YALSA’s 2021 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults
Members of the 2021 Amazing Audiobooks Blogging Team are: Coordinator Danielle Jones (she/her), Multnomah County Library, Portland, Oregon; Rachel Adams (she/her), King County Library System, Issaquah, Washington; Emily Blaeser (she/her), Meinders Community Library, Pipestone, Minnesota; Jaimie Crawford (she/her), Loudoun County Public Library, Sterling, Virginia; Candace Fox (she/her), Cleveland, Ohio; Annie Jansen (she/her), Penn State Brandywine Vairo Library, Media, Pennsylvania; Gina Kromhout (she/her), Avon Lake Public Library, Avon Lake, Ohio; Kristin Kern (she/her), St. Charles City-County Library, St. Charles, Missouri; Natalie LaRocque (she/her), Palatine Public Library District, Palatine, Illinois; Heather Murfee (she/her), Midlothian Library, Midlothian, Virginia; Cathy Outten (she/her), California State University, Long Beach, California; Allison Suzanne Riendeau (she/her) Sharon Public Library, Sharon, Massachusetts; Beth A. Slade (she/her), Twinsburg Public Library, Twinsburg, Ohio; Kiera O'Shea Vargas (she/her), EPIPHANY, LLC, Nashville, Tennessee; and Tara Williams (she/her), Washington County Public Schools, Abingdon, Virginia.
The 2021 Amazing Audiobooks list consists of 81 titles selected from 149 official nominations, which were posted and discussed in blog posts on The Hub.
*indicates a top ten selection
145th Street: Short Stories by Walter Dean Meyers, narration by Brandon Gill, Almarie Guerra, Johnny Heller, Dominic Hoffman, Sullivan Jones, JaQwan J. Kelly, Adenrele Ojo, Paula Parker, Heather Alicia Simms, Bahni Turpin. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593153758. This 20th anniversary production of stand-alone, yet interconnected stories of Harlem neighborhood proves timeless. A full cast audio adds to tales spanning hilarity, joy, vulnerability, joy, and celebration, as well as a remembrance of the author and many of the lives he has touched.
All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M. Johnson, narration by George M. Johnson. Macmillan Young Listeners. 2020. DD, 9781250247896. Told in three acts, this memoir/manifesto shares the intimate stories of journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist navigating the intersectionality of being Black and queer in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Vulnerable, and sometimes incredibly raw, this book is elevated by Johnson’s very personal narration.
All the Things We Never Knew by Liara Tamani, narration by Preston Butler III and Joniece Abbott-Pratt. HarperAudio. 2020. DD, 9780063005334. When Carli catches the kiss Rex throws out as a part of his free throw routine, she faints. Rex catches her, and it is love at first sight for both. Butler and Abbott-Pratt capture the inner monologues of first love, loss, and family secrets experienced by two intelligent, introspective teens.
All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney, narration by Priya Ayyar. Dreamscape Media, LLC. 2019. DD, 9781974959303. Alli learns to embrace her Muslim faith and stand up for her beliefs when she falls in love with the son of a local conservative radio host. The first-person narration draws the reader into this honest, relatable and unique look at faith and falling in love and finding your identity.
Allies by Alan Gratz, narration by Jamie Cline, Vaneh Assadourian, PJ Ochlan, Matthew Frow, Mar A. Samuel, and Norah Hunter. Scholastic Audio. DD, 9781338567199. Set during D-Day, this tautly-paced story of bravery and resilience is told from multiple perspectives of a German-American immigrant, a French-Algerian girl, a Cree Indian Lance Corporal, an African-American medic, and a local French girl, all involved in the invasion on Omaha Beach. Expert narration makes each character fully dimensional.
Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis, narration by Brittany Pressley. HarperAudio. 2020. DD, 9780062977717. Separated from her friends on a camping trip in the Great Smoky Mountains, Ashley must use her survival skills to stay alive in this untame world.Pressley's narration builds intensity along with the action to keep readers riveted.
Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson, narration by Guy Lockard. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593341223. ZJ struggles to reconcile old memories of his father with the new realities of mood swings and memory loss from head injuries resulting from his professional football career. With universal themes about families, Lockard’s narration is an excellent match for ZJ’s voice and portrays his pain vividly.
Beverly, Right Here: Three Rancheros, Book 3 by Kate DiCamillo, narration by Jorjeana Marie. Listening Library. 2019. LD, 9780593153000. Beverly is determined to be on her own. She runs away after the death of her mother and beloved dog, and finds a community that picks away at her prickly exterior. Marie’s narration captures the community where she lands, as well as the combination of Beverly’s 14-year-old wisdom and innocence.
Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes, narration by Barrie Buckner. Little, Brown Young Readers. 2020. DD, 9781549102202. Darker skinned than his brother, Donte wants to be under the radar at his new prep school. But after constant bullying and getting expelled for something he didn’t do, Donte starts fencing as a means to combat the racism he experiences. Buckner’s narration conveys Donte’s justified anger, vulnerability, and agency.
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, narration by Dean Atta. HarperAudio. 2020. DD, 9780063003934. Growing up biracial in England, Michael tries to balance his masculine and feminine sides as well as his Greek Cypriot and Jamaican descent, never feeling Greek or Black enough. Atta’s personal narration captures a coming of age full of triumphs and tragedies, and defining oneself on his own terms.
The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones, narration by Moira Quirk. Little, Brown Young Readers. 2019. DD, 9781549129889. As her town’s gravedigger, Ryn’s work has become more challenging as the dead aren’t staying dead. Ryn runs across a lost mapmaker, and together they set off on a journey to put the dead to rest permanently. Quirk’s narration adds world building, and her versatility brings distinction to the characters.
The Bridge by Bill Konigsberg, narration by Marin Ireland. Scholastic Audio. 2020. DD, 9781338691771. Aaron and Tillie are strangers when they meet on the bridge, both planning to jump and end it all. Who jumps? Both? Neither? The consequences of their choices spool out into potential futures affecting families, friends, and possible futures. Ireland’s narration gives each character their own voice and adds life.
Burn by Patric Ness, narration by Joniece Abbott-Pratt. HarperAudio. 2020. DD, 9780063018044. In 1950’s rural Washington, Sarah’s father hires a dragon as a last attempt to save their farm. Unbeknown to her she is the coming end of an ancient dragon prophecy, and her assassin is on his way. Joniece Abbott-Pratt’s narration captures the 1950’s cadence and the switching point of views.
Call Down the Hawk: The Dreamer Trilogy, Book 1 by Maggie Stiefvater, narration by Will Patton. Scholastic Audio. 2019. DD, 9781338230147. Ronan Lynch pulls things from his dreams. Jordan Hennessy is also a dreamer, whose dreams are killing her. Carmen Farooq-Lane is hired to find dreamers so that they may be destroyed. Alternating points of view are skillfully narrated by Will Patton to keep the stories distinct and engaging.
*Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, narration by Avi Roque, Macmillan Young Listeners. 2020. DD, 9781250619129. When Yadriel, a trans-Latinx boy from a community of brujx tries to prove his powers as a brujo, he accidentally summons the spirit of Julian, a fellow high school student that doesn’t have any idea how he died. Roque, a Latinx/Trans/Non-Binary narrator brings distinctions to Thomas’ fantastic characters.
Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe, narration by James Fouhey. HarperAudio. 2020. DD, 9780063025622. Henri Haltiwanger excels at his prestigious high school, runs his own successful (though misleading) dog-walking service, and is on track for Columbia University. When his neighbor Corrine blackmails him into teaching her to be more social, unexpected ventures begin. Fouhey’s narration brings Henri to life with a light, happy feel.
*Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo, narration by Melania-Luisa Marte and Elizabeth Acevedo. Quill Tree Books. 2020. DD, 9780063011816. Camino, in the Dominican Republic, and Yahaira, in the U.S., are dealing with the death of a father from the same plane crash. In the wreckage they find both new hope, and new family. Both narrators bring authenticity to this verse novel told in two voices.
Clean Getaway by Nic Stone, narration by Dion Graham. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593155400. Scoob’s grandmother takes him on an impromptu spring break trip in her new Winnebago, retracing memories and the South's segregationist history, while Scoob tries to figure out G’ma’s real motives. Capturing humor and nuance, Graham’s rich, emotive voice moves seamlessly between naive and hopeful Scoob and his older Grandmother.
A Deadly Education: The Scholomance #1 by Naomi Novik, narration by Abidjan Dadia. Random House Audio. 2020. LD, 9780593287422. Galadriel "El" Higgins is one of thousands of students at the Scholomance, a boarding school for kids with magical abilities. Dadia’s narration as the razor-sharp El brings the frustrations of a girl attempting to slay dangerous monsters and prove her powers to the school roaring to life.
Dear Justyce by Nic Stone, narration by Dion Graham. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593216910. Vernell LaQuan and Justyce (of Stone’s Dear Martin) grew up together, but now Justyce is at Yale while Quan faces a murder charge. When Quan admits he is innocent, Justyce works to free his friend. Graham’s passionate narration complements this poignant tale of Black youth in America’s justice system.
Don't Ask Me Where I'm From by Jennifer De Leon, narration by Inés del Castillo. Simon & Schuster Audio. 2020. DD, 9781797100647. Liliana, a first generation American Latinx, participates in an exchange program to attend a suburban, primarily white, school. Inés del Castillo’s narration captures Liliana’s struggle to both fit in with her new classmates and stand up for what she believes in when blatant racism comes to surface at school.
Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds, narration by A.J. Beckles and Preston Butler III. HarperAudio. 2020. DD, 9780063033689. When Jamal's estranged best friend Q dies but is temporarily resurrected through a secretive, experimental procedure, Jamal wants to use this second chance to reconnect. Beckles employs a range of emotions to bring Jamal to life, while Butler is impactful in the few scenes from Q’s point of view.
The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune, narration by Michael Lesley. Macmillan Young Listeners. 2020. DD, 9781250755742. Nick is obsessed with the Extraordinaries and writes fanfiction about his crush, ShadowStar. Nick deals with his annoying ex, growing feelings for his best friend Seth, and his ADHD. Lesley’s voice perfectly captures Nick’s enthusiastic and impulsive personality and distinct character voices. Added sound effects create an immersive experience.
Fable by Adrienne Young, narration by Emma Lysy. Macmillan Young Listeners. 2020. DD, 9781250772152. Abandoned by her father after a shipwreck killed her mother, Fable has spent years trying to work her way back to her father’s side. She enlists the help of a young trader, West, to help her make her way. Lysy’s narration immediately pulls in listeners, showcasing Fable’s vulnerability and grit.
Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, narration by Bahni Turpin. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593208618. Della and her older sister Suki learn to find their own voices as they struggle with a difficult past full of abuse and neglect. Turpin’s narration draws readers in and gives Della and Suki’s painful story a sense of hope.
Flyy Girls by Ashley Woodfolk. narration by Joniece Abbott-Pratt and Imani Parks. Listening Library.
- Lux: The New Girl (Flyy Girls #1). Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593288665.
- Micah: The Good Girl (Flyy Girls #2). Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593288689.
Lux Lawson, hoping for a fresh start at her new school, is accepted into the Flyy Girls and Flyy girl Micah Dupree, deals with grief, anxiety, living up to others expectations, and making choices of her own. Abbott-Pratt’s captures Lux’s edge and vulnerability and Parks brings out Micah’s sweetness.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks, narration by Bahni Turpin. HarperAudio. 2020. DD, 9780062969279. When Zoe receives a letter from her dad who has been in prison her entire life, claiming he is innocent, she tries to find her father’s alibi witness. She hides the relationship from her mother and spends her summer working at a bakery. Turpin delivers emotion-filled narration for Zoe’s story.
Furious Thing by Jenny Downham, narration by Jenny Downham. Scholastic Audio. 2020. DD, 9781338605259. Lex has always had a hard time managing her anger, but when her mother gets engaged to a controlling and manipulative man she finds her frustrations and ability to stand up for herself might be her greatest gift. Downham expertly conveys the emotion of this treatise about gaslighting.
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams, narration by Alicia D. Williams. Simon & Schuster Audio. 2020. LD, 9781508298076. Genesis has a list of things she hates about herself, not the least of which is her dark skin. After starting over at a new school, she makes friends and learns to accept herself. The author’s voice gives a powerful and moving narration of the story.
*A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, Book 1 by Holly Jackson, narration by Bailey Carr, Melissa Calin, Michael Crouch, Gopal Divan, Robert Fass, Kevin R. Free, Sean Patrick Hopkins, Carol Monda, Patricia Santomasso, Shezi Sardar and Amanda Thickpenny. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593155264. The story of Andie Bell's murder is well known in Fairview. Andie was murdered by her boyfriend, who then killed himself. Five years later, high school senior Pip decides to reinvestigate the murder. The full cast narration with sound effects draws the listener in as Pip uncovers some shocking secrets.
Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson, narration by Joniece Abbot-Pratt. HarperAudio. 2020. DD, 9780063033665. Enchanted Jones dreams of stardom begin to come true after being noticed at an audition by Korey Fields, a hip hop superstar. But dreams become nightmares as Korey slowly begins to take control of Enchanted’s career and personal life. Abbot- Pratt’s narration convincingly conveys the worsening of Enchanted’s situation .
The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White, narration by Elizabeth Knowelden. Listening Library. 2019. LD, 9780593104835. Princess Guinevere travels to Camelot to marry King Arthur. Camelot is threatened by magic, and Merlin, the great wizard, provides a solution… send in Guinevere to protect Arthur and Camelot. There is one catch... Guinevere is a changeling. An air of mystery and etherealness surrounds Elizabeth Knowelden’s narration.
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall, narration by Mikki Kendall. Books on Tape. 2020. LD, 9780593166116. A collection of essays that argues that the modern feminist movement has forgotten about many women including those of color. The essays look at how race, class and sexual orientation affect feminism and the oppression of other women. Kendall’s personal narration is direct about the history of racism in feminism.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, narration by Daniel Henning. Macmillan Audio. 2020. DD, 9781250264299. Serious about his job overseeing magical children’s orphanages, Linus gets noticed by Extremely Upper Management, and given a job at an unusual house with particularly special kids. The children and their enigmatic master show him there is more to life than rules. Henning masterfully captures the cast of eclectic characters.
How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi, narration by Vikas Adam, Ali Afkhami, Nikki Massoud and Nazanin Nour. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593288399. Blackmailed by a classmate threatening to out him to his Muslim family, Iranian-American Amir flees to Rome and finds community and freedom to be authentic. A full cast narrates as Amir and his family each tell their side of the story as they are detained by Customs and Border Protection.
I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick, narration by Dan Bittner, Inés del Castillo, Jonathan Davis, Gibson Frazier, Madeleine Maby, Soneela Nankani, Jackie Sanders, Candace Thaxton, Jesse Vilinsky, Jenni Barber, Jayme Mattler. Simon & Schuster Audio. 2020. DD, 9781797114620. Anna's summer job brings her to a place she’s never been, but everyone there recognizes her. In a bizarre sequence of events, she is arrested for the murder of a girl who looks like her. The full cast narration sounds like a true crime podcast creating a twisty psychological thriller.
I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee, narration by Greta Jung. HarperAudio. 2020. DD, 9780062936929. Constantly facing microaggressions for being plus-size, bisexual Korean-American Skye Shin enters a K-Pop competition in both the dancing and singing categories. Bringing the house down, she catches the eye of Instagram celebrity Henry Cho, and sparks seem to fly. Jung captures Skye’s bubbly personality in this delightful rom-com.
Jackpot by Nic Stone, narration by Nic Stone. Listening Library. 2019. LD, 9780593104743. Rico, cashier at the Gas and Go, struggles to make ends meet. After selling a jackpot winning lottery ticket, she knows that her luck will change if she can find the winner, who hasn’t claimed the prize. Nic Stone’s narration is riveting, providing each character with a distinct voice.
Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights by Karen Blumenthal, narration by Maggi-Meg Reed. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593207260. A historical look at the history, court cases and circumstances that lead to the Supreme Court decision of Roe vs Wade. Blumenthal also acknowledges the disparities for women of color and lower socio-economic backgrounds. Reed’s charismatic voice adds suspenseful buildup to the well-known case and character to individual events.
*Kent State by Deborah Wiles, narration by Christopher Gebauer, Lauren Ezzo, Christina DeLaine, Johnny Heller, Roger Wayne, Korey Jackson, and David de Vries. Scholastic Audio. 2020. DD, 9781338636352. Told in many voices and perspectives, this examination of May 4, 1970, when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on Kent State’s campus, killing four and injuring nine students. Wiles free verse and the use of different narrators pulls listeners in to critically think about the event.
King of Crows by Libba Bray, narration by January LaVoy. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780385361033. In the final installment of the Diviners series, Bray pits the crew with other-worldly powers against the King of Crows. As prejudice against the Diviners grows, they are forced to flee in groups while attempting to reunite in Bountiful, Nebraska. LaVoy continues to provide the series with dynamic, captivating narration.
The Left-Handed Booksellers Of London by Garth Nix, narration by Marisa Calin. Listening Library. 2020. 9780593171882. In 1983 alternative London, Susan Arkshaw is searching for her father. Going on the only clue she has, she stumbles into a strange world filled with magic. Fortunately, Merlin, a dashing young man, appears offering the help she needs. The narrator’s crisp British accent adds to the setting and atmosphere.
*Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, narration by Joniece Abbott-Pratt. Simon & Schuster Audio. 2020. DD, 9781797113463. Trying to put grief from her mother’s death behind her, Bree Matthews enrolls in college but witnesses a demon attack that leads her to the Legendborn the demon hunting descendents of King Arthur. Abbot-Pratt’s skillful narration is masterful in this fast-paced, action-filled, tale.
Lifting as We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box by Evette Dionne, narration by Karen Chilton. Recorded Books. 2020. DD, 9781980096030. Dionne traces the right to vote from the earliest abolition movement through the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and up to the challenges facing voters present day with particular focus on Black women’s contributions. The narration is engaging and compelling, even though the subject matter can be dense at times.
Light It Up by Kekla Magoon, narration by Landon Woodson, Karen Chilton, Cherise Booth, Eevin Hartsough, Christopher Carley, Peter Jay Fernandez, T.Ryder Smith, Julian Thomas, Kevin R.Free and Korey Jackson. Recorded Books. 2019. DD, 9781980044154. Thirteen-year-old Shae Tatum, hurrying home with earphones in, is murdered by a police officer in a case of mistaken identity. Told from multiple perspectives full of righteous anger, sorrow, and frustration from a community put once again in turmoil by senseless acts. Multiple narrators bring light to each character’s life.
Lobizona: Wolves of No World, Book 1 by Romina Garber, narration by Sol Madariaga. Macmillan Young Listeners. 2020. DD, 9781250754301. Manu is forced into exile after her mother is detained by ICE. She stumbles upon a magical school, believing she has found safety, but danger awaits at every turn and she discovers she is “illegal” in both worlds. Madariaga’s Argentinian accent adds to the magic of this beautifully crafted world.
The Locked Tomb. By Tamsyn Muir, narration by Moira Quirk. Recorded Books.
- Gideon the Ninth. Recorded Books. 2019. DD, 9781980004899.
- Harrow the Ninth. Recorded Books. 2020. DD, 9781980004936.
Gideon the Ninth wants nothing more than to escape her indentured servitude. Her escape is thwarted and she is forced to use her swords-woman skills as the warrior for the Ninth house’s necromancer and heir, Harrowhawk. Muir’s snarky and hilarious tone is elevated by Quirk’s narration in this epic space-opera.
Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds, narration by Jason Reynolds, Heather Alicia Simms, Chris Chalk, Bahni Turpin, Adrenle Ojo, Kevin R.Free, J.D. Jackson, Guy Lockard, January LeVoy and David Sazdin. Simon and Schuster Audio. 2019. DD, 9781508246206. Ten stories, ten blocks, ten characters, ten narrators. Each personally resonant story follows the events of characters leaving school, sometimes interconnecting or overlapping with each other, but all missing a school bus falling from the sky. An all-star cast conveys the ups and downs of being a teen.
Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed, narration by Soneela Nankani and Leila Buck. Recorded Books. 2020. DD, 9781980080015. Khayyam needs a Parisian getaway after possibly ruining her future. Working with the great-grandson of Alexandre Dumas, Khayyam unravels a mystery linked to her college dreams. Alternating perspectives between Khayyam and the protagonist of Khayyam’s paper, the narration sweeps the listeners into a dazzling mix of historical and modern Paris.
Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles, narration by Korey Jackson. Quill Tree Books. 2020. DD, 9780062974532. Del has had a crush on Kiera since kindergarten. When he finds out that she’s available, he jumps to join a church program she’s in. Then he finds out what he has actually signed up for… a Purity Pledge. Korey Jackson narrates Del’s subsequent growth with humor and heart.
The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border by Juan Pablo Villalobos, narration by Tim Andres Pabon and Adriana Sananes. Dreamscape Media, LLC. 2019. DD, 9781974976294. Narrators Pabon and Sananes bring vulnerability to these true accounts of eleven Central American teens harrowing journeys to escape violence and poverty to find refuge in the United States, only to find new and often demeaning hardships in the refugee process. Heartbreaking and hopeful. Infuriating and resilient.
Parachutes by Kelly Yang, narration by Cassie Simone and Karissa Vacker. HarperAudio. 2020. DD, 9780063013544. When Claire’s parents move her from Shangai to California, she boards with Dani De La Cruz, an academic star earning her way into Yale while her privileged classmates pay their way in. Dual narrators capture both voices as the author explores the many sides of entitlement and rape culture.
A Peculiar Peril: The Misadventures of Jonathan Lambshead by Jeff VanderMeer, narration by Raphael Corkhill. Macmillan Young Listeners. 2020. DD, 9781250211835. After inheriting his grandfather’s house full of oddities, Jonathan Lambshead discovers an alt-Earth called Aurora filled with talking vegetables, secret societies, demons and an evil threatening to destroy the world. Corkhill’s masterful narration brings this bizarre and fantastical world, and all its unique inhabitants, fully alive.
Pocket Change Collective by Alok Vaid-Menon, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Adam Eli and Kimberly Drew, narration by the authors.
- Beyond the Gender Binary. Listening Library. 2020. LD,9780593209059.
- Imaginary Borders. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593208762.
- The New Queer Conscience. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593208885.
- This Is What I Know About Art. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593209011.
Candid and direct, these intersectional stories explore what it means to be nonbinary; climate change as a human rights issue; how the queer community can lead to a stronger global consciousness; and how art and change are interlinked. Each author's narration makes the subject matter personal and accessible to listeners.
* Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko, narration by Joniece Abbott-Pratt. Blackstone Publishing. 2020. DD, 9781094149226. Sent to Oluwan by her mother to join Crown Prince Dayo’s council. If chosen, Tarisai will bond eternally with them through the mystical Ray. As she builds new relationships, Tarisai fights against her mother’s dark wish: murder the prince. Joniece Abbott-Pratt gives voice to varying accents, cultures, and musical instruments.
Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold, narration by January LaVoy. HarperAudio. 2020. DD, 9780062974884. Bisou was living a quiet life with her grandmother until a walk home took a dark turn and she’s attacked by a boy who turned into a wolf. LaVoy’s second person narration conveys the disturbing, violent intensity of this retelling of Red Riding Hood where girls fight back.
The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming, narration by Kirsten Potter. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593155240. From his early obsession with aviation to his later interests in eugenics and white Nationalism, this revealing biography follows the complicated life of Charles Lindbergh from his rise as an pilot to his fall as a Nazi sympathizer. Potter’s narration captures the riveting and thought provoking story.
Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall, narration by Jesse Vilinsky, Robbie Daymond, and Rob Shapiro. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593106068.The Blair Witch Project meets Sadie in this dark, unsettling tale. Sara is determined to find her missing sister and believes her disappearance is linked to the town’s legend of a mysterious road where a girl named Lucy Gallows vanished years ago. Multiple cast members narrate this chilling faux-documentary.
Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza, Abby Sher, narration by Paola Mendoza. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593341018. In 2032, U.S. citizens have chips tracking their movements. Undocumented, Vali’s family relies on counterfeit chips. When her mother’s chip malfunctions and Deportation Forces raid their home, she and her brother attempt to make it to the sanctuary of California. Read by the author who makes the stakes visceral.
Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott, narration by Lauren Irwin. Recorded Books. 2020. DD, 9781980061885. Forty-nine poems that create a chorus of voices from the last two centuries. The author was inspired by #SayHerName campaign which highlights social justice issues centered around the courage of Black women and girls. The narration provides strong emotions needed to produce such compelling work.
The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller, narration by Caitlin Davies. Macmillan Young Listeners. 2020. DD, 9781250249098. Alessandra has a devious plot - woo the Shadow King, kill him and take the kingdom for her own. Others are also after him, but what really throws things awry is her growing feelings for her intended target. Caitlin Davies gives a haughty villainess humanity and endears herself to the reader.
Shuri: A Black Panther Novel by Nic Stone, narration by Anika Noni Rose. Scholastic Audio. 2020. DD, 9781338637564. Shuri is the princess of Wakanda and discovers powers to help her brother, Black Panther. The Heart Shaped Herb used to help with the powers is needed to save the future of Wakanda. Anika Noni Rose provides energy to the text that is beyond imaginable.
Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In by Phuc Tran, narration by Phuc Tran. Macmillan Audio. 2020. DD, 9781250261236. Narrator and author Phuc Tran shares his memoir of his childhood as refugee to high school misfit. It chronicles his life from Vietnam in 1975 to Carlisle, PA. His personality and passion is captured through narration of this memoir.
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow, narration by Andrea Laing and Jennifer Haralson. Macmillan Young Listeners. 2020. DD, 9781250755018. Best friends Effie and Tavia have dangerous secrets; Effie is haunted by a childhood tragedy, and Tavia is a siren. When Tavia reveals her powers during a traffic stop, the girls’ bond will be tested. Lang and Haralson deliver emotional narration that brings the characters in this #BlackGirlMagic tale alive.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown, narration by Jordan Cobb and A.J. Beckles. HarperAudio. 2020. DD, 9780063004436. The deal Malik makes to save his sister sets him on a path to kill the crown princess, who is hoping to resurrect her mother with the heart of a king. Cobb and Beckles breathe life into their characters, imbuing them with distinct voices and personalities.
*The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep: Voices from the Donner Party by Allan Wolf, narration by Bahni Turpin, Whitney Dykhouse, Teri Schnaubelt, Tim Gerard Reynolds, Lauren Ezzo, Eric G. Dove, Ramón de Ocampo, and Shaun Taylor-Corbett. Candlewick on Brilliance Audio. 2020. CD, 9781713547969. Arrogance and need drove the Donner party to attempt a shortcut to California. Stranded on the high Sierra mountains in one of the worst winters ever, they make unthinkable choices to survive. Narrated by many voices in poems, prayers, and essays, this is a story of survival made stark.
*Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-Winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, narration by Jason Reynolds and introduction by Ibram X. Kendi. Little, Brown Young Readers. 2020. DD, 9781549184253. This transformative read is packed with relevant information about the development of racism and the construct of race as a weapon to gain and keep power throughout American history. Reynolds reads with urgency, but his familiar tone engages the listener and feels like a conversation with a close friend.
Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith, narration by Theo Germaine and Phoebe Strole. HarperAudio. 2020. DD, 9780063012479. Starting a new school, Pony is keeping his transgender status secret, tired of the harassment at this old school. Despite the odds, he catches the eye of Georgia, as their relationship is building, Pony struggles with fear of being outed. Germaine’s trans #ownvoice is perfect for Pony’s character.
The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth by Selina Alko, Tracey Baptiste, Derrick Barnes, Natacha Bustos, Cozbi A. Cabrera, Raúl Colón, Adam Gidwitz, Nikki Grimes, Rudy Gutierrez, April Harrison, Wade Hudson, Gordon C. James, Minh Lê, E. B. Lewis, Grace Lin, Torrey Maldonado, Meg Medina, Christopher Myers, Daniel Nayeri, Zeke Peña, Peter H. Reynolds, Erin K. Robinson, Traci Sorell, Shadra Strickland, Don Tate, MaryBeth Timothy, Duncan Tonatiuh, Renée Watson, Valerie Wilson Wesley, and Sharon Dennis Wyeth, narration by J Fajer Al-Kaisi, Feodor Chin, Gisela Chípe, Michael Crouch, Janina Edwards, James Fouhey, Renata Friedman, Catherine Ho, Nicole Lewis, Omar Leyva, Guy Lockard, Jesus E. Martinez and Lisa Renee Pitts. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593293010. Poems, essays, lists, and letters share thought-provoking conversations about race, identity, and self-esteem. This collection affirms listeners while serving as a starting point for dissecting structural racism and finding ways to be antiracist and more inclusive. Entries are well-matched with narrators, giving each piece a greater sense of authenticity.
They Went Left by Monica Hesse, narration by Caitlin Davies. Little, Brown Young Readers. 2020. DD, 9781549101526. After her liberation from a concentration camp, Zofia is determined to find her brother. This is a heartbreaking exploration of her family’s forced internment and murders, and the trauma further endured by those that survived the Holocaust. Davies’ narration tenderly captures the pain and suffering as well as the hope.
This is My America by Kim Johnson, narration by Bahni Turpin. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593207949. Tracy Beaumont has spent years writing letters to Innocence X asking for legal help for her wrongly incarcerated father. Shortly before her father’s scheduled execution, Tracy's brother Jamal is accused of murdering a white classmate. Turpin masterfully captures Tracy's voice as she unravels multiple mysteries.
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman, narration by Padma Venkatraman. Listening Library. 2019. LD, 9780593153499. Veda, a classical Bharatanatyam dancer, loses her dance academy spot after an accident leads to the amputation of one leg. Finding a new teacher, she relearns her body’s movements and connects more fully to the dances’ meanings. Venkatraman practically sings the words with lovely soft inflection, carrying the story’s emotions.
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia narration by Amir Abdullah. Listening Library. 2019. LD, 9780593149584. Tristan, sent to his grandparents’ house to grieve for his friend, discovers a realm of African-American and West African gods and folk heroes, where he must fight to save what he loves. Abdullah’s narration brings distinction to the array of characters Tristan meets in his fight for freedom.
Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour, narration by Jorjeana Marie. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593288214. Aging out of foster care, Mila takes an internship on a remote California farm that supports youth in the foster care system. She finds the farm haunted, and is forced to face ghosts from her own past. Marie’s narrations add to the atmospheric tone as Mila works through the fog.
*We Are Not Free by Traci Chee, narration by Scott Keiji Takeda, Dan Woren, Ryan Potter, Ali Fumiko, Sophie Oda, Andrew Kishino, Christopher Naoki Lee, Grace Rolek, Erika Aishii, Brittany Ishibashi, Kurt Sanchez Kanazawa and Terry Kitagawa. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2020. DD, 9780358343561. Fourteen Japanese-American teens from San Francisco sent to internment camps during World War II have similar beginnings, but many different outcomes as they make choices and too many choices are made for them. Narration by a cast of voices brings distinction to the fourteen characters’ often heart-wrenching stories of disenfranchisement.
We Had to Be Brave: Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport by Deborah Hopkinson, narration by Lauren Irwin. Scholastic Audio. 2020. DD, 9781338605327. Chronicles survivor stories of the Kindertransport Program which saved 10,000 Jewish children from Germany during WWII. Irwins narration brings such stories alive with great integration of Hopkinson’s stories.
*When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, narration by Full Cast. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593162590. Omar and his brother Hassan have grown up in a refugee camp in Kenya. When Omar decides to attend school the consequences of that choice change their lives forever. This graphic novel’s images are vividly brought to life through a full cast of captivating narrators and realistic sound effects.
When They Call You a Terrorist (Young Adult Edition): A Story of Black Lives Matter and the Power to Change the World by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, asha bandele and Benee Knauer, narration by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Angela Davis. Macmillan Young Listeners. 2020. DD, 9781250772077. Khan-Cullors, one of the founders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement describes her experiences witnessing systemic racism and police brutality. This YA edition uses questions in each chapter as a call to action for listeners. The author’s narration makes this intimate and immediate.
When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk, narration by Imani Parks. Listening Library. 2020. LD, 9780593162460. After the friendship between Layla and Cleo ended, Cleo wants to erase every memory. As she journeys through new challenges, she reflects on how to move forward. The novel encourages one to be open to love and the narration captures such.
Where We Go from Here by Lucas Rocha, translated by Larissa Helena, narration by Christian Barillas, Anthony Lee Medina, and Luis Selgas. Scholastic Audio. 2020. DD, 9781338637762. Ian and Henrique are both HIV-positive, and Victor is a friend to each. This Brazilian import intertwines their three lives each grappling with HIV in their own ways. Told in changing point-of-views, each with its own narrator that gives distinction and sympathy as each finds hope and acceptance.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, narration by Alaska Jackson. Scholastic Audio. 2020. DD, 9781338637618. Liz Lightly is anxious to leave her small, mostly white town to finally fit in with others that are like her. She runs for prom queen in hopes of winning a scholarship. This emotional piece has many moments and is captured by the narrator Alaska Jackson.