Relationships – tender, troubled, romantic, complicated – are the focus for this issue’s Real Quick Picks. There’s something for everyone here, from young middle grade readers who will appreciate G. Neri’s Tru and Nelle, a fictionalized account of the childhood friendship of writers Truman Capote and Harper Lee to mature teens struggling with the kinds of real life issues depicted in the short story collection I See Reality edited by Grace Kendall.
Tru and Nel by G. Neri (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016)
Middle grade readers will enjoy being introduced to Truman Capote and Harper Lee by reading Greg Neri’s latest about their childhood friendship. Tru, as the cover indicates, dressed oddly as a boy and was teased because of it. Nelle, on the other hand, was more of a tomboy and protected Tru even when he didn’t know he needed protecting. Tru loved concocting mysteries and would create scenarios for them to delve into and solve. Readers familiar with To Kill a Mockingbird will see Scout in Nelle and will see why Truman had to write In Cold Blood. In any case, this piece of historical fiction is a quick and lovely read. – Joan Kaywell
I See Reality by Grace Kendall (Ed.) (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016)
It was difficult not to read I See Reality straight through the entire 292 pages because each short story was so gripping that I immediately wanted to see if the subsequent narrative could possibly be as good. I was never disappointed; in fact, the emotional intensity from such well-crafted stories that reflected the best and the worst of young adults’ experiences was often what forced me to put the book down for the night. This compilation won’t disappoint, though (Warning!) it will cause readers to reflect on what happens in the shadows of our own lives and the lives of those we love (and stay up way too late).-Helene Halstead
The Memory Book by Lara Avery (Poppy/Little, Brown, 2016)
When Niemann-Pick Type C starts stealing her memories, senior Samantha McCoy records each day’s important events in a memory book for easy reference. Intent on leaving her small New Hampshire town in the dust, she comes to realize that there often is no place quite like home and that love and acceptance sometimes can be found through the most unlikely individuals and in the most surprising ways. This poignant story reminds readers to cherish each experience. -Barbara A. Ward
The Romantics by Leah Konen (Amulet Books/Abrams, 2016)
As Love, the narrator—yes, that Love—would have it, falling in love is a lot easier to do than staying in love. When seventeen-year- old Gael Brennan is crushed by the break-up of his parents’ union and then his own girlfriend’s public defection for the arms of his best friend, Mason, he comes perilously close to giving up on true romance until Love intercedes with somewhat uneven results. – Barbara A. Ward
Tell Us Something True by Dana Reinhardt (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2016)
When his long-time girlfriend, Penny Brockaway, breaks up with him, seventeen-year- old River Dean is left rudderless and in need of direction. In desperation, he ends up at a teen support group where he pretends to be struggling with a marijuana addiction. As the lies pile up in this humorous but insightful tale, he unearths some important truths about himself and those around him.
-Barbara A. Ward
When We Collided by Emory Lord (Bloomsbury, 2016)
A beautiful and moving account of what it means to love someone with mental illness, WHEN WE COLLIDED is told from the perspectives of Jonah, whose family problems occupy all his waking hours, and Vivi, whose mercurial personality confuses and then charms him. Vivi is hiding secrets though, among them the fact that she has gone off her meds for bipolar disorder and is slipping into chaos, taking Jonas along with her. Romance, humor, sensual food writing (Jonah’s family has a restaurant, so he cooks), suspense, courage, and hope make this story of summer love a keeper. – Anne McLeod