrists. When the twins are sent to the Welcome Center, they are given a chance to tell six stories of their lives, days of their greatest sorrows and joys. Naomi goes first and tells her stories, but Elodee’s session is interrupted. Naomi is quickly fitting into the town while Elodee remembers more of their life before and starts to ask questions about their lives in Eventown.
Haydu’s novel takes a deep look at grief and pain and its purpose in our lives. It looks at what happens when bad memories are removed and perfection is put in their place. It is a limited perfection, one with no books to read, only one song to listen to, no cell phones, no Internet and no television. It is idyllic and eerie, a Stepford version of childhood. Horror is sidestepped neatly here, instead becoming a book about empowerment and making your own choices while asking important questions.
Elodee is a great main character. The fact that she is a twin is an important element in the book as it focuses on everyone in Eventown being the same but even then Elodee and Naomi are very different from one another. The twins make an interesting counterpoint to the entire town, with Elodee and her vivid anger, big questions and willingness to be different making an ideal person to expose what is really going on.
Filled with magic and mystery, this book is a compelling look at the price of perfection. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.