At birth, Arnold “Junior” Spirit survives brain surgery but he wonders if he will survive the Spokane Indian reservation, where he lives. The teasing about his lisp and stuttering is worse than the poverty and alcoholism that surround him. Rather than risk intellectual death, he transfers to a white school, where he and the school mascot are the only two Indians. The author’s... Read More
Two talented narrators portray the alternate realities of two teenagers involved in a complex situation. Rashad, an artistic African-American, is savagely beaten by a policeman. Hospitalized, with internal bleeding, he wants only to be left alone. Narrator Guy Lockard shifts briskly between Rashad’s tormented thoughts and the intrusions of the well-meaning people who surround... Read More
When American-born Fabiola Toussaint's Haitian mother is taken by U.S. immigration officers, the teenager is left on her own to make a new life with her aunt and cousins in Detroit. Narrator Robin Miles glides silkily through Haitian Creole, Detroit street talk, and standard American English, infusing the dialogue with authentic-sounding accents and age-appropriate sass and... Read More
After hearing a call for people to keep notes or diaries about their wartime experiences, Anne Frank, age 13, decided to heed the request. Her diary, kept over a two-year period, details WWII and the Nazis from a young person's perspective. Selma Blair is the perfect narrator—her manner and delivery make Anne a girl for all time. Her sunny voice has a modern sound as it... Read More
A good performer makes you feel like you're privy to something memorable--a great one beckons you into his world and welcomes you as a necessary part of the work's success. Ta-Nehisi Coates's delivery of his own book is so memorable because the material is charged with emotion and a tone of self-disclosure. There's also a highly personal sense of connection between himself and... Read More
Imagine an inner city high school English classroom. Eighteen sullen teenagers wonder what school can give them. One student decides a poem, not an essay, is the way to share his insights about the Harlem Renaissance. A wise teacher grabs the teachable moment, instituting “open mike poetry slam Fridays” once a month, and a roomful of at-risk students gets excited about school.... Read More
Jacqueline Woodson’s linked poems weave scenes of political change while growing up amid the Civil Rights movement and scenes of personal upheaval upon moving from her grandparents’ peaceful South Carolina home to Brooklyn. Her voice is wistful and dreamy as she savors rich sensory memories like crickets, “who seem to know their song is our lullaby,” and sitting beside her... Read More
Narrator Dion Graham conveys Justyce McAllister's depth of character and inner conflict. The African-American honor student's life is changed when he is the victim of racial profiling, police brutality, and wrongful arrest. Graham at first registers Justyce's confusion and shock. With equal believability, Graham depicts Justyce's anger and trauma at experiencing racism at his... Read More
This riveting memoir recounts the author’s childhood in a fundamentalist and isolationist family and how she broke out of those narrow confines to go to college and graduate school. Narrator Julia Whelan’s performance is outstanding. She expresses author Tara Westover’s naïve trust in her father’s conviction that the world will end at Y2K; incredulity at the constant freak... Read More
It's a testament to John Green's writing and Kate Rudd's narration that, in a book about teenagers with cancer, there are still plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Green's teens are precocious and clever, and Rudd sells it, delivering every "or whatever" with perfect teenage inflection and fully inhabiting protagonist Hazel as she navigates the world with lungs ravaged by cancer.... Read More
Narrator Sunny Lu lives up to her first name in portraying Mia Tang. Lu captures the fifth grader's qualities of cheer, ingenuity, and resilience. Mia's parents, who are Chinese immigrants, work 24/7 to scrape together a living in 1990s Anaheim, California. When they find a motel to manage, plucky Mia enthusiastically takes responsibility for the front desk. Lu fills her... Read More
Everyone else thinks she's a boy, but 10-year-old George knows she's a girl. When her fourth-grade class puts on a play of CHARLOTTE'S WEB, what George wants more than anything is to play Charlotte. Narrator Jamie Clayton's voice is distinctive, though not necessarily young, but she infuses her delivery with a childlike enthusiasm that fits this middle-grade story. The fact... Read More
In a stirring narration, Miles Harvey brings to life an American story that is chillingly familiar. When 12-year-old Jerome is killed by a police officer, he becomes a "ghost boy" alongside Emmett Till and other boys killed due to racial injustice. Jerome's perspective shifts between being dead and alive, though in both states he's a careful observer of life and the living.... Read More
This iteration of Fitzgerald’s classic tale of the Jazz Age, and the decadence that accompanied it, shines as a result of Robertson Dean’s superb performance. Dean, whose well-paced baritone meshes flawlessly with the book’s dialogue, evokes images of classic newscasters, who could relate any story or event as though they were anonymous interlopers. At its simplest, GATSBY is a... Read More
Starr is from a gang-ridden neighborhood but attends a private, mostly white, school. Differences between these worlds widen when Starr is the sole witness of the murder of her childhood friend by a white policeman. Bahni Turpin’s narration of this scene is poignant and horrific as unarmed Kahlil questions the officer’s stopping him and the officer becomes aggressive and shoots... Read More
A full cast of more than 40 performers brings this powerful graphic novel memoir vividly to life. When he was 3, Jarrett’s grandparents removed him from his heroin-addicted mother’s custody and raised him in their noisy, loving home, encouraging his artistic talent. With music, sound effects, and affecting performances, listeners feel like they are at the dinner table with him... Read More
The lives of three teenagers converge in a psychiatric hospital after they each attempt suicide. What's amazing is how the three narrators manage to tease out all the emotions from these two boys and one girl. Hopkins's gritty novels are written in free verse, which can act as a buffer to powerful material in print. This audio production is much more immediate. Readers Laura... Read More
This audiobook is a tour de force. The talented Joe Morton gives a virtuoso narration. Morton inhabits the novel's unnamed narrator and draws the listener into his remarkable world from the first to the last sentence. His exceptional portrayals of the wide cast of characters, ranging from a poor Southern black farmer to Harlem hipsters, white tycoons, and black matriarchs make... Read More
Narrator Rachel Jacobs's youthful voice is perfectly matched to Stead's story about a tween girl who is learning to deal with her emotions. Twelve-year-old Bea's life is about to change, and she is excited. Her father is getting remarried, and his fiancé's daughter, Sonia, will soon be Bea's new sister. Jacobs communicates Bea's infectious enthusiasm over the upcoming wedding... Read More
When she returns from boarding school to spend the summer with her family in Los Angeles, 16-year-old Suzette is struggling with defining her sexuality, and with reconnecting with her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Narrator Alisha Wainwright pours emotion into her performance. Taking her cues from the text, she sighs and laughs, her voice... Read More
A plane crashes on an uninhabited tropical island during wartime. A group of schoolboys--the sole survivors--form their own society, an experiment that quickly descends into chaos and death in Golding’s classic allegory. Listening Library recently rereleased this historic 1976 recording, and the timing could not be more apt. As CNN keeps viewers on edge with the latest military... Read More
What if you were 16 years old, on trial for felony murder, and your degree of guilt had become confused within your own mind? How would you discover the truth? Monster, winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, is written as the screenplay that prisoner Steve Harmon creates during his incarceration and trial, in an attempt to... Read More
With his regal delivery and majestic sense of pacing, Dan Stevens is the ideal narrator for Homer’s epic tale. The challenges that Odysseus encounters on his return home from war are as riveting as always—dangers and temptations and obstacles rear up without respite as his family awaits word of his safety. Stevens leaps into the text with apparent relish, enunciating... Read More
Gary Sinise’s reading of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is nothing short of magnificent. Moving effortlessly from an eloquent, understated narrative voice to each character’s quite particular presence, Sinise demonstrates a true command of the medium. At times, Sinise is so convincing that one is hard-pressed to believe that a single reader could be responsible for so many... Read More
Narrator Bahni Turpin becomes The Neighborhood through the eyes of Bri, a 16-year-old hip-hop artist who raps to express how she feels. Turpin portrays the essence of this quick-thinking wordsmith who gets her first break by performing at the infamous Ring, where the best-of- the-best rap battles unfold. The spunk in Turpin’s voice brings this roller-coaster story to life. She... Read More
Rafe, who’s been out since he was 14, escapes labeling by leaving Colorado for a private boy’s school in New England. From the first, Pete Cross’s narration describes the high spirits of Rafe and his family. His loving mother is overly involved and well intentioned. His father is jokey as he records this big event. Rafe teases his parents affably as he prepares for his great... Read More
The author's passion and pacing unite in her rhythmic reading of linked free-verse poems telling the story of Xiomara Barista. The author, a performance poet, and her heroine possess a gift for arranging words, sequencing sounds, and enriching both with emotions. Xiomara (X) is a first-generation Dominican-American teen who has "a little too much body for a young girl." She has... Read More
As narrator of this offbeat, futuristic adventure, Wil Wheaton must evoke a teen's naïveté and cynicism about real life and incorporate this veteran gaming geek's expertise of ‘80s culture. With nods to Willy Wonka, William Gibson, and Neal Stephenson, a cross-genre plot involves gaming jousts as the hero attempts to win top score on his quest to inherit a dead billionaire's... Read More
Spoiler alert: Young listeners need to know that Red is a blue crayon with a red paper wrapper. With this information, the humor and the celebration of determination and individuality come shining through this story. When his family and his crayon friends can’t figure out why Red is not a successful crayon, it takes a new friend to help him soar. As narrator, Robin Miles... Read More
Mildred Taylor’s Newbery Award-winning book is the bittersweet and beautifully written story of the Logans, a poor black family struggling through poverty and racism in Depression-era Mississippi. Through the eyes of Cassie, the feisty only daughter, we come to admire the dignity, courage, and resourcefulness of this close-knit family. Lynne Thigpen is the ideal choice for this... Read More
Gary Farmer introduces the listener to the Coutts family, members of the Ojibwe tribe who reside on a reservation in North Dakota in the 1980s. Perfectly cast due to his own Native American background, Farmer compassionately tells the story of 13-year-old Joe, whose mother is attacked, raped, and hospitalized—and is never quite the same again. Joe is equally devastated;... Read More
In 2042, death has been eradicated in MidMerica, and scythes control population growth. Narrator Greg Tremblay establishes the background and tone of this futuristic world. The book's chapters are written by these scythes, who reflect their moral codes with the calm tones of cultural anthropologists. Tremblay's more emotional storytelling comes in his depiction of Citra and... Read More
The story of Billy Pilgrim, the time-traveling optometrist, is framed by Vonnegut's experiences as a prisoner of war in WWII. James Franco is an inspired choice as narrator for this anti-war classic. While still young, he still manages to sound world-weary--as if the weight of bombing, prison, and the general destruction of war are pulling him down. Although too sensitive to be... Read More
Melinda is an unlikely heroine--withdrawn and friendless. She even forgets to wash her hair. She is appropriately complicated for a high-school freshman grappling with feeling alone, grasping for originality, and hiding a terrible secret that has stifled her voice. Anderson's words often seem gleaned directly from a confused teenager's soul, and only occasionally do Melinda's... Read More
How better to communicate this vital history of racism in America to its young audience than to have the audiobook narrated by a peer? Nine-year-old Pe'Tehn Raighn-Kem Jackson hits it out of the park with her lively and engaging reading. Her voice and delivery are unmistakably those of a kid--and she's an inspired casting choice. Short chapters, ideal for listening to one at a... Read More
Briar Moss reluctantly adopts street urchin Evvy, who has a powerful gift with stones. Doing so puts him back in touch with the street life he has left behind. When Briar discovers he must not only protect Evvy but also teach her to control her magic, he's dismayed. This Full Cast Audio production manages Pierce's large cast of characters well, with especially believable... Read More
O’Brien’s haunting collection of connected stories about the Vietnam War is more alive than ever in this narration. Bryan Cranston’s resonant, sometimes formal, performance often leaves the listener reeling. Cranston’s voice is deep and patient, laying back to let the characters’ collective pain take the fore. Memorable scenes include a man’s receipt of his draft notice in “On... Read More
Bahni Turpin’s heartfelt narration highlights the determination of a family as they encounter the painful realities of the criminal justice system. Seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont’s father, an innocent man, has been sentenced to death, and although her family is exhausted with worry, they remain hopeful that the truth will come out. Then things go from bad to much worse when... Read More
It’s good to be reminded of the power wielded by this classic of American literature. As the introductory music fades and Sissy Spacek begins her narration, we immediately enter the small town in the Deep South where all the timeless issues of kindness and cruelty, inclusion and prejudice are played out in a story told by a little girl named Scout. Instead of offering a range... Read More
Kenan Khoury was willing to pay the million-dollar ransom for the return of his wife, but the kidnappers weren’t familiar with the subtle art of negotiation. Their ignorance and impatience left his wife in pieces in the trunk of an abandoned car. Mark Hammer’s rough voice offers all the gravel and grime readers expect from private eye Matt Scudder. His reading is easy-paced and... Read More
This audiobook, a NEW YORK TIMES bestseller in print, is instructive, informational, and clear. The author provides an introduction to the social phenomenon called "white fragility," in particular its discomforts and pushback. As part of the discussion, she explains various racial terms and their history. Narrator Amy Landon's objective tone allows the audiobook to speak for... Read More
Listeners will definitely want to cast their vote for Liz Lighty in this debut audiobook for teens. Narrator Alaska Jackson's relaxed, natural-sounding delivery makes Liz instantly relatable. She might not seem like prom queen material at her wealthy Indiana high school, but Liz is determined to win the crown because it comes with a scholarship that will ensure she can attend... Read More
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