Samira Ahmed, Ali Benjamin, & More |Sept. 2019 Audio Reviews

These 30 audiobooks will appeal to listeners from preschool through high school.

Early Elementary

Barnes, Derrick. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. 1 CD. 5 min. Recorded Books. 2019. $14.17. ISBN 9781980026600. digital download.
PreS-Gr 3–Is a haircut just the snip of the scissors and the buzz of the razor? No, Barnes insists that a visit to the barbershop is a rite of passage that renews the recipient again and again. In pulsing, pounding prose, he describes the experience of getting a “fresh cut” from the eyes of a young African American boy. It allows him to view the world differently and gives him the confidence to know the world is looking at him in a new light. Possibilities open up that seemed closed before. The world is new, and so is he. Corey Allen reads the book with a smile in his rich and rhythmic voice. VERDICT This is an exceptional production, beautifully performed. It certainly merits a place in library collections, and homes with young African American boys should especially appreciate this paean to self-esteem and confidence. It will be most effective when combined with the book, as Gordon C. James’s gorgeous oil illustrations deepen the experience. –Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary School, Federal Way, WA


Middle Grade

Benjamin, Ali. The Next Great Paulie Fink. 6 CDs. 7:12 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2019. $25. ISBN 9781549148828. digital download.
Gr 3-7–Caitlyn was apprehensive of moving to remote Mitchell, VT, and she doesn’t feel any better about it on the first day of school. Classes at Mitchell School are held in a ramshackle, well-worn mansion and the Originals, her seventh grade classmates—all 10 of them—are given additional character-building responsibilities: lunchtime with kindergarteners and feeding the school goats. However, it is the absence of the Great Paulie Fink that causes chaotic ruckus among the Originals. Paulie’s wildly imaginative, pushing-the-envelope antics were legendary among his classmates; he was the glue that held the Originals together. The solution? Find the Next Great Paulie Fink. Unbiased and rule-driven Caitlyn is chosen to be the contest creator, judge, and jury. In the end, they succeed, but in ways they never imagined. Threads of ancient Greek culture are cleverly woven throughout this poignant and humorous coming-of-age novel that tactfully showcases tougher topics such as bullying and accepting change. Gold star narration provided by Cassandra Morris, Zach Villa, Cameron Bowen, and Adam McArthur perfectly capture each well-­developed character. VERDICT A top pick for tweens. –Cheryl Preisendorfer, Twinsburg City School District, OH

Butler, Emily. Freya & Zoose. 4 CDs. 3:55 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $38. ISBN 9781984832979. digital download.
Gr 3-7–When Freya, a very proper but adventurous rockhopper penguin, hitches a ride on Captain Saloman August Andrée’s North Pole–bound hot air balloon, she is unaware that there is another stowaway on board. She and Zoose, a rough-and-tumble London-born mouse, share all of the adventure of the ill-fated 1897 Andrée expedition to the North Pole, as well as an encounter with a charming arctic fox and her narwhal friend that tests their friendship. Butler puts readers right in the middle of the action as she describes the treacherous voyage, unrelenting weather, and brutal landscape, painting a clear picture even without the abundant illustrations of the print edition. Jayne Entwistle performs Freya’s story in a perfectly proper voice, while Zoose’s words convey his Cockney background and his unbound energy. Although Freya and Zoose can read, wear clothing, and can converse with other animals, they still exhibit typical animal traits as they eat, nest and, despite Zoose’s initial fears, learn to accept death as a part of life’s cycle. ­VERDICT A charming animal tale of friendship, loyalty, and personal growth; youngest readers may find the human deaths ­disturbing.–­MaryAnn Karre, Binghamton, NY

Campbell, K.G. A Small Zombie Problem. 3 CDs. 3:51 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $30. ISBN 9781984884657. digital download.
Gr 3-7–August DuPont has a unique problem: his scent attracts butterflies. Because of this, his reclusive Aunt Hydrangea hasn’t let him leave the house. Then his aunt’s estranged family offer him his lifelong dream: to go to school and make friends. However, in order to do so, he must find the family’s long-lost cadaverite. Meanwhile, he inadvertently reanimates Claudette who won’t leave him alone. Could Claudette have been reanimated by the cadaverite? If so, where could it be? Can August find a way to get rid of his zombie problem? Todd Haberkorn’s voices are engaging and entertaining, bringing to life each character with pizzazz and hilarity. The Roald Dahl-esque plot is humorous, well-developed, and draws readers into the story. VERDICT Delightfully fun for listeners who like dark comedy and zombie stories. Recommended for most library collections.–Jessica Moody, Olympus Junior High, Holladay, UT

Chokshi, Roshani. Aru Shah and the Song of Death. (Pandava: Bk. 2). 10 CDs. 11:56 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $70. ISBN 9780525587613. digital download.
Gr 5-8–Middle schooler Aru Shah zooms immediately into adventure in this second “Pandava”novel. Familiarity with the first book will be helpful, as zombie-like creatures at the Night Bazaar confront Aru and Mini within the first paragraphs. With only their wits and their celestial weapons to defend themselves, Aru and Mini hold their own, and are somewhat grudgingly joined by Brynne, a third Pandava demi-god; and Aiden, a boy Aru absolutely, definitely does not have a crush on. Girl power is front and center during the 10 days that Aru, Mini, Brynne, and Aiden are allotted to find a stolen bow and arrow, save their place in the Otherworld, and restore the Heartless to human existence. Chokshi bases most characters in Indian myth, albeit updated with references to Hogwarts, the Kardashians, and Lord of the Rings. Aiden, though not a Pandava, has plenty to contribute to the mission’s success. Soneela Nankani narrates beautifully, with a musical quality to some of the god and goddess names, along with sibilant menace employed as needed. VERDICT The complex cast of characters requires an attentive listener, but teenage quips and banter keep the book from ­getting bogged down. Highly recommended as a follow up where the first book is popular.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

Graff, Lisa. Far Away. 6 CDs. 7:03 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $50. ISBN 9780525625339. digital download.
Gr 3-7–Twelve-year-old Caraway “CJ” Ames lives on the road with her fairly famous Aunt Nic, a psychic medium who tours the country, communing with “Spirit.” Nic has convinced CJ that she can talk with the dead, most importantly, CJ’s late mother. They live a peripatetic existence, going from town to town, with their two-man crew. Jax, a 16-year-old with pretty extreme anxiety issues, is new to their crew, and CJ is trying to teach him to drive a standard transmission. When Aunt Nic tells CJ that her mom is being drawn faraway by Spirit and won’t be able to talk to her anymore, CJ goes on a quest to find a physical tether that will bring her mother back. With Jax’s reluctant help, they follow Spirit’s “signs,” which lead CJ to find out that her aunt may not be all that she claims. CJ’s anger causes her to humiliate her aunt in a very public way. While CJ’s hurt and sense of betrayal are understandable, her actions are distasteful. VERDICT This can be a difficult story to listen to but Monika Felice Smith does a good job narrating. She fully embodies CJ’s headstrong, take-no-prisoners attitude, Jax’s insecurity, Aunt Nic’s all-too-human flaws, and CJ’s mother’s unreliability. –B. Allison Gray, ­Goleta Valley Lib., CA

Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth. 4 CDs. 4:41 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $25. ISBN 9781984887030. digital download.
Gr 3-7–Milo always wants to be somewhere other than where he is and never knows what to do with himself when he gets there. One day a tollbooth arrives in his room. After depositing his coins and driving past, he finds himself in the magical land of Expectations. He soon begins a journey to rescue the Princesses Rhyme and Reason in order to bring peace back to the land. Along the way he meets an assortment of outlandish characters, including his companions Tock, the ticking watchdog, and the Humbug. They make stops in places like the Doldrums, Dictionopolis, and the Silent Valley. Filled with wordplay, humor, and irony, Juster’s classic is still a hit. Rainn Wilson does a lovely job differentiating among all the characters, effortlessly booming, then whispering, and moving from silly to serious. There’s even a special appearance by Wilson’s son as the .58 boy. Juster voices the introduction where he describes what led him to write the book. VERDICT This audio production will be a great addition to any library collection.–Elizabeth Elsbree, Krug Elementary School, Aurora, IL

Kelly, Lynne. Song for a Whale. 6 CDs. 6:34 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $50. ISBN 9781984832719. digital download.
Gr 3-7–As one of the only deaf students at her school, 12-year-old Iris has to weather the everyday frustrations of teachers and peers who seek to communicate with her only on their own terms. So, when she learns about a whale called Blue 55 who has an inability to speak at a frequency that can be understood by his fellow whales, Iris is determined to ‘fix’ this problem using her unique tech skills. The novel has well-written, multifaceted portrayals of adults throughout, including Iris’s grieving grandmother, who is desperate to break through her internal “drizzly November” and connect to the sea and, with it, the memory of her husband. Though she is not a deaf person herself, Kelly—who has worked as a professional sign language interpreter—is adept at navigating this world. Subtle details sprinkled throughout (using verbs like “answered” and “said” vs. always referring to Iris’s communication as “signing” and the skillful descriptions of the physicality of individual signs) add to the authenticity. The audio version adds new, original content to the book in the form of back matter (read by the author) on deafness and sign language. Narrator Abigail Revasch skillfully portrays Iris’s youthful, adventurous spirit in her voice. VERDICT With solid disability representation and a compelling, deeply emotional story that can be enjoyed in audio format by children of many ages, as well as adults, this audiobook will be a surefire hit for family reading time or car trips.–Ann Santori, Cook Memorial Public Library, Libertyville, IL

Kilmeade, Brian & Don Yaeger. George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spies Who Saved America (Young Readers Adaptation). 3 CDs. 2:44 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $30. ISBN 9781984845047.
Gr 5-8–The scintillating true story of spies will draw readers of both fiction and history. The narrowly focused narrative adapts an adult text for younger readers with the highlights of the Culper spy ring. The six come from an variety of occupations and classes, including a woman whose identity has never been determined. The codes and transmission of messages give listeners a glimpse into pivotal points of how our country won the lopsided war, especially occupied New York. With Washington’s vision, the spies used anonymity coupled with serious courage to provide crucial intelligence in our nation’s first spy ring. While adaptions lack the depth of the adult version, this unabridged young reader audio version makes an exciting bit of history accessible to a large audience. A purist audiophile might cringe at the mention of illustrations and graphics “seen below.” An afterword offers enticing tips on creating and sharing secret codes. VERDICT The content and length make for a listen perfectly suited to long car rides for school-age children.–Debbie Whitbeck, West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI

Lee, Yoon Ha. Dragon Pearl. 8 CDs. 10:19 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $60. ISBN 9780525587583. digital download.
Gr 3-7 –Min may look like an ordinary girl, but she guards a secret that could threaten her family. She is a fox spirit who can shape-shift and charm others into doing what she wants, but most people think foxes have died out and are untrustworthy so she remains human. Min dreams of the day she can join the Space Forces, like her brother Jun, and see the Thousand Worlds. Then her brother is accused of deserting to search for the powerful Dragon Pearl, something Min knows he would never do, and she sets out to find him. The adventure never stops in this first-person space opera. Min sometimes comes off as willing to manipulate anyone who gets in her way, but she does think about the consequences of her actions and matures as the story progresses. Korean mythology is woven in, as is the use of gender-neutral pronouns for several characters. Narrator Kim Mai Guest brings the story to life using inflection to differentiate among characters. VERDICT Give to fantasy and science fiction readers as well as fans of Rick Riordan. –Elizabeth Elsbree, Krug ­Elementary School, Aurora, IL

Myers, Walter Dean & Bill Miles. The Harlem Hellfighters: When Pride Met Courage. 3 CDs. 2:35 hrs. Recorded Books. 2019. $30.75. ISBN 9781980027690. digital download.
Gr 3-7 –This is a tribute to the 369th Infantry Regiment, a unit comprised entirely of African American soldiers, and the role they played in World War I. Before describing the wartime realities these soldiers faced, the authors provide a brief history of the role African Americans played in the military in the decades before World War I. They describe the unique situation African American soldiers found themselves in as they fought for a country that did not recognize them as full-bodied citizens and the racism they faced from their fellow Americans. During World War I, the soldiers of the 369th fought in France alongside French soldiers who viewed them as equals. Overall, this tribute to these brave soldiers is a bit disappointing. Although it describes how the unit trained and fought in World War I, it lacks specific details about memorable contributions these soldiers made. Listeners do not connect with these men or realize the sacrifices they made for our country as much as they might if more personal anecdotes were included. Also, listeners do not benefit from seeing the photographs and other primary sources that are included with the printed book. VERDICT While the groundbreaking contributions of these soldiers should not be forgotten, this audiobook will not make the lasting impression these heroes deserve.–Anne Bosievich, Friendship Elementary School, Glen Rock, PA

Silva, Jesselyn with Brin Stevens. My Corner of the Ring: A Memoir of a Champ. 4 CDs. 4:51 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $38. ISBN 9781984885357. digital download.
Gr 5-8–When seven-year-old Jesselyn asks to try on a pair of her father’s boxing gloves, she is hooked. In this memoir read by the young author, Jess shares her impressive dreams and goals but equally important, her roadblocks and her frustrations. Supported by her dedicated father, little brother, and grandmother (who can’t bear to watch her box), Jess shares her journey from Jess “Too Cute” Silva to Jess “JessZilla” Silva. She shares her dream calendar—which is on target so far—her impressive workout routine, the significant scarcity of female opponents, lack of understanding from kids at school, and discontent at being referred to as a “girl” boxer. Kids in boxing is a topic that isn’t covered much, and Jess’s story is an impressive and interesting trek into that world. Jesselyn’s straightforward narration is slightly choppy (appropriate for a reader her age) but that is offset by the honesty and charm her own voice adds to the story. ­ VERDICT Jess’s determination to promote boxing in general and her grit, work ethic, and goal setting are relatable to any young person with dreams, especially girls in particular.–Jane Newschwander, Fluvanna County Public Schools, VA

Venkatraman, Padma. The Bridge Home. 4 CDs. 4:33 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $38. ISBN 9781984845092. digital download.
Gr 5-8 –“Write her a letter” counsels a kind woman, as she helps Viji work through heartache after scraping out a living and sleeping in a makeshift hovel on a bridge near an large Indian city. Viji narrates her story speaking directly to Rukku, her gentle, artistic, and developmentally delayed older sister. For their safety, 11-year-old Viji and Rukku flee their abusive home, though it means perilous days scrounging for recyclables in the “Himalayas of rubbish” with two boys, Arul and Muthi, about their own age. The foursome strengthen each other, helped occasionally by generous street vendors and Teashop Aunty, while menaced by trash-picking gangs and the relentless weather. The choice to address the reader as “you” makes a challenging dynamic, as what happens to Rukku thus happens to the audience. The author’s lilting and captivating narration employs almost musical tones for younger boy Muthu and others. VERDICT Venkatraman brings love, support, and humor to a story undergirded by tough issues. Curricular connections abound, including science, global studies, and ecology. A smart addition to any middle school library.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX


Young Adult

Ahmed, Samira. Internment. 11 CDs. 11:17 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2019. $25. ISBN 9781549148767. digital download.
Gr 9 Up –In a not-so-distant America, Muslim Americans are forced to register and abide by curfews and a separation from society, which at first is an inconvenience for Layla Amin’s social and romantic life. But these troubles quickly seem a distant memory when Layla and her family are taken away in the middle of the night, along with hundreds of other Muslim Americans, and forced into internment camps. Layla is determined to not let the camp, or the country, decide her fate based on the discrimination against her and her religion. With the help of others inside and outside the camps, Layla leads a resistance that challenges the idea that a person’s beliefs determines their value in society. This story becomes more and more timely every day, with chants of “send her back” echoing in the news among stories of children being held in cages and camps. What seemed like a fictional premise has now become a cautionary tale that cannot be ignored. Listeners will be drawn into the story immediately as it’s read by Soneela Nankani, who does an incredible job bringing Layla’s story to life. VERDICT Fans of Love, Hate, and Other Filters will not be disappointed by Ahmed’s second novel, which should be included in all YA audiobook collections.–Erica Coonelly, Monroe Township Middle School, NJ

Arcos, Carrie. We Are All That’s Left. 9 CDs. 10:55 hrs. Recorded Books. 2019. $97.75. ISBN 9781980038764. digital download.
Gr 7 Up–Seventeen-year-old Zara has always felt somewhat removed from her mother, Nadja. Nadja was a refugee from Bosnia when she met and married Zara’s American father in Boston, and she rarely talked about her past. After a terrorist bombing at their local farmer’s market injures Zara and leaves her mother in a coma, Zara finds a box with old photos and letters that provide hints about the horrific things Nadja experienced during the Bosnian War, and she finally starts to understand her mother better. Themes of religion, love, and forgiveness are all intertwined in a compelling way. Laura Knight Keating reads the current-day Zara in an approachable, youthful voice. Elisabeth Rodgers narrates Nadja as a teen during the 1990s Bosnian War in a subdued, quiet manner that reflects the closed-off woman she has become. The contrast between chapters and narrators is stark, highlighting the somberness of Nadja’s war experiences. The characters are complex yet sympathetic, and the tone is serious, requiring a more thoughtful listener. VERDICT This audiobook is ideal for those wanting a greater understanding of the war in Bosnia; it concludes with a note read by the author about her own Bosnian experiences.–Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill, NC

Banerjee, Sorboni. Hide With Me. 7 CDs. 9:13 hrs. Dreamscape Audio. 2019. $39.99. ISBN 9781974945771.
Gr 8 Up–Seventeen-year-old Cade finds a badly injured girl on his family’s farm in a small Texas border town. He and his childhood friend, Mateo, stitch up the girl’s wounds and nurse her back to health in an old barn. “Jane Doe” reluctantly agrees to stay with Cade and hide in plain sight by enrolling in high school. A romance buds, and Jane hesitantly reveals that she got mixed up with a drug cartel and is being hunted by a drug lord called the Wolf Cub. Cade, Jane, and their friends and family become tangled in Jane’s web of past and present lies and must band together to survive. Narrator Pete Cross masters a Southern accent without turning Cade or his alcoholic father into stereotypes. Without missing a beat, Cross transitions to narrating a sociopathic drug lord with a heart of ice and a penchant for philosophical musings. Lauren Ezzo has incredible diction and captures Jane’s cagey internal and external dialogue. She also reads JoJo, Mateo’s sassy and headstrong older sister, who is easily one of the most lovable characters in the book. VERDICT Fantastic narration coupled with a compelling plot will leave readers quickly devouring the short chapters to find out what happens next. The ending, however, is somewhat abrupt (considering the lengthy buildup), and the backyard militia approach to taking down the drug cartel is far-fetched and ill-advised.–April Everett, China Grove, NC

Bass, Alexis. Happily and Madly. 9 CDs. 10:22 hrs. Recorded Books. 2019. $97.75. ISBN 9781980036630. digital download.
Gr 7 Up–When 17-year-old Maris gets into trouble once again, she is sent to spend the summer with her father and his new family in the affluent beach town of Cross Cove. Maris tries to conform and get along with her new stepfamily, but she soon finds herself attracted to the dangerous and secretive Edison. As her family gets more involved with Edison’s family, Maris unearths more secrets that could put everyone’s lives in peril. What starts as a simple teen rebellion story evolves into a compelling thriller that will have listeners on the edge of their seats. Soneela Nankani narrates in the first person in a way that immerses the listener into the atmospheric setting. The leisurely pace of the audio and Nankani’s performance allows suspense and the characters to develop fully as the mystery builds. VERDICT Give this to your mystery lovers and fans of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart and Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus.–­Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill, NC

Bausum, Ann. VIRAL: The Fight Against AIDS in America. 4 CDs. 4:24 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $38. ISBN 9781984886101. digital download.
Gr 7 Up–In this companion to Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights, Bausum examines a difficult and painful chapter in the history of the LBGTQA community: the medical mystery of HIV/AIDS that is so intricately bound with the quest for gay rights in America and throughout the world. The middle and high school audience for whom this well-researched story is recommended were not yet born when these events took place. They may think of HIV/AIDS as a chronic disease, but not necessarily the death sentence it was in the 1980s and 90s. Bausum describes the sexual freedom in the gay community after Stonewall is described, as well as the mysterious and horrifying disease first affecting gay men that began to be seen in the early 1980s. Narrator Vikas Adam provides an authoritative voice as he chronicles the stories of activists, sufferers, friends, the medical community, and government entities. He is also able to convey the depth of emotion—joy after Stonewall, confusion during the early days of the epidemic, fear and grief of those affected, and anger at the lack of concern by many government agencies. VERDICT This comprehensive historical introduction to the social, medical, and political aspects of the HIV/AIDS crisis is highly recommended for most middle and high school libraries.–Ann Brownson, formerly with Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL

Berry, Julie. Lovely War. 11 CDs. 12:57 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $70. ISBN 9781984838261. digital download.
Gr 7 Up–Greek gods tell a tale of love and war in this enjoyable historical novel. When Hephaestus traps his wife Aphrodite and her lover Ares in a Manhattan hotel during World War II, he seeks to put them on trial for their indiscretions. In her defense, Aphrodite tells the tale of four young lovers set during World War I. In her tale, readers meet young Brits Hazel, a pianist, and James, who recently entered ranks as a soldier. They fall in love and when James is sent to the Western front, Hazel decides to help the war effort by joining the YMCA at a camp in France. It is here she meets Colette, a young Belgian girl, and Aubrey, an African American soldier who is a member of a well-known American military band. Colette, Hazel, and Aubrey strike up a friendship that revolves around music. Hazel and James spend some time together when James is able to take leave. Then James finds himself thrown into the horrors of war while Aubrey goes missing. The four must navigate the chaotic world of war while struggling to reunite and attempt to find love and happiness in the war’s destructive wake. Aphrodite spins this tale, with additions from Ares, Apollo, and Hades showing that love and war are drawn together. Jayne Entwistle, Allan Corduner, and other narrators voice the gods and humans. Berry’s author’s note discusses the historical figures and events that inspired the story. VERDICT This engaging tale is a recommended purchase where historical fiction is popular.–Megan Huenemann, Norris High School, Firth, NE

Buxbaum, Julie. Hope and Other Punch Lines. 7 CDs. 8:18 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $55. ISBN 9780525595564. digital download.
Gr 7 Up–Abbi has been famous since her first birthday on September 11, 2001, when a photographer captured her wearing a birthday crown and holding a red balloon as she was whisked to safety from her daycare center in the crumbling World Trade Center. Now 16, Abbi wants to escape her celebrity and ignore her troublesome cough by enjoying a summer working at a camp. There she meets fellow counselor Noah, who implores her to help him research the photo in depth. The enchantment of first love is nicely intertwined with the horrors of the aftermath of 9/11 and brought to life by skilled narrators. Jorjeana Marie performs the part of Abbi, and Robbie Daymond reads the part of Noah. Both narrators have youthful voices that engage listeners and lend immediacy to the plot. VERDICT This moving and timely audio is perfect for those who were too young to experience 9/11 and want to know more about it, and concludes with a note read by the author about the subsequent illnesses caused by exposure to the toxins at Ground Zero. –Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill, NC

Carlson, Sarah. All the Walls of Belfast. 6 CDs. 6:44 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2019. $24.99. ISBN 9781721356201.
Gr 9 Up–Before leaving to attend a summer field study program in Puerto Rico, 17-year-old Fiona makes a rash decision to travel to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to meet the father she and her mother left when they fled to America when Fiona was only two. While in Belfast, Fiona learns the extent of her father’s past involvement in the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Then Fiona ends up running into Danny, a sensitive guy with an equally complicated past. When she starts falling for him and then learns that he is a drummer with the Protestant Shankill Unionist drum brigade, the narrative heads down a West Side Story–sort of path and things get difficult and even dangerous. The peace wall that separates Republican and Nationalist Catholic neighborhoods from Loyalist and Unionist Protestant neighborhoods in Belfast plays a big role in the story as it lies in the backyards of Danny’s and Fiona’s fathers’ homes. This story touches on the timely topics of segregation, religion, and prejudice. Narrators Alana Kerr Collins and Gary Furlong take a brilliant, well-told, utterly believable story and make it even better. Told in alternating chapters, listeners get both Fiona’s and Danny’s points of view. The narrator’s accents help to make the Irish language, dialect, and swear words understandable and are a pure delight to listen to. ­VERDICT The audio is highly recommended and would be useful for book clubs in conjunction with the book.–Lisa E. Hubler, Charles F. Brush High School, Lyndhurst, OH

Glasgow, Kathleen. How to Make Friends with the Dark. 10 CDs. 12:43 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $70. ISBN 9780735209169. digital download.
Gr 9 Up–Sixteen-year-old Tiger likes to hang out with her best friend Cake and be lovingly smothered by her overprotective, secretive single mother. But when her mother dies suddenly from a brain aneurysm, Tiger’s life is upended in a single moment. She descends into unrelenting grief as she enters the foster care system. Secrets emerge slowly, including an unknown older half-sister with issues of her own. Jorjeana Marie does a standout job narrating, skillfully drawing listeners into the story and immersing them in the emotional intensity of Tiger’s grief and the bleakness of the foster care system. The isolation Tiger feels despite others’ attempts to help her is heartbreakingly portrayed, as well as the glimmers of hope that weave their way into the story. The audio concludes with a thoughtful note, read by the author, about the “Grand Canyon–sized void” people feel when they lose a loved one. VERDICT This is not a light listen, but it’s perfect for teens who love darkly tragic and poignant audiobooks. –Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill, NC

Hemmings, Kaui Hart. Testimony from Your Perfect Girl. 7 CDs. 7:47 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $55. ISBN 9781984886132. digital download.
Gr 9 Up–Annie Tripp’s seemingly perfect life is thrown into turmoil when her father, a wealthy real estate developer, has to go to court to answer to charges of fraud. Annie and her brother have to live with their aunt and uncle in Breckenridge, CO. She’s forced to leave behind her elite, private high school, ice skating lessons, and designer clothes. While, at first, Annie struggles in her new, austere environment, she soon finds that she relishes having the opportunity to assess her choices and reinvent herself. As she and her brother try to find out more information about their father’s situation, they uncover lies and deceit, along with long-buried family secrets. Teen listeners will appreciate Annie’s struggle to determine her personal identity and what truly brings her happiness. Narrator Amy Landon does well with female voices, especially Annie’s, but she struggles with male voices and they come off as cartoonish. Sex, drug and alcohol use place this one in the high school category. VERDICT A general purchase for libraries with large audio collections. –Lisa E. Hubler, Charles F. Brush High School, Lyndhurst, OH

Herman, Christine Lynn. The Devouring Gray. 8 CDs. 10:02 hrs. Dreamscape Audio. 2019. $29.99. ISBN 9781974931194.
Gr 7 Up–Herman’s debut, set in the fictional small town of Four Paths, NY, centers on descendents of the four founding families of the town, who are responsible for protecting it from the Beast in the Gray. Violet Saunders was brought to her mother’s hometown while struggling with grief over the death of her sister Rosie; Justin Hawthorne is powerless but determined to protect Four Paths; Harper Carlisle is seeking revenge on Justin for the loss of her hand; and Isaac Sullivan is a loyal friend of Justin. The tale focuses on relationships (friends and family), with a dark and gothic atmosphere, many point of view/perspective shifts, and a brutal monster. Unfortunately, Sarah Beth Goer’s narration contains few cues when the POV changes. VERDICT Fans of Stranger Things orRiverdale will enjoy this horror fantasy title. –Denise Garofalo, Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh, NY

Ignotofsky, Rachel. Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played To Win. 3 CDs. 3:26 hrs. HighBridge Audio. 2019. $19.99. ISBN 9781684418244. digital download.
Gr 7 Up–This book highlights the achievements of 50 women who have successfully broken the glass ceiling in the world of sports, including skydiving, basketball, tennis, swimming and diving, snowboarding, motocross, and roller derby. Athletes profiled include Billie Jean King, motocross rider Ashley Fiolek, and Ann Calvello, who was flashy and adventurous in the roller rink. These women are inspiring role models for all ages as many sacrificed and persevered through adverse conditions leading the way for those that follow them. The author narrates with perfect diction as her pride for the athletes shines through. VERDICT The content and narration are excellent, but the print version of the book is illustrated with bits of information decoratively placed around artistic images. These sidebars become lists heard by the listener, which can disrupt the flow of the book. –Karen ­Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI

King, A.S. Dig. 9 CDs. 10:20 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $65. ISBN 9781984838179. digital download.
Gr 9 Up–King is back with another unconventional novel threaded with magical realism. The story focuses on the narratives of five isolated teenagers; it is not until the end that listeners find out how they are related. The “Shoveler” has moved with his mom countless times; friendless in a new place once again, he takes a job painting a house for an older couple. “CanIhelpyou?” works at Arby’s, dealing drugs on the side, and trying to cope with her racist mother. The “Ringmistress” lives with an abusive father and ineffectual mother and tends her flea circus on the side. Malcolm spends every other weekend flying first class to Jamaica with his dying father. The “Freak” flickers from place to place, seeing everything and helping out when she can. Connecting them all are Gottfried and Marla Hemmings, millionaires many times over, but unwilling to help their family in need. Offbeat and thought-provoking, the story line weaves themes of racism and family dysfunction throughout. Four narrators tell the story, adding layers to an already complex plot. Mike Chamberlain reads the part of the “Shoveler” in an understated way, as he struggles to find his way in yet another new home and school. Tonya Cornelisse shines as “CanIhelpyou?” and gives the character personality, relatability, and likability. Kirby Heyborne performs as Malcolm, whose sadness about his dying father and confusion about his life to come are brought beautifully across to the listener. The odd but weirdly happy “Ringmistress” and the confusing and strident at times “Freak” are read by the author. The narration picks up as the pace intensifies and family secrets are uncovered. VERDICT Give this to your King fans and your patient listeners, who will become immersed in the story as it unfolds. –Julie ­Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill, NC

Kuklin, Susan. We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Young Adults. 4 CDs. 4:12 hrs . Brilliance Audio. 2019. $29.99. ISBN 9781721365661.
Gr 7 Up–These nine young people have all lived in the United States for most of their lives, but they are undocumented. They come from a variety of countries and are here for different reasons, and they all have overcome the obstacles of getting to the United States and navigating a system that is not always looking out for their best interests. The nine different narrators in this audiobook give each young person their own voice in the story. The book was originally scheduled to be published in 2017, but with the changes in immigration procedures, it was released later without many of the originally planned pictures in order to protect the subjects’ privacy. VERDICT This eye-opening listen would be a strong addition for a middle school, high school or public library collection. –Elizabeth Kenyon, Merrillville High School, IN

McManus, Karen M. Two Can Keep a Secret. 8 CDs. 10:06 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $50. ISBN 9781984829085. ­digital download.
Gr 9 Up–When 17-year-old twins Ellery and Ezra’s mother goes into rehab, they move across the country to live with their grandmother in Echo Ridge, VT. The night they arrive, they discover the body of the high school biology teacher, who appears to be the victim of a hit and run, and the mysteries multiply from there. Ellery and Ezra quickly become friends with Mia and Malcolm, two outsiders at school who have connections with the murder of a high school girl five years earlier. Ellery, a true crime fan, is determined to uncover all of the town’s secrets. Then Ellery is targeted as the next possible victim. The audio benefits from multiple narrators; Sophie Amoss reads the part of Ellery, while Kirby Heyborne performs the part of Malcolm. Amoss deftly shows Ellery’s insatiable curiosity and inability to let things lie while Heyborne performs Malcolm in an understated style that accurately reflects his overwhelming desire to remain unnoticed. As the pace intensifies, listeners become invested in the many mysteries. VERDICT Give this to your thriller fans, especially those who enjoyed the author’s first book, One of Us is Lying. –Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill, NC

Perkins, Mitali. Forward Me Back to You. 10 CDs. 11:38 hrs. Listening Library. 2019. $70. ISBN 9781984886590. digital download.
Gr 9 Up–Kat King, daughter of a single mom, thought her Brazilian jiujitsu training would protect her, until it didn’t. Ravi Thornton thought the loving, well-off parents who adopted him from an orphanage in Kolkata, India, when he was three were the solid foundation for a satisfying life, until the need to find his birth mother overwhelms him. Fate sends Kat from Oakland, CA, to Boston where she meets Grandma Vee, aunt to her martial arts instructor and survivor of her own traumas. Kat’s shocked that she was not believed by school officials when she views a video of a girl who escaped human trafficking in Kolkata. When she, Ravi, and Grace, another Boston teen, are invited to go to India as part of a mission in support of the rescue effort that produced the video, it’s a siren call for all three. Narrated perfectly by Soneela Nankani, this tale of pain, hope and growing up in small, but important steps, will capture teens who come from different backgrounds, have experienced trauma, or are seeking a sense of cultural identity. VERDICT An excellent story, filled with vibrant and relatable characters that shows how powerful trauma can be, even when others might fail to ­understand, and the many ways healing can come about. –John R. Clark, formerly with ­Hartland Public Library, ME

Yousafzai, Malala. We Are Displaced: My ­Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World. 4 CDs. 4 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2019. $25. ISBN 9781549170119. digital download.
Gr 7 Up–As a displaced person and refugee, Yousafzai provides a knowledgeable introduction to the international refugee and immigration crisis through both her own experience and through the stories of the girls and young women she chronicles in this timely work. Refugees seeking freedom from physical, emotional, and sexual terror, trauma, and danger describe their lives before, during, and after their escapes as they seek a better life for themselves and their families. Descriptions of lives in detention and in refugee camps are of particular interest for those following the crisis on our own Southern border. Another focus of the work is that of the education of girls. Yousafzai reads her own prologue, and two dynamic narrators, Neela Vaswani and Deepti Gupta, perform stories of young women from Myanmar, the Congo, Iraq, Syria, and Colombia. While geared to mature middle and high school level listeners, this is an audiobook that could be listened to and discussed in a guided family or school setting. VERDICT Anyone who wants to learn more about immigration and refugees will benefit from this telling. –Ann Brownson, formerly with ­Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL

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