February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Adult Audiobooks for Teens | Listen In


Whether it’s a novel with young protagonists, fiction that explores issues of friendship and identity that are close to teen hearts, or nonfiction that will enhance any listener’s understanding of the world, these titles are too good to keep for adult ears alone.


Abbott, Megan. The Fever. 8 CDs. 9:12 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2014. $40. ISBN 9781478901426. Read by Caitlin Davies, Kirby Heyborne, & Joe Barrett.

A mysterious contagion affects high school girls in this suburban noir. Teens familiar with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible will recognize the speed with which rumors and blame spread and escalate in a small community, whether the supposed culprit is witchcraft or a new HPV vaccine.

Bulawayo, NoViolet. We Need New Names. 7 CDs. 8:59 hrs. Dreamscape. 2013. $59.99. ISBN 9781624066382. Read by Robin Miles.

This coming-of-age novel follows 10-year-old Darling as she as she and her displaced family and friends adapt to and cope with a harsh, violent world when they move from Zimbabwe to a relative’s home in the United States.

Diaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. 13 CDs. 16 hrs. Books on Tape. 2007. $100. ISBN 9781415941942. Read by Jonathan Davis.

Oscar de León, an overweight Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey, is obsessed with sci-fi/fantasy novels, falling in love, and the fukú, a curse that has plagued his family for generations. Elements of magical realism enhance this stellar story.

French, Tana. The Secret Place. 16 CDs. 20:36 hrs. Books on Tape. 2014. $50. ISBN 9780553545395. Read by Stephen Hogan & Lara Hutchinson.

Though ostensibly a crime novel—a young man is murdered on the grounds of an exclusive girls’ boarding school in Dublin—the work is equally concerned with the ways teenage girls’ intense friendships shape events and perspectives.

Henríquez, Cristina. The Book of Unknown Americans. 8 CDs. 9:12 hrs. Books on Tape. 2014. $40. ISBN 9780804191449. Read by Yareli Arizmendi, Christine Avila, Jesse Corti, Gustavo Res, Ozzie Rodriguez, & Gabriel Romero.

Arturo and Alma Rivera move from Mexico to Delaware, hoping to find help in the United States for their brain-damaged 16-year-old daughter, Maribel. Mayor, a Panamanian boy, falls in love with Maribel, while the Riveras’s other neighbors, also newcomers, adjust to their new lives.

Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go. 8 CDs. 9:43 hrs. Books on Tape. 2005. $40. ISBN 9781415916292. Read by Rosalyn Landor.

Hailsham is an idyllic boarding school with a dark secret—its students are clones who are raised to provide organ donations. Three former students attempt to understand their destiny while navigating complicated relationships and questions of their humanity—or lack thereof.

Jackson, Shirley. We Have Always Lived in the Castle. 5 CDs. 5:30 hrs. Blackstone. 2010. $49. ISBN 9781441734266. Read by Bernadette Dunne.

Jackson’s novel about two sisters who retreat into their ancestral home after the rest of their family is poisoned is a natural next step for students who have already enjoyed the pleasurable shock of the author’s “The Lottery.”

Li, Yiyun. The Vagrants. 9 CDs. 11:30 hrs. Recorded Books. 2009. $102.75. ISBN 9781440746048. Read by Jackie Chung.

Set in China in 1979, Li’s debut novel explores the ways the execution of a former Red Guard leader affects her family and the residents of her small village.

Murray, Paul. Skippy Dies. 20 CDs. 24 hrs. Brilliance. 2011. $49.97. ISBN 9781455884094. Read by Nicola Barber, Fred Berman, Clodagh Bowyer, Terry Donnelly, Sean Gormley, Khristine Hvam, John Keating, Lawrence Lowry, Graeme Malcolm, & Paul Nugent.

After the title character dies during a donut-eating contest in the novel’s opening scene, the students and faculty members at the fictional Seabrook College, a Catholic boarding school in Dublin, move through a series of hilarious and horrifying events as they come to terms with Skippy’s death.

Ng, Celeste. Everything I Never Told You. 8 CDs. 10 hrs. Blackstone. 2014. $90. ISBN 9781482994674. Read by Cassandra Campbell.

In the aftermath of 16-year-old Lydia Lee’s death in 1977, the other members of the Lee family come apart and together as they reflect on their lives with and without her.

Nguyen, Bich Mihn. Pioneer Girl. 6 CDs. 7:09 hrs. Dreamscape. 2014. $59.99. ISBN 9781629234298. Read by Bernadette Dunne.

A piece of jewelry that may have a connection to Laura Ingalls Wilder sets Lien Lee on the trail of a literary mystery. Along the way, she details the roaming life of her family as they work in Chinese buffets around the Midwest and discerns the dynamics of her disparate family—and her place within it.

Novik, Naomi. Uprooted. digital download. 17:44 hrs. Books on Tape. 2015. $95. ISBN 9780553410099. Read by Julia Emelin.

Rumors abound about the Dragon, and although the villagers don’t know why he chooses one of their 17-year-old girls every 10 years, they’re sure it’s not for anything proper. Agnieszka’s timid presence in the Dragon’s castle and attempts to learn magic are by turns cringe-worthy, hilarious, and touching.

Waters, Sarah. Fingersmith. 20 CDs. 23:45 hrs. Recorded Books. 2011. $123.75. ISBN 9781419307935. Read by Juanita McMahon.

Raised by a loving clan of thieves, orphan Sue Trinder must take her turn to make the gang’s fortune. Her mission: help a professional rogue marry an heiress and then steal the girl’s inheritance by declaring her insane. Sue wants to please her adoptive mother and friends, but once she’s confronted with the seemingly hapless victim, Maud, she begins to have doubts.


Brierley, Saroo. A Long Way Home. 6 CDs. 7:30 hrs. Blackstone. 2014. $76. ISBN 9781482996173. Read by Vikram Adam.

Five-year-old Brierley accidentally took a train 1,000 miles from his home in rural India. Unable to remember his last name or hometown, he was eventually adopted by a couple in Tasmania. He never stopped hoping to find his Indian family though, and spent years studying satellite photos until something looked familiar.

Day, Felicia. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). 5 CDs. 6:17 hrs. S. & S. Audio. 2015. $29.99. ISBN 9781442386839. Read by the author.

Day details her unorthodox upbringing and how she used her obsession with online gaming to develop the groundbreaking web series The Guild. Digital natives will relish what is essentially a history lesson about the early days of the Internet as they know it and take heart as the nerdy Day finds her tribe and taps into her passion for storytelling.

Doughty, Caitlin. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory. 7 CDs. 7:45 hrs. Recorded Books. 2014. $77.75. ISBN 9781490646268. Read by the author.

In this thought-provoking, poignant, and often funny work, Doughty, star of the YouTube series “Ask a Mortician” (http://ow.ly/Wbqcq), recounts her experiences as a young woman working in the funeral industry. For older teens whose curiosity about life extends to the end of it.

Kingsolver, Barbara. Animal Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life. 12 CDs. 14:35 hrs. HarperAudio. 2007. $39.95. ISBN 9780060853570. Read by the author, Camille Kingsolver, & Steven L. Hopp.

When Kingsolver and her family moved from Arizona to southern Virginia, the family joined the locavore movement, which promotes eating only what is locally raised, grown, and produced. Both budding foodies and scientists will be engrossed in the family’s endeavor.

Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild. 6 CDs. 7:12 hrs. Books on Tape. 2001. $48. ISBN 9780736674980. Read by Philip Franklin.

This true story of a young man who gave away his possessions and headed into trackless Alaska wilderness to live off the land will be catnip for modern Thoreaus. The fact that listeners learn almost immediately that he did not survive his trip introduces an air of solemnity, but doesn’t detract from the unfolding narrative.

Kurson, Robert. Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything To Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II. digital download. 15:36 hrs. Books on Tape. 2006. $91.20. ISBN 9780739349953. Read by Michael Prichard.

In the fall of 1991, hobbyist deep-wreck divers John Chatterton and Richie Kohler found a World War II German U-boat 60 miles off the coast of New Jersey, 230 feet below the surface. No identifying marks were visible, and, according to official records, there could not be a sunken U-boat and crew at that location, so over the next six years, an elite team of divers embarked on a quest to solve the mystery.

Nordberg, Jenny. The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan. digital download. 10:57 hrs. Books on Tape. 2014. $85.50. ISBN 9780804166324. Read by Kirsten Potter.

In Afghanistan, a bacha posh is a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. This work follows those born female, the unwanted sex in Afghanistan, but who live as the socially favored gender, male, through childhood and puberty, only to later be forced into marriage and childbirth.

Vowell, Sarah. Assassination Vacation. 6 CDs. 7:24 hrs. S. & S. Audio. 2005. $29.95. ISBN 9780743540056. Read by the author with Brad Bird, Eric Bogosian, Dave Eggers, Greg Giraldo, Daniel Handler, Catherine Keener, Stephen King, Tony Kushner, Conan O’Brien, David Rakoff, & Jon Stewart.

Though only available in an abridged edition, Vowell’s thoroughly entertaining romp through sites connected to successful and unsuccessful presidential assassinations is well worth a listen for the author’s small asides as well as the well-researched, big-picture history.

Winterson, Jeanette. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? 5 CDs. 6 hrs. Brilliance. 2013. $59.97. ISBN 9781469201931. Read by the author.

Raised by adoptive parents in a grimy north England industrial town, Winterson endured a religious fanatic of a mother with two sets of dentures and a tendency to lock her daughter out of the house at night. As the author searched for her biological mother, fiction and poetry provided a lifeline.

This article was published in School Library Journal's February 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.