The 2013 Amazing Audiobooks list, composed of 28 fiction titles and 2 nonfiction titles, features recordings covering a wide range of interests for young adults from high fantasy dragon epics to serial killer-driven thrillers to fictionalized accounts of historical events in verse. The committee also selected a Top Ten list, denoted here by an asterisk.
"After thousands of combined hours of listening and discussion, we're so pleased to share the most outstanding audiobooks from the last two years,” said Chair Gretchen Kolderup. “All of these titles resonated with us emotionally, whether they were hilarious or heartbreaking, and we know they’ll do the same for teen listeners.”
Members of the 2013 Amazing Audiobooks Committee are: Chair Gretchen Kolderup, formerly of the New Canaan (CT) Library, now with the New York Public Library; Catherine Andronik, Brien McMahon High School, Norwalk, CT; Mary Burkey, Olentangy Liberty Middle School, Powell, OH; Randee Bybee, Upland (CA) Public Library; Jennifer Campbell, Notre Dame de Sion High School, North Kansas City, MO; Lynn Carpenter, Birmingham (AL) Public Library; Donna Cook, Central High School, Pollok, TX; Pamela Spencer Holley, Eastern Shore Public Library, Accomac, VA; Karilyn Steward, Calabasas (CA) Library; and administrative assistant Colleen Seisser, Mount Prospect (IL) Public Library.
* Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals, read by Lisa Renee Pitts. Tantor Audio, 2011. 13 hours; 10 discs. 978-1-4526-0494-7. $39.99. 2 MP3 CDs. 978-1-4526-5494-2. $29.99.
In 1957, nine African-American students became the first to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Beals’s memoir details the daily harassment, name-calling, and physical attacks to which she could not respond. Hearing Pitts passionately deliver the epithets hurled at Beals and her eight fellow students heightens the visceral, personal impact of this classic work.
Witches! by Rosalyn Schanzer, read by Jessica Almasy. Recorded Books, 2012. 2 hours, 25 mins; 2 discs. 978-1-4640-4314-7. $25.75.
The context for the Salem Witch Trials, their unfolding, and their consequences are related in this carefully-researched title. Almasy revels in the scandal and outrage propelling the events without trivializing the historical accuracy, clearly offsetting direct quotations and acknowledging primary sources.
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher, read by Kirby Heyborne. Listening Library, 2011. 10 hours, 40 mins; 9 discs. 978-0-307-94229-6. $44.00.
The arrival of formerly homeschooled Sage -- self-aware and unique -- forces eighteen-year-old Logan to question who he is and whom he loves. Heyborne brings to the surface the tension and angst of both teens’ outbursts as Sage reveals that she is transgender.
Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer, read by Nathaniel Parker. Listening Library, 2012. 7 hours, 40 mins; 6 discs. 978-0-3079-9121-8. $37.00.
This story immerses listeners in a world populated with fairies, trolls, and Opal Koboi -- Artemis Fowl's archenemy. Nathaniel Parker's energetic performance conveys the rollicking adventures listeners have come to expect from Artemis Fowl.
Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber, read by Steven Boyer. Recorded Books, 2011. 5 hours; 5 discs. 978-1-4498-6133-9. List Price: $51.75.
Ferris Bueller meets Kill Bill. On prom night, Perry discovers that Gobi, his family’s dishwater-dull Lithuanian exchange student, is actually a beautiful and deadly assassin. Boyer successfully juggles an assortment of accents in this madcap adventure that speeds along as fast as Perry’s father’s Jaguar.
The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg, read by Suzy Jackson. Recorded Books, 2012. 9 hours, 30 mins; 8 discs. 978-1-4640-3351-3. $87.75.
Brie died of a broken heart -- literally. Now in the afterlife, she learns what love and friendship are really about with the help of irreverent Patrick and malevolent Larkin. With humor and song, Jackson takes readers along on Brie’s emotional rollercoaster ride of a journey.
* Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, read by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell. Bolinda, 2012. 10 hours; 9 discs. 978-1-7428-5764-0. $93.95.
The intertwined lives of two young British women, a pilot and a wireless operator, are transformed by World War II when one is lost behind enemy lines. Christie and Gaskell’s masterful use of both voice and pace heightens the nail-biting tension in this haunting narration.
* Crusher by Niall Leonard, read by Daniel Weyman. Listening Library, 2012. 6 hours, 42 mins; 6 discs. 978-0-3853-6841-4. $45.00.
Prime suspect in the murder of his father, Finn Maguire is forced to overcome his own failings as he tumbles along the trail of clues to save himself. Fast-paced and gritty, Weyman’s narration highlights the emotional aspect of Finn’s by-the-seat-of-his-pants investigation.
Curveball: the Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick, read by Luke Daniels. Brilliance Audio, 2011. 5 hours, 8 mins; 5 discs. 978-1-6110-6147-5. $49.97.
When Pete's future as a high school baseball star is shattered by injury, he immerses himself in photography with his grandfather but worries about the man’s emerging Alzheimer’s disease. Daniels accurately captures the pair’s fear and shame in a narration free of sentimentality, laced with humor, and filled with love.
Dancing Carl by Gary Paulsen, read by Nick Podehl. Brilliance Audio, 2012. 2 hours, 21 mins; 2 discs. 978-1-4692-4070-1. $39.97.
The year Marsh and Willy turn twelve, they have a life-changing encounter with troubled war veteran Carl, the unofficial caretaker of the community ice rink. Podehl and Paulsen are a perfect team, revealing characters’ vulnerability and the story’s deeper themes.
* Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney, read by Ramón De Ocampo. Recorded Books, 2011. 2 hours, 15 mins; 2 discs. 978-1-4640-2145-9. $25.75.
What’s worse than being trapped with your family during a blizzard? Awaiting the punishment you know will come when the snow melts. De Ocampo’s portrayal of self-centered, dim-witted, air-quoting Greg makes this recording appeal to readers of all ages.
* The Diviners by Libba Bray, read by January LaVoy. Listening Library, 2012. 18 hours, 15 mins; 15 discs. 978-0-4498-0875-7. $60.00.
In the era of speakeasies and flappers, Evie is thrilled to be shipped off to her Uncle Will’s Museum of Creepy-Crawlies in New York City, where her newfound paranormal powers help her solve a gruesome series of murders. LaVoy manifests a large and varied cast, from showgirls to specters, musicians to maniacs.
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, read by Katherine Kellgren. Brilliance Audio, 2012. 7 hours, 49 mins; 7 discs. 978-1-4692-0292-1. $69.97.
Sunday’s fanciful, story-filled world is changed forever when she meets Grumble, an enchanted frog. But there is more to Grumble than meets the eye, and there is far more to Sunday’s magic than she knows. This fairytale mashup showcases Kellgren’s expressive range and her ability to keep this outlandish tale grounded with solid characterization.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, read by Kate Rudd. Brilliance Audio, 2011. 7 hours, 19 mins; 6 discs. 978-1-4558-6987-9. $59.97.
This recording perfectly captures the mercurial characters of Hazel Grace and Augustus, teens whose chance meeting in a cancer support group surprises them both as they embark on an emotional roller coaster of a journey.
The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens, read by Jim Dale. Listening Library, 2012. 12 hours, 22 mins; 10 discs. 978-0-3078-7982-0. $37.00.
Kate is separated from her siblings by a hundred years, leaving Michael and Emma to find the second Book of Beginnings before she is lost to them forever. Master storyteller Jim Dale returns to this series with his trademark talent of crafting unique voices for many fantastical creatures.
The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston, read by Jessica Almasy. Brilliance Audio, 2011. 5 hours, 36 mins; 5 discs. 978-1-4558-1639-2. $54.97.
Loa struggles to cope with the nightmares and hallucinations of her PTSD, brought on by the deaths of her baby sister and, more recently, her childhood friend. Almasy’s distinctive voicing and phrasing are especially effective at revealing Loa’s personality, bringing to light deeper meanings in the text.
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, read by Ben MacLaine, Hamish R. Johnson, and Chelsea Bruland. Listening Library, 2012. 6 hours, 5 mins; 5 discs. 978-0-3079-6819-7. $34.00.
Lucy is on a mission to find Shadow, the urban graffiti artist to whose work she is drawn. But as the night unfolds, she may find that Shadow is closer than she thinks. Three Australian voices mesh to give this story an authentic sense of character, place, and point of view.
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, read by Charlie Thurston. AudioGo, 2012. 9 hours, 30 mins; 8 discs. 978-1-6111-3187-1. $74.99.
A chain of grisly murders implicates seventeen-year-old Jazz, the son of notorious mass murderer Billy Dent. Transitions from character voices that are chilling to comedic are deftly handled. Thurston delivers a narration that matches the intensity of Lyga's violent, brutal -- and completely mesmerizing -- work.
* Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, read by Gerard Doyle. Listening Library, 2011. 31 hours, 5 mins; 24 discs. 978-0-7393-7250-0. $60.00.
Former farm boy Eragon and his blue dragon Saphira marshall their allies and ready themselves for the final, unavoidable battle to dethrone the evil Galbatorix. Doyle’s artistry and consistency with voices carry the listener through this epic fantasy, and well-chosen musical interludes add dimension to the production.
* The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey, read by Steven Boyer. Recorded Books, 2011. 14 hours, 30 mins; 12 discs. 978-1-4407-3657-5. $108.75.
Apprentice monstrumologist Will Henry follows his master to Africa, searching for a creature that uses human body parts and toxic goo to create nests capable of turning people into monsters. Boyer’s understated, creepy narration heightens the delicious horror of this Gothic story.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, read by Jason Isaacs. Candlewick on Brilliance Audio, 2011. 4 hours, 1 min; 4 audio discs and 1 bonus disc. 978-1-4558-2249-2. $54.97.
Conor, coping with his mother's progressing cancer, is visited at night by a monster who craves the exchange of stories. Isaacs’s monster growls as Conor grieves, and his resonant voice mirrors the mood originally set by the book’s illustrations, which are included on an accompanying bonus disc.
Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama, read by Katherine Kellgren. Macmillan Audio,
2012. 8 hours; 7 discs. 978-1-4272-2217-6. $29.99.
Alternating storylines link Hester to a 300-year-old curse on the women in her family, which began when a mermaid gave up her fins for a man’s love. Kellgren artfully clarifies shifts between past and present. A bonus narrator interview reveals how she researched and created the individualized soundscape for this production.
October Mourning by Leslea Newman, read by Emily Beresford, Luke Daniels, Tom Parks, Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, and Christina Traister. Candlewick on Brilliance, 2012. 1 hour, 20 mins; 2 discs. 978-1-4692-0636-3. $54.97.
A collection of poems tells a fictionalized account of Matthew Shepard's life, his murder, and the enduring effects of the sadistic hate crime against him. Innovative production methods translate the poetic form to audio format, and six narrators perform multiple segments to convey the passion and pain that rippled outward from Matthew’s death.
* Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie, read by Nick Podehl. Candlewick on Brilliance, 2012. 9 hours, 8 mins; 8 discs. 978-1-4692-0637-0. $54.97.
Matt’s controlling father has forbidden him from looking through the personal effects returned to them after his brother’s death in Iraq. But as Matt gains the courage to defy his father, he also uncovers his brother’s hidden life. Podehl’s raw, testosterone-filled narration captures Matt’s journey toward manhood.
See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles, read by Kate Rudd. Candlewick on Brilliance, 2012. 5 hours, 49 mins; 5 discs. 978-1-4558-8958-7. $49.97.
In a close family, twelve-year-old Fern enjoys the antics of her younger brother Charlie, who keeps everyone laughing until the unexpected happens and grief pervades their lives. Rudd effectively conveys Charlie’s little-boy voice, Fern’s guilt, and their two older siblings’ snarkiness and anger.
Son by Lois Lowry, read by Bernadette Dunne. Books on Tape, 2012. 8 hours, 11 mins; 7 discs. 978-0-4490-1448-6. $47.00.
In this companion to The Giver, young Claire is assigned her role as a mother, giving birth to “product” number 36, whom she believes she’ll never see again. Dunne’s exquisite voice portrays the sterility of Claire’s dystopian community and her dawning maternal connection with her son.
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, read by Michal Friedman. Penguin Audio, 2012. 8 hours; 7 discs. 978-1-6117-6136-8. $29.95.
A murder disrupts the lives of everyone in a small North Carolina town, including spunky Mo Lobeau, who wants to get to the bottom of things. Friedman bathes the listener in a rich drawl that imbues this family-friendly story with warmth and a strong sense of place.
* The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf, read by Michael Page, Phil Gigante, Christopher Lane, Laural Merlington, and Angela Dawe. Candlewick on Brilliance, 2011. 10 hours, 16 mins; 9 discs. 978-1-4558-2937-8. $59.97.
Five narrators deliver dramatic performances of poems exploring the Titanic’s sinking through the eyes of characters ranging from a rat to passengers and crew to the iceberg itself. Sound effects, crowd noises, and layered voices build to the inevitable conclusion and illuminate the human aspect of this tragedy.
* Wonder by R.J. Palacio, read by Diana Steele, Nick Podehl, and Kate Rudd. Brilliance, 2011. 8 hours, 12 mins; 7 discs. 978-1-4558-4420-3. $64.97.
Augie, who has a facial anomaly, must navigate mainstream school for the first time, making friends, dealing with bullies, and learning just how much he is needed. Podehl and Rudd share perspectives from Augie’s teen sister and his friends in interspersed chapters. Steele’s strong characterization of Augie evokes his unique physiology as well as his immense heart and spirit.
Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy, read by Ariana Delawari. Scholastic Audiobooks, 2011. 8 hours, 28 mins; 7 discs. 978-0-5454-7282-1. $29.99.
Delwari’s narration transports readers into the world of Zulaikha, an Afghani girl with a cleft palate. This thoughtful production includes culturally appropriate music, a narrator with family and personal connections to Afghanistan, and interviews that explore the inspiration for and creation of this story and recording.