Click here to see all of the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins, narrated by Karissa Vacker
Audio Published by Listening Library
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Millie Quint is heartbroken when she discovers that her official best friend but unofficial girlfriend has been avoiding her for weeks all to reunite with her ex-boyfriend. Millie decides to make a change and apply for a scholarship to an exclusive boarding school far from Houston in the highlands of Scotland. The change in scenery and prestigiousness of the school prove to be positive experiences, but then Millie meets her roommate – Flora. Flora has a taste for trouble, a chip on her shoulder, and acts like she’s royalty and everyone else is beneath her. All of these annoy and irritate Millie until she discovers more about Flora’s history until the girls start to be friends and maybe something more than friends.
Hawkins’ second book in the Royal series is a refreshing LGBTQ love story, which is capable of standing on its own. A mixture of Princess Diaries and 10 things I hate about you, Hawkins weaves an addictive story about friendship, love, self-discovery, and vulnerability. Vacker’s narration is seamless in her ability to weave different types of Scottish accents in one breath and a Houston accent in the next. Each character’s unique tone allows Hawkin’s narrative to be elevated in the listener’s mind.
For fans of modern royal young adult stories like Hawkin’s Royals, Cabot’s Princess Diaries, McGee’s American Royals, or Cock’s and Morgan’s The Royal We! will enjoy this book. Fans of movies and television shows featuring royals in love, royal life, or even an uphill love story like The Crown, Prince and Me, The Princess Diaries, The Duff, Clueless, or Sixteen Candles will enjoy this book.
Much Ado About Mean Girls by Ian Doescher; Narrated by a Full Cast
Quirk Books / Random House Audio
Publication Date: April 23, 2019
Tina Fey’s movie “Mean Girls” gets a new (or old?) treatment with a re-telling in Shakespearean English. Doescher re-tells Cady Heron’s fish-out-of-water story attending a regular school for the first time in iambic pentameter (mixed with some prose and actual Shakespearian dialogue) almost scene-for-scene with the movie. Moving back to the United States from Africa, Cady starts the year at an affluent high school complete with a typical cast of jocks, nerds, and the super-powerful clique, “The Plastics.” Ditching her true friends, Janis and Damian, Cady becomes one of the Plastics and falls for off-limits Aaron. Disaster and betrayal follow and, ultimately, Cady returns to her true, kind, self rejecting the superficial high school clique.
The full cast does a superb job of speaking in tongue-twisting iambic pentameter while still keeping the tone and dramatic edge of teenagers. It’s a large cast of 11 actors plus the reliable Jane Entwistle reading stage directions. Familiarity with the 2004 movie will help listeners follow the story. Familiarity with Shakespeare’s plays will help listeners recognize when Doescher uses direct quotes from “The Tempest,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Twelfth Night,” and others.
This re-telling will be most popular with teens who like Shakespeare or who enjoy a change in setting or style of familiar stories and who can appreciate the nods to the source material. Fans of Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies (Austen’s Pride and Prejudice), My Plain Jane (Hand, Ashton, and Meadows spin on Bronte’s Jane Eyre), the film Clueless (Amy Heckerling’s retelling of Austen’s Emma), and the television show Riverdale (a darker, modern-day version of Archie comics) will enjoy this book.
Stain by A.G. Howard; Narrated by Tim Bruce
Harry N. Abrams / Blackstone Publishing
Publication Date: January 15, 2019
A moonlight princess, Lyra, born to a kingdom of daylight, and a sunlight prince, Vesper, born to the rival night kingdom are the key players in this fairy tale fueled by prophecy. The prophecy of their marriage and union of the two kingdoms will bring back balance to the world by reuniting night and day. However, Lyra is betrayed by her aunt and left to die. She is rescued by a witch, but when she wakes her memory is gone. Without knowing who she is or her purpose in the world, Lyra becomes known as Stain. Then through trials and tribulations, she discovers that she may be the lost princess who needs to save her dying prince and the fate of the world.
Howard’s ability to world-build and create an enticing universe enthralls the listener to discover and listen more. The complexities of this novel are seamless in the narration, but extremely satisfying in character building. She weaves a fairy tale that will resonate with all ages. Tim Bruce’s narration is superb. He gives each character and creature their own unique voice while having a smooth narrator voice that would appease any Jim Dale fan.
Fans of fairy tales, magic, mythology, and a strong protagonist will highly enjoy this one-off novel. Readers who have enjoyed Gaiman’s Stardust, Funke’s Inkheart, Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and Anderson’s and Yelchin’s The Assassination fo Brainwange Spurge will also enjoy this book. For film and television enthusiasts, fans of Ever After, Once Upon a Time, 10th Kingdom, Stardust, or the Swan Princess will enjoy this story. For video game enthusiasts, this book’s narrative will rival with fantasy complex storylines and word building as seen in Final Fantasy XIV, Elder Scrolls series, Dark Souls series, or Dragon Age series.
White Bird: A Wonder Story by R. J. Palacio; Narrated by a Full Cast
Knopf Books for Young Readers / Listening Library
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Set in the same world as Palacio’s 2012 Wonder and the subsequent 2014 Julian’s Chapter, this involves Julian’s Grandmère’s childhood story of surviving the Nazis in German-occupied France during World War II. Hiding in a classmate’s barn for several years, it is a story of friendship, bravery, and resilience. Parallels are made from the complexities of the Holocaust to present-day struggles of family separation at the U.S. Border with Mexico.
The graphic novel is translated into audio format by a full cast that captures both the tension of high stakes instances and tender ones of human goodness. Sound effects are used effectively to capture claustrophobic spaces and moments of liberation.
This is another of this year’s successful audiobooks translated from a graphic novel, and listeners who have enjoyed the audios of Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl, Jerry Craft’s New Kid, and Andy Weir’s Cheshire Crossing will enjoy this. Those drawn to stories of resilience during WWII like Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl, Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, and Kimberley Bradley’s The War that Saved My Life will gain similar empathetic feelings here.