18 Audiobooks for Teens & Tweens | Multimedia Reviews

Audiobooks from Samatha Mabry, Suzanne Collins, E. Lockhart, Dean Atta, and more are sure to entice middle and high school listeners.


 

Middle Grade

Acampora, Paul. Danny Constantino’s First (and Maybe Last?) Date. digital download. 5:10 hrs. Listening Library. 2020. $50. ISBN 9780593208595.
Gr 4-7–Danny’s seventh-grade world is exploding. His mother is running for mayor, which means she will be away from home even more than now; his friends are building a giant cardboard unicorn that moves; and movie star Natalie Flores Griffin, Danny’s former best friend, is coming to the Halloween dance as Danny’s date. Except that Danny didn’t really invite her–his friend Ajay’s big sister took Danny’s phone and, pretending to be Danny, sent the invitation. The only sane person in his world seems to be Danny’s grandmother, Gram, who ends up in the hospital. What else can go wrong? Narrator Michael Crouch reads Danny’s first-person POV, authentically relaying his angst, comedic adventures, and cluelessness around girls. Crouch’s portrayal of Gram with a scratchy-yet-warm voice reflects her sharp-yet-caring personality. Humorous escapades combined with Danny’s nervousness about his first date and his overwhelming bewilderment with life in general are performed with ease and skill. VERDICT The result is a charming audio that perfectly captures the wackiness of seventh grade.–Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill H.S., NC

Donohue, Moira Rose. My Best Friend is a Dolphin!: And More True Dolphin Stories. 1 CD. 1 hr. Recorded Bks. 2020. $15.75. ISBN 9781980039976.
Gr 4-7–Nine true dolphin stories focus on these creatures through the eyes of three humans: an employee at an institute in Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina, a college student on summer break who bonded with a dolphin in Turks and Caicos, and an underwater photographer named Flip. Accounts illustrate how training or play result in saving the dolphin–or the human. Narratives include drama, education, and fun, supplemented with plenty of dolphin trivia. With perfectly paced narration by Rachel Music, this rendition will captivate all ages and make dolphin enthusiasts out of most. Practical advice on how listeners can help dolphins will have to suffice for those who aren’t near a beach. VERDICT The audio version of this title compares favorably to print. While print offers illustrations, the audio flows smoothly, uninterrupted by frequent pronunciation guides.–Debbie Whitbeck, West Ottawa Public Sch., Holland, MI

Krull, Kathleen. American Immigration: Our History, Our Stories. 4 CDs. 5:39 hrs. HarperAudio. 2020. $29.99. ISBN 9781094161662.
Gr 4-8–Immigration is a timely issue and one that is not as clear cut as many people would imagine. There is so much more to immigration in this country than Lady Liberty and her torch imply. Krull offers a well-balanced account here, touching on policies that are far from perfect, inconsistent, and often influenced by ignorance and fear. Native Americans were here when Europeans arrived. Were the Europeans immigrants or invaders? The influx of Africans brought here in bondage was less an immigration concern than an economic one. America has a long history of keeping people out: the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1881, aggression towards Native Americans, the 1924 Exclusion Act preventing Eastern Europeans from coming here. During World War II citizens of Japanese descent were interred in camps. Krull has also given listeners a series of small vignettes which highlight particular immigrants such as Albert Einstein and Levi Strauss. Kyle Garcia’s narration is solid and well-articulated. ­VERDICT A great resource for students studying the ins and outs of U.S. immigration.–Joan Kindig, James Madison Univ., Harrisonburg, VA

Patrick, Cat. Tornado Brain. digital download. 6:36 hrs. Listening Library. 2020. $50. ISBN 9780593209349.
Gr 5-8–Thirteen-year-old Frankie loves tornadoes—their power, unpredictability, and how they seem out of control. which is kind of like Frankie herself. She suffers from neurological problems—Asperger’s, ADD, and a sensory disorder—and tries hard to manage herself. She doesn’t like to be touched and she often speaks without a filter. Frankie also is brave, persistent, and smart. When her former best friend disappears, Frankie tries to solve the mystery while still emotionally dealing with her friend’s perceived betrayal. Jorjeana Marie narrates authentically in the first person in a youthful voice. The world looks differently from Frankie’s perspective, and listeners are privileged to share that world with her. Through Marie’s stellar portrayal, Frankie’s confusion, hurt, and joy are clear. This audio would be a wonderful addition to any middle grade collection. VERDICT Not only is it a good selection for mystery buffs, but its greatest strength is in helping listeners, both adult and young, develop empathy with anyone who is neurodiverse.–Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill H.S., NC

Stabler, David. Kid Artists: True Tales of Childhood From Creative Legends. 2 CDs. 2:28 hrs. ISBN 9781974989355.
––––. Kid Authors: True Tales of Childhood from Famous Writers. 2 CDs. 2:19 hrs. ISBN 9781690558064.
––––. Kid Scientists: True Tales of Childhood from Science Superstars. 2 CDs. 2:24 hrs. ISBN 9781690565307.
Stevenson, Robin. Kid Activists: True Tales of Childhood from Champions of Change. 2 CDs. 245p. ISBN 9781690583943.ea vol: Dreamscape Audio. 2020. $39.99.
Gr 4-7–Famous adults have one thing in common—they were all kids struggling with many of the same problems as kids today: bullying, poverty, racism, sickness, hunger, and fractured families. The “Kid Legends Series” provides very relatable childhood anecdotes on a diverse selection of now famous people. Each title in the series includes a few well-known and well-documented legends, yet many lesser known (though equally as deserving) people are also highlighted through concise, biographical snippets. Kid Artists covers Emily Carr, Louise Nevelson, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Frida Kahlo. Kid Authors includes Sherman Alexie, Zora Neale Hurston, Stan Lee, and Jules Verne. Kid Scientists covers, among others, Vera Rubin, Rachel Carson, Temple Grandin, and Rosalind Franklin, while Kid Activists covers Iqbal Masih, Harvey Milk, Dolores Huerta, and Emma Watson. The humorous illustrations in print editions are notably absent, but the superb narration of Pete Cross secures readers attention in a learning-but-don’t-know-it kind of way. VERDICT Each well-written title in the “Kid Legends Series” is authentic in its vision of inspiring young readers to not only shoot for the stars but to dream big and lasso a whole galaxy.–Cheryl Preisendorfer, Twinsburg City Sch. Dist., OH

 

Young Adult

Atta, Dean. The Black Flamingo. 3 CDs. 3:4 hrs. HarperAudio. 2020. $22.99. ISBN 9781094159478.
Gr 9 Up–British-born to a Greek Cypriot mother and Jamaican father, Atta established himself as a poet and performer in 2012. Here he gorgeously debuts as both author and narrator of his novel-in-verse in which his fictional stand-in, Michael Angeli, matures from an end-of-the-millennium baby of a single mother to a young university student finally finding acceptance and community. In between, Mike struggles to understand his place in the world—of being mixed-race, fatherless, isolated, gay, and eventually drawn to his university’s Drag ­Society. His mother, younger sister, and many from his extended family remain constants: “To have a loving family/ is to feel afraid and yet believe/ you are going to be all right.” Like the black flamingo found on his mother’s Cyprus, “My difference was noted, not degraded.” As Mike learns to strengthen his voice—“Your ignorance/ may be innocent but the racism is real”—Atta reminds his readers, “Remember you have the right to be you.” VERDICT Fans of outstanding POC poets creating resonating novels-in-verse—Elizabeth Acevedo, Nikki Grimes, Marilyn Nelson, Margarita Engle—will welcome this audio entry of Atta’s 2020 Stonewall Award-winning fiction.–Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

Collins, Suzanne. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. 12 CDs. 16:17 hrs. Scholastic Audiobooks. 2020. $44.99. ISBN 9781338635195. digital download.
Gr 7 Up–Collins returns to Panem with this prequel to the hugely popular “Hunger Games” series. The focus this time is 18-year-old student Coriolanus Snow, the evil villain of the other books, who is assigned to mentor the girl tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, from District 12 in the 10th Hunger Games. Coriolanus is humiliated by this assignment—he should have received one of the plum tributes, not a nobody from District 12!—which further reinforces his feeling that his reputation is on a downward spiral. Although he comes from an old, respected family, they have no money and no power. No one gives tribute Lucy Gray much of a chance to survive the Games, but she turns out to be plucky, resourceful, and talented, and Coriolanus finds himself falling for her, with unexpected results. Santino Fontana narrates the audiobook in the first person, speaking clearly and distinctly. Characters are differentiated well and Fontana’s authoritative voice authentically reflects Coriolanus’s confident, arrogant character. In fact, the narration is so acutely tuned to Coriolanus that he becomes a sympathetic character. Series fans may be surprised to find themselves empathizing with the young lead, and fascinated by his descent into evil. Nuanced depiction of the flawed Coriolanus, combined with the fast-paced action and suspenseful tone make this a listen many will enjoy. VERDICT This audiobook will be in high demand in secondary school libraries and public libraries.–Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill H.S., NC

Frick, Kit. I Killed Zoe Spanos. 9 CDs. 10:42 hrs. S. & S. Audio. 2020. $39.99. ISBN 9781797114644. digital download.
Gr 7 Up–Anna Cicconi hopes her summer nanny job will do more than add funds to her college account. She’s hoping to escape her friends, blackout drinking, and random hookups, and looking for a new start in Herron Mills, a town in the Hamptons on Long Island. Instead, she finds her eerie resemblance to missing college student, Zoe Spanos, will lead her into a mental labyrinth that results in her sitting in the town police station, confessing to Zoe’s murder. But what really happened? Listeners will find themselves feeling as if someone took a bunch of semi-related facts, tossed them in a blender, whipped the mixture until it became a confusing concoction requiring the cast of narrators to slowly put the mix into something resembling the truth. This is done through then-and-now chapters with podcasts by Martina, best friend of Zoe’s younger sister, mixed in as she tries to determine who really killed Zoe. The story has a Twin Peaks feel to much of it and requires one to listen carefully so important bits of information aren’t missed. It’s easy to believe Anna’s lost touch with reality, but by the end of the story the slow release of details puts everything into perspective. The cast of narrators does a great job of creating an appropriate atmosphere, leaving listeners feeling early on that Anna is doomed by circumstance. VERDICT A satisfying audiobook for teens who like plenty of twists and strangeness in a story.–John R. Clark, formerly with Hartland P.L., ME

Grant, Kester. The Court of Miracles. digital download. 10:06 hrs. Listening Library. 2020. $63. ISBN 9780525636441.
Gr 9 Up–Narrator Ajjaz Awad brings Nina, the heroine in Grant’s debut novel, to life, using a rough vocal pattern that creates an audio mise en scène suggestive of poverty and abuse. In this alternate Paris and interesting reboot of Les Misérables, France has not succumbed to revolution. Louis XVII sits on the thrown but never imagines as he rules above, so rule the nine guilds below: over beggars, thieves, assassins, gamblers, mercenaries, smugglers, prostitutes, opium-eaters, and men of letters. Awad wields her voice with as much fluency as Nina wields her own weapons and native cunning as she battles the dreaded Tiger, lord of the Guild of Flesh, to whom her corrupt father has sold Nina’s older sister. Brief historic interludes taken from mythopoetic sources read in a modulated, scholarly style by noted actor John Lee add depth. VERDICT Recommended for those who enjoy a good tale—not quite fantasy but certainly otherworldly.–David Faucheux, Lafayette, LA

Lockhart, E. Again Again. digital download. 6:08 hrs. Listening Library. 2020. $50. ISBN 9780593207970.
Gr 7 Up–The infinite outcomes of the multiverse theory are explored, sometimes heartbreakingly, in Lockhart’s (We Were Liars) latest YA novel. Instead of wondering about what might have happened if different choices had been made, readers explore the many paths protagonist Adelaide Buchwald’s summer could have taken. Adelaide is fresh off of an unexpected breakup and is spending her time as a dog walker for some of the teachers at the high school where her dad teaches; she’s also attempting to complete a project for a theater design class or run the risk of failing and being expelled. Each version of her summer includes love, friendship, and how Adelaide and her family are dealing with the drug addiction of her younger brother Toby. This is not a simple romance of what could have been. The family dynamic and difficulties seem more important, affecting everything else in Adelaide’s life. The various characters are voiced well by Tavia Gilbert, each person separate and distinct. Powerful emotions come through; the pain and anguish are palpable and displayed well through the voice acting. VERDICT For listeners in seach of a realistic tale with a dash of romance, an exploration of emotional trauma, and an unusual format. The attempt to distinguish the multiverses is made through sound cues, but aren’t entirely successful for those listening without the book nearby.–Courtney Pentland, Omaha, NE

Mabry, Samantha. Tigers Not Daughters. 6 CDs. 6:39 hrs. Recorded Books. 2020. $66.75. ISBN 9781980080688. digital download.
Gr 7 Up–A year has passed since the oldest Torres daughter, Ana, fatally fell (jumped?) from her bedroom window. Her sisters have endured their loss behind rigid defenses: Jessica assumed Ana’s life, including claiming Ana’s boyfriend; Iridian assuages her loneliness with Ana’s books and writing; Rosa seeks solaces in Sunday services and animals seen and unseen. Their widowed father’s onerous mourning looms as both threatening abuse and absent neglect. From across the street, a group of boys—once Ana’s voyeurs—continue to watch the shattered family, bearing witness with an obsessive mixture of judgment and awe. Despite attempts to escape, the sisters cannot seem to break the oppressive male gaze—even Mabry withholds narrative control from the daughters, at least until dead Ana returns with a vengeance to set her sisters free. Enhanced by his bilingual background, actor Luis Moreno assumes the San Antonio family’s sprawling dysfunction with impressive nuance. Effortlessly modulating tone and delivery, he seethes as the Torres father losing control; cowers, cajoles, and growls as Jessica challenges her boyfriend’s violence; longs, shields, and shouts as Iridian finds her voice; dreams, hopes, and searches as Rosa seeks connection. VERDICT Regardless of format, savvy audiences will demand this tale.–Terry Hong, Smithsonian ­BookDragon, Washington, DC

Schaeffer, Rebecca. Not Even Bones. 8 CDs. 10:04 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2020. $27.99. ISBN 9781721338627.
Gr 7 Up–Nita and her mom, who are both supernatural, live a life constantly on the road as Nita’s mom kills other paranormal beings and Nita dissects them for her mom to sell the parts for money. Nita enjoys the dissection despite a few moral qualms about her mother’s activities, but reassures herself that they only dissect dangerous beings. Then her mom brings home a live, seemingly harmless boy. Nita frees Fabricio and is in turn betrayed by her mother to a South American paranormal market where she will be sold bit by bit to the highest bidder, unless she can escape. While there she gets to know her guard, Kovit, and learns that her thoughts on other supernatural beings may be wrong. While trying to escape, she learns the truth about her betrayal and the book ends with Nita being driven by revenge, leading into the second book in the series. Almarie Guerra does an excellent job capturing the dark nature of the book and gives Nita a voice that shows her lack of social skills and her developing conscience. The gore factor is definitely high with the removal of body parts, creating scenes not for the squeamish.Those scenes along with the theme of moral questioning is similar to Barry Lyga’s “I Hunt Killers” series. VERDICT Mature teens who enjoy morally gray characters and intense suspense will be drawn to the story.–Sarah Flood, Breckinridge County P.L., Hardinsburg, KY

Stoffels, Maren. Escape Room. digital download. 3:52 hrs. Listening Library. 2020. $38. ISBN 9780593293058.
Gr 7 Up–Escape rooms are supposed to be fun, right? Or that’s what four friends think when they sign up for a 60-minute session on a Friday night. However, the Game Master has other plans. Mint, Alissa, Sky, and Miles all have secrets, and the Game Master is out for revenge. A full cast of six narrators perform this audiobook expertly. Listeners monitor the Escape Room through the different viewpoints of the four friends. Vikas Adam reads the part of the mysterious Miles in a deep, angry, brooding voice that gives depth to the character. The conflicted character of Sky is presented realistically by Andrew Eiden. Mint, a mousy character who finds strength as the horrors of the escape room continue, is read by Kristen DiMercurio in a crisp manner. The part of popular-yet-troubled Alissa is read by Eileen Stevens expressively. Catherine Taber reads the part of Caitlin, Sky’s girlfriend who get unwittingly caught up in the game, with the appropriate anxiety and fear. Dani Martineck narrates in a sinister voice, indicative of the horrors to come. ­VERDICT Plot twists, love triangles, violence, and suspense all combine to make this a good choice for horror fans.–Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill H.S., NC

Stohl, Margaret & Melissa de la Cruz. Jo & Laurie. digital download. 10:32 hrs. Listening Library. 2020. $63. ISBN 9780593288191.
Gr 7 Up–As many fans know, the classic book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott was originally published as two separate novels, Little Women and Good Wives. In this audio, notable YA authors Stohl and de la Cruz tried to imagine what went on in Jo’s life in between the two novels. It’s 1869, and after Little Women’s surprise success, Jo is having trouble coming up with a sequel, but the family’s poor finances and her editor demand that there be one, and soon. The book’s readers insist on a sequel in which all four girls end up married and living happily ever after, but the fiercely independent Jo is resisting the idea of marriage, both for herself and for her character. Not all of her sisters are thrilled with how they were portrayed in the original book; many scenarios of what should happen to their characters in the sequel are suggested, adding some levity. Cassandra Campbell performs the book, differentiating among the characters well, and bringing the beloved characters to life. Jo, Meg, Amy, Laurie, and John Brook are all back, along with others, and their different personalities are portrayed expressively and perfectly by Campbell. Romance is in the air, along with a couple of twists in the audio which may change listeners’ minds about certain characters. An author’s note precedes the story and a historical note concludes it, giving context to the story. VERDICT Fans of the classic Little Women will either love this different take on the novel or be horrified in Alcott’s name.–Julie ­Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill H.S., NC

VELEZ Lily. The Connelly Boys. digital ­download. 12:56 hrs. (Celtic Witches: Bk. 1). Tantor Audio. 2020. $54.95. ISBN 9781705227633.
Gr 8 Up–Scarlet lost her mother to cancer a few months earlier and now she has moved to Ireland to live with the father she barely knows. She is drawn to the four Connelly brothers, especially the oldest, Jack. There are rumors about the Connelly family; that they are descended from a witch who was burned and that Jack has his own curse. When Scarlet somehow banishes a demon that was attacking Jack, she begins to discover that she may have some magical powers of her own. After her father is attacked, Scarlet and the Connelly boys must team up and try to save him. In this audio edition of the first book in the “Celtic Witches” series, listeners will learn about some folklore and traditions while uncovering truths about the characters. There is a fantasy aspect throughout, yet listeners will also feel the adventure that fills in the rest of the story. Velez has crafted characters that are multifaceted and easy to root for. Piper Goodeve’s narration is wonderfuls. ­VERDICT A strong addition to any high school or ­public library collection.–­Elizabeth ­Kenyon, Merrillville H.S., IN

 

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