24 Audiobooks To Encourage Ongoing Activism and Social Justice

These recent audiobooks offer irrefutable proof and auspicious validation that our youth are our most promising changemakers today, tomorrow, and beyond.

Welcome to the new year—and all these books to encourage ongoing activism and social justice. These are just some of the titles that were published from June to November 2022. The initial list of titles to consider was more than double what appears here—irrefutable proof and auspicious validation that our youth are our most promising changemakers today, tomorrow, and beyond.

Early Elementary

Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. How Women Won the Vote: Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and Their Big Idea. narrated by Sandy Rustin. 53 min. HarperAudio. May 2022. $9.99. ISBN 9780063011632.
Gr 2-5–Prefaced by jaunty music, Rustin’s crisp, youthful narration invitingly captures the energy of U.S. suffragettes Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, whose fateful London police station meeting in 1909 led to the March 1913 parade of “over five hundred suffragists, nine bands, four mounted brigades, and twenty-six floats...down [DC’s] Pennsylvania Avenue.” The right to vote for (some) women passed on November 2, 1920; racist poll taxes, literary tests, and violence denied Black voters for decades longer. As Rustin solemnly reminds at the recording’s end, the Equal Rights Amendment remains unsigned: “the fight for human equality and true democracy isn’t over. There’s more work to be done.” ­VERDICT At less than an hour, Bartoletti’s condensed history of the 19th Amendment is an excellent introduction for younger listeners, and even more so when paired with the print title enhanced with colorful art by Ziyue Chen, photographs, newspaper headlines, maps, letters, and extensive back matter.

Bridges, Ruby. I Am Ruby Bridges. narrated by Grace Capeless. 23 min. Scholastic Audio. Oct. 2022. $6.99. ISBN 9781338875973.
K-Gr 2–The production here offers a double reading—the first is meant as a read-along to the print title (gorgeously illustrated by Nikkolas Smith), complete with turn-the-page indicators; the second is a straight-through standalone narration. Relative newbie ­Capeless, still a teenager herself, narrates with crisp enunciation and emphatic energy over a lively background soundtrack. “I wanted to unfold a different version of my story,” Bridges writes in her afterword—which isn’t, but should be, included in the recording. “One that was told from my own six-year-old self.” As a five-then-six-year-old, Bridges knew little of the sociopolitical, history-making context of her going to school—that innocence, even humor, in remembering her experiences of early integration eventually transforms into understanding pride at becoming a barrier-breaking Civil Rights pioneer. VERDICT ­Libraries should undoubtedly have both audio and print simultaneously available to inspire the youngest readers.

Juarez, Estela with Lissette Norman. Until Someone Listens: A Story About Borders, Family, and One Girl’s Mission. narrated by Estela Juarez. 11 min. Macmillan Audio. Sept. 2022. $1.99. ISBN 9781250865359.
PreS-Gr 3–Juarez, just 13, makes both her authorial and narration debut with her family’s story of devastating separation. Juarez’s mother left her native Mexico at 18, eventually married a U.S. Marine, had two daughters, and “live[d] together in a house full of love” in Florida. But Juarez’s mother was undocumented and, when Juarez was four, government officials arrived to warn the family that “my mom had to go back—to the other side of the river—because she wasn’t born in this country.” Four years later, her mother was deported back to Mexico. Despite her youth, Juarez wrote to Congress, President Trump, newspapers, “anyone who could help...I discovered my words have power.” Juarez’s ending author’s note reveals the family’s fate—with a thank you to President Biden. VERDICT Citing John Lewis’s March as inspiration to write her own book, Juarez is another heartening voice for justice.

Merritt, Tyler. A Door Made for Me. narrated by Tyler Merritt. 15 min. Hachette Audio. Sept. 2022. $5.99. ISBN 9781668624005.
Gr 1-4–Even before the title credits, Merritt contagiously chuckles a welcoming, “Kids, ready?” He’s immediately engaging, “It was kinda hard to relive this whole story...Can I tell you about it?” He recalls a summer visit to his grandparents where he met Jack, who taught him to fish. Their plans to show off their abundant catch to Jack’s friends results in doors slammed on “the little Black boy.” His grandparents’ love can’t erase the racist sting, but their understanding encourages him to find his own door and “hold it wide for whoever wanted to come in.” After bestowing energetic kudos on the production crew, Merritt adds the sound of an opening door as a reminder to help “the next person who is struggling to get in.” A gentle last laugh urges, “You’re gonna have to go home now.” VERDICT Despite confronting wrenching lessons about racism, Merritt’s kiddie debut proves delightful.

Saeed, Aisha & Chelsea Clinton. She ­Persisted: Malala Yousafzai. narrated by Deepti Gupta & Chelsea Clinton. 32 min. (She Persisted). Listening Library. Jul. 2022. $22. ISBN 9780593588024.
Gr 1-4–Chelsea Clinton’s introduction—which she reads with inspiring encouragement—explains how she “partner[ed] with a sisterhood of writers to bring longer, more in-depth versions” of the women’s stories featured in her bestselling “She Persisted” picture book series: “They persisted and so should you.” The resulting chapter books have remarkable pairings, here featuring award-winning, bestselling Pakistani ­American Saeed who celebrates youngest Nobel Prize winner (at 17) Malala Yousafzai. Indian American Gupta reads solemnly, gently, revealing Yousafzai’s unwavering tenacity fighting for education while growing up in Pakistan, her vicious attack by the Taliban, her miraculous recovery in the UK, and her internationally acclaimed advocacy for girls’ and women’s rights. Saeed appends six practical, achievable ways “you can make a difference in your community and persist like ­Malala.” VERDICT Accessible and empowering, all libraries should consider investing in the entire “She Persisted” series in every format.

Soontornvat, Christina. A Life of Service: The Story of Senator Tammy Duckworth. narrated by Cindy Kay. 21 min. ­Dreamscape Audio. Sept. 2022. $9.99. ISBN 9781666615791.
PreS-Gr 3–Double Newbery ­­Honor–­winning author Soontornvat highlights the remarkable life of fellow Thai American, U.S. ­Senator Tammy Duckworth. Seasoned narrator Kay reads with a resolute, soft calm that affectingly underscores Duckworth’s phenomenal accomplishments despite challenges throughout her life. Born in Bangkok to an American father and Thai Chinese mother, “Even before she ever touched American soil, Ladda Tammy Duckworth knew that she would someday serve her country.” Her peripatetic childhood exposed her to bombs, refugee camps, near homelessness, yet she continuously excelled. She lost both legs during a helicopter mission in Iraq; recovery left her further determined to serve the American people. “She racked up a long string of firsts”—­although only the printed book reveals the headlines, including “First Thai American Woman to Serve in ­Congress,” “First Woman with a Disability to Serve in Congress.” ­VERDICT Another significant title that should be available in multiple formats.

Sorell, Traci & Chelsea Clinton. She Persisted: Wilma Mankiller. narrated by Tanis Parenteau & Chelsea Clinton. 40 min. (She Persisted). Listening Library. Oct. 2022. $28. ISBN 9780593630150.
Gr 1-4–One of the newest chapter book adaptations of the bestselling “She Persisted” series by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger features a trifecta of Indigenous notables: Cherokee Nation member Sorell, whose award-winning titles highlight Indigenous experiences for children, presents the life of Mankiller (1945–2010), the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation; ­Métis actor/producer Parenteau narrates with measured crispness. Clinton reads her encouraging introduction: “They persisted and so should you.” As a girl, Mankiller was called Pearl (her middle name). Her paternal ancestors survived the 1838 government round-up and forced relocation to Oklahoma. The 1956 Indian Relocation Act scattered her family again, resulting in removal from Oklahoma to San Francisco. Witnessing unrelenting injustices perpetrated on her people led to a life of dedicated activism and groundbreaking leadership. VERDICT All libraries should continue to acquire the “She Persisted” series in multiple formats.

Weatherford, Carole Boston. Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual. narrated by Carole Boston Weatherford. 19 min. Listening Library. Sept. 2022. $22. ISBN 9780593613719.
Gr 1-4–Weatherford’s latest deserves to be appreciated in every medium: the ideal experience combines both the print title (and Frank Morrison’s spectacularly vivid art) with Weatherford’s own unforgettable recitation. “Created by and for enslaved people not allowed to read or write, many spirituals are in call-and-response style,” her author’s note explains. “When so moved, singers improvise, adapting the existing lyrics or adding new ones. The text of this book was created in that same spirit, integrating historical and contemporary events that summoned courage and faith.” Weatherford brilliantly adapts the original lyrics to highlight 400 years of key moments of Black resilience, rebellion, and accomplishment—enslaved ancestors, Nat Turner, the Tuskegee Airmen, Ruby Bridges, Black Lives Matter—which she reads with resounding solemnity. Detailed references provide further illumination on her subjects. And then—Weatherford wondrously sings her radiant achievement. VERDICT Resonating enchantment awaits.

Middle Grade

Bajaj, Varsha. Thirst. narrated by Reena Dutt. 4:11 hrs. Listening Library. Jul. 2022. $38. ISBN 9780593590317.
Gr 3-6–Versatile narrator Dutt imbues protagonist Minni with affecting tenacity as the 12-year-old faces a barrage of challenges. Her older brother is sent away from their Mumbai shack for his safety after witnessing—with Minni and another friend—water thieves depleting their already reduced neighborhood supply. Her ill mother leaves next, hoping to recover away from the city with her sister, leaving Minni to be a rich family’s servant in Ma’s stead. Minni’s exams are imminent, but her study time dwindles. When Minni recognizes the powerful thief, she must decide how much she’s willing to risk for justice. Dutt expertly channels Minni’s contagious wonder at discovering what might seem quotidian to privileged readers: the computer class her mother made possible; her teacher’s similarly difficult growing up; the wealth of her mother’s employers, including taps that instantly spout fresh water. VERDICT Dutt effortlessly embodies Minni’s thirst to know, learn, and grow.

Bowles, David. They Call Her Fregona: A Border Kid’s Poems. narrated by Andrés Zuno. 3 hrs. Listening Library. Sept. 2022. $38. ISBN 9780593610169.
Gr 5-9–Pura Belpré–honored Bowles and Mexican actor Zuno reunite, guaranteeing continuity from They Call Me Güero (2021) to this expressive novel-in-verse companion. Introduced in Güero, Joanna is the titular fregona, “tough girl.” She and Güero are now a solid couple, sharing kisses and integrating into each other’s families and friend groups—Los Bobbys and Las Morras. When ICE grabs Joanna’s father at school on the first day of eighth grade, the pair will need to galvanize their entire community—and beyond—to help. Bowles again showcases a linguistic feast, storytelling via various forms (sonnet, heroic quatrain, haiku, sestet) and multiple languages. Oh, but the Korean: Zuno’s lightly accented English complements his Spanish fluency (plus he sweetly sings!), but his Korean mispronunciations prove particularly jarring. The popularity of Korean culture engenders multiple poems; shame on producers for eliding accuracy. VERDICT Dissonant laziness mars an otherwise lyrical performance.

Cartaya, Pablo. The Last Beekeeper. narrated by Kyla Garcia. 7:15 hrs. HarperAudio. Jul. 2022. $21.99. ISBN 9780063007048.
Gr 4-6–Cartaya’s latest is his first that’s not self-narrated. Popular, Spanish-fluent Garcia should be an ideal choice, but her polyglot advantage gets occasionally overshadowed by an overemotive performance. That said, veering toward high energy is the better default for Cartaya’s fast-paced climate change–informed dystopic thriller. Twelve-year-old Yoly learns early “there’s always a catch” to “free” money. Yoly’s a techno-wiz but her older sister Cami is the one who understands reality. With their parents missing, the pair struggle to keep the family’s strawberry fields alive. Hoping to escape their finca, Yoly furtively accepts a scholarship for training to someday become a neurolink surgeon in technologically advanced Silo. When Cami ferrets out the real cost, Yoly must divert her prowess not only to save herself, but the lives of everyone they know and love. VERDICT Bestselling Cartaya’s girl-powered adventure will draw plenty of audience; multiple formats will enable wider reach.

de León, Aya. Undercover Latina. narrated by Victoria Villarreal & Aya de León. 7:15 hrs. Listening Library. Oct. 2022. $63. ISBN 9780593672150.
Gr 5 Up–The Hernández-Baldoquín parents have been working for the Factory—“an international intelligence organization that serves people of color”—as spies for 20 years; now the whole family is involved. At 14, daughter Andréa is assigned her first major mission: to stop a white supremacist attack by getting close to the suspected perpetrator’s estranged son Kyle. To do so, she must sublimate her Mexican/Puerto Rican identity and become ANN-drea Burke, a white high school student in Phoenix, AZ. An unexpected complication arises when Kyle’s Latinx best friend proves to be irresistible. De León’s impressive middle grade debut gets marvelously paired with Mexican American actor Villarreal whose characterizations effortlessly range from sublime to rollicking. De León reads her ending author’s note, vulnerably sharing her own identity journey. VERDICT De León expertly threads her addictive thriller with confrontations about race, privilege, and advocacy; Villareal ensures such tough conversations are well heard.

Dee, Barbara. Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet. narrated by Mehr Dudeja. 5:39 hrs. Listening Library. Sept. 2022. $45. ISBN 9780593626702.
Gr 4-8–The climate crisis has turned 12-year-old Haven into an alarming newspaper headline: “SEVENTH GRADER GRIPPED BY ECO-ANXIETY.” As embarrassed as she is, the article isn’t wrong—Haven’s worry over the environment has become personally debilitating. Her teacher offers gentle guidance by example: “I can’t fix the whole world, but I can have a local impact.” While single-handedly preventing glacial melt isn’t probable, Haven can help determine what’s polluting the town’s Belmont River—plus, nature is all connected! The most obvious change is the new glass factory that’s given Haven’s dad a much-needed job. Will fighting for the environment hurt her own family? Relative newbie Dudeja energetically, empathically embodies the rhythms of middle schoolers discussing school pizza, boring homework, new crushes, and—of course!—the fate of the entire planet. VERDICT Dee shrinks overwhelming impossibility into manageable opportunity; Dudeja proves herself an ideally convincing ally.

Guillory, Sarah. Nowhere Better Than Here. narrated by Sophie Amoss. 6:09 hrs. Blackstone Audio. Sept. 2022. $16.99. ISBN 9798212179690.
Gr 4-7–Tiny Boutin, LA, has always been home for 13-year-old Jillian Robichaux, her mother, and grandmother Nonnie. But the latest storm causes irreparable damage, threatening everything familiar. Flooding shuts down the local school, forcing students to the next city 40 minutes away. Boutin is continuously shrinking: “And the fact that my state was rapidly sinking didn’t even make the national news,” Jillian laments. She’s ready to fight for her home: “If we aren’t part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.” With her husky, deeper voice, Louisiana native Amoss endows Jillian with curiosity, determination, anger, and loyalty. She also bestows distinct personalities on Jillian’s friends and allies. Amoss’s impressive range gives Nonnie gruff solemnity, even as laughter and love flow freely between generations. VERDICT “Stories were the way we saved what was temporary—they made the mortal immortal,” Jillian ­muses. Amoss ensures Guillory’s cast long life.

Jewell, Tiffany. The Antiracist Kid: A Book About Identity, Justice, and Activism. narrated by Channie Waites. 2:39 hrs. HarperAudio. Oct. 2022. $16.99. ISBN 9780358669333.
Gr 3-7–The target audience may be “kids,” but anyone—including adults who might need refreshers—will have much to learn in Jewell’s latest inclusive, instructive anti-racist handbook. Versatile Waites is immediately welcoming and encouraging, energetically calling audiences into Jewell’s “To the Listener” introduction: “I want to tell you that you are never too young to advocate against racism and injustice...Everyone can be antiracist.” With the help of three diverse children “like you”—Ruby, Shawn, Dani—Jewell highlights three concepts—Identity, Justice, Activism—providing easy-to-follow explanations, discussions, examples, and “putting it all together” summaries. Waites unfurls complex topics including colonization, dominant culture, bias, oppression, intersectionality, social ranking, with thoughtful empathy—even when discussing egregious details and histories. VERDICT Pairing audio with print—vibrant with dynamic graphics and illustrations by Nicole Miles—will provide maximum enlightenment on becoming an antiracist activist.

King, Amy Sarig. Attack of the Black Rectangles. narrated by Pete Cross, Gretchen Bender, Amy Sarig King, Jane Yolen & others. 5:20 hrs. Scholastic Audio. Sept. 2022. $56.99. ISBN 9781338876284.
Gr 5 Up–The timing of King’s latest is presciently superb as she presents three sixth graders fighting book censorship. Her hero is Mac Delaney, sensitively ciphered by Cross with gentle energy and justifiable frustration. Mac lives with his mother and grandfather, while his erratic, angry father unreliably ­visits. Mac’s buoyed by close friendships with Denis and Marci (who just might also be his first crush). When the class begins to read Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic, Mac ­notices the titular black rectangles have effaced certain words throughout every ­student’s copy. Of course, Mac and his friends want to read the whole, untampered book; too many adults disagree. Saturday morning protests lead to school board meetings where the children are finally heard. VERDICT A full cast—including King—­enhances Cross’s narration, delightfully voicing multiple opinionated locals; the best surprise proves to be Yolen herself.

Moses, Shelia P. We Were the Fire: Birmingham 1963. narrated by Genesis Oliver. 2:58 hrs. Listening Library. Sept. 2022. $45. ISBN 9780593610206.
Gr 4-7–Impressive Oliver distinctly ­ciphers each of observant 11-year-old Rufus’s extended community in National Book Award finalist Moses’s fictionalization of the ­Children’s Crusade, a pivotal May 1963 event in Birmingham, AL. Two years after Rufus Sr.’s death, Mama remarries and Rufus and younger sister Georgia welcome Daddy Paul. While Governor George Wallace demands “segregation now...segregation tomorrow,” Mama and Paul move the family into the next-door home of the local mill owner, kind and welcoming Miss Boone. The white neighbors—and the KKK—are quick to announce their hatred. And yet the Civil Rights Movement is well underway: while the adults strategize their protests, energized by MLK’s impending visit, the children realize they, too, hold power for change. Despite Mama’s understandably fearful admonishments, Rufus is determined to do his part. VERDICT Oliver dramatically transforms Moses’s resonating history into a heart-thumping thriller.

Salazar, Aida. A Seed in the Sun. narrated by Victoria Villarreal & Aida Salazar. 4:02 hrs. Listening Library. Oct. 2022. $63. ISBN 9780593588086.
Gr 3-7–Seventh-grader Lula is the middle child of five in a Mexican American family. She may have inexplicably lost her voice—­reduced to a “whispery rasp”—but she astutely bears witness to her family’s peripatetic struggles as migrant farmworkers in California: her mother is mysteriously ill; her father is too-often violently angry; her older sister dreams of escape. Inspired by her own ­mother’s stories as “a migrant farmworking child,” Salazar deftly weaves her fictional characters into the real-life 1965 Delano grape strike led by ­Filipino and Mexican activists, including Larry Itliong, Dolores ­Huerta, and Helen and ­Cesar Chávez. ­Spanish-fluent, youthfully pitched Villarreal is Salazar’s complementary cipher, augmenting the already resonating historical novel-in-verse with expressive rhythms and emotional depth. Salazar herself concludes the recording with a thoughtful “Dear Reader” afterword urging readers to “fight for justice through your voice.” ­VERDICT Writer and reader are perfectly paired for flourishing results.

Shang, Wendy Wan-Long. The Secret Battle of Evan Pao. narrated by Dylan J. Locke. 5:01 hrs. Scholastic Audio. Jun. 2022. $74.99. ISBN 9781338852974.
Gr 3-7–The horns and drums of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” preface the rousing narration by Locke, immediately signaling a reference to the Civil War. In contemporary Haddington, VA, ancestral connections to the Confederacy are still revered. Evan, his sister Celeste, and their mother have just arrived from California in the wake of his father’s disappearance. Evan is the only non-white student in his sixth-grade class: Max is welcoming but Brady immediately targets him. Battlefield Day—an annual celebration—looms and already his teacher implies Evan doesn’t belong. But Celeste’s wisecrack leads Evan to the surprising discovery of Chinese Civil War soldiers (thank you, pioneering APA writer Ruthanne Lum McCunn!)—and the chance to correct local traditions. Locke empathically captures Evan’s sensitivity; he’s just as responsive as snarky Celeste, the curious realtor, Evan’s myopic teacher, and easygoing Uncle Joe. VERDICT Locke affectingly animates Shang’s peaceful heroes.

Winston, Sherri. Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution. narrated by Latonya Williams. 5:59 hrs. Bloomsbury. Sept. 2022. $23.22. ISBN 9781547611812.
Gr 4-6–Twelve-year-old violin prodigy Lotus enters Atlantis School of the Arts and immediately replaces the orchestra’s first chair, inciting retaliative in-school bullying that escalates into parental claims of racist dress-code violations over Lotus’s fabulous afro. Her best friend Rebel is all about justice and revolution, pushing Lotus to claim her agency. Inspiring story aside, this is one of those headshake-inducing titles that could make readers question the importance of accuracy and details—in both print and audio—especially in a National Book Award longlist title. Lotus and her mother watch Casablanca, only to perpetuate the “Play it again, Sam” misquote, erroneously attributed to Bogie (it’s Ingrid who says, “Play it, Sam”). Casting Canadian actor Williams with her distinct “aGAINST,” “owwt,” “sohrry”-pronunciations doesn’t complement an at-least-third-generation Miamian. VERDICT Missteps aside, however, the NBA longlist will undoubtedly generate library demand.

Young Adult

Arnold, Marie. I Rise. narrated by Marcella Cox. 7:02 hrs. Harper Audio. Aug. 2022. $21.99. ISBN 9780358669326.
Gr 7 Up–At 14, Ayo “just want[s] to be normal”—hang out with friends, maybe even have a boyfriend. But Ayo’s mother, Rosalie, is the revered founder of See Us, a Harlem-based civil rights group. See Us was supposed to be Ayo’s inheritance...but never this soon. As Rosalie lies in a coma after being shot by police, Ayo faces the biggest challenges of her young life. Cox hasn’t yet reached a dozen audio credits, but her extensive acting training and experiences are on full display as she imbues Ayo with an impressive emotive range; ironically, the accomplished performance make the few stumbles (Thighland for Thailand, “progress” pronounced as a noun when used as a verb) seem more obvious. VERDICT Cox deftly intensifies Arnold’s insightful mother/daughter narrative gloriously intertwined with powerful social justice awareness and inspiration.

Goldstone, Lawrence. Days of Infamy: How a Century of Bigotry Led to Japanese  American Internment. narrated by Elaina Erika ­Davis. 4:34 hrs. Scholastic Audio. Jun. 2022. $27.99. ISBN 9781338856545.
Gr 6 Up–Franklin D. Roosevelt pronounced December 7, 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, “a date which will live in infamy.” His Executive Order 9066 led to the imprisonment of over 100,000 Japanese ­Americans, the majority U.S. citizens, for the duration of WWII. Prolific scholar ­Goldstone meticulously documents the plural days of infamy that began with the U.S. Constitution’s recognition of free white men who since punished those deemed “not white enough,” which allowed for “one of the most shameful episodes in United States’ history.” Alas, racist infamy continues: “the feelings and reasonings that resulted in that injustice are all too present...today,” from immigration bans to increased anti-Asian violence. ­Japanese-fluent Davis reads crisply, although occasionally veers toward overemoting which can hamper Goldstone’s superbly methodical research. VERDICT Dense with detailed, significant information, these Days of Infamy may be better retained from the page.

Ho, Joanna. The Silence that Binds Us. ­narrated by Raechel Wong. 11:20 hrs. HarperAudio. Jun. 2022. $27.99. ISBN 9780063059375.
Gr 9 Up–Maybelline Chen’s beloved older brother Danny is dead. He went to a party and never returned. No one even knew he was depressed. And then a white, powerful businessman parent takes the mic during a school meeting and accuses Asian families of creating the competitive environment that’s caused the recent uptick in student suicides—his racist remarks directly target the Chen family. Maybelline can’t stay ­silent, publishing a scathing response in the local paper. Even as her parents fear backlash, Maybelline—and her closest friends—organize to “Take Back the ­Narrative.” As if recognizing this is Maybelline’s journey, Wong reads with consistent, crisp delivery rather than distinctively performing the extensive cast. When Maybelline ­finally opens Danny’s left-behind shoebox, empathic Wong ensures hearts will shatter—perhaps even her own. VERDICT Ho’s YA debut—in all formats—offers a timely antidote for ­anti-Asian racism plaguing too many ­communities nationwide.

Konigsberg, Bill. Destination Unknown. narrated by Pete Cross. 8:05 hrs. Scholastic Audio. Sept. 2022. $74.99. ISBN 9781338852561.
Gr 9 Up–Konigsberg reunites with Cross, five years after Openly Straight, for another heartening love story involving two dissimilar teens. In September 1987, the AIDS epidemic is claiming too many young men’s lives. Seventeen-year-old Micah is gay but he’s only out to his best friend Deena until he meets C.J. at a Manhattan club, sporting a plexiglass bra—so openly gay as to enthrall closeted Micah. They’re only a year apart, but Cross deftly imbues Micah with a wide-eyed sheltered innocence while adroitly reflecting C.J.’s weary worldliness. Their evolving relationship will face many, many challenges. When he isn’t lying, C.J. will teach Micah about agency and activism, from protests and die-ins to nurturing the suffering. The epilogue proves absolutely sigh-inducing. ­Konigsberg solemnly reads his autobiographical ending author’s note. VERDICT Set in 1987 makes this historical fiction, but Konigsberg and Cross ensure a timeless tale.

Terry Hong was LJ ’s 2016 Reviewer of the Year for Fiction and Audio. Follow her blog, Smithsonian Book Dragon, and on Twitter @SIBookDragon.

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