Click here to see all of the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson; narrated by Marin Ireland
HarperAudio / Ecco
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
Lillian, a scholarship student, and Madison, a debutante, were unlikely roommates at their elite boarding school. But ever since Lillian covered for Madison, getting Lillian expelled from the school, she has been drifting from one dead end job to the next. Now, years later, Lillian gets a call from Madison, seeing if she can come and nanny her twin step-children, whose mother has just died, and are now in Madison and her politico husband’s care. However, the twins are a special case, they burst into flame when upset. It doesn’t hurt them, but certainly causes destruction around them.
Though Lillian is well into her adult years, themes of self-discovery and finding your purpose will resonate with the teen experience. Ireland masterfully portrays Lillian’s often sharp and dry wit, and the twang of the southern high society. Without being cloying, listeners will also appreciate that Ireland is able to capture the voices of children, making them sound like real kids.
The humorous, quirky, yet contemplative tone to the book will appeal to fans of Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? and movies like Lady Bird. The use of magical realism will appeal to fans of Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, A.S. King’s Dig, and Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap.
Hope in the Mail: Reflections on Writing and Life by Wendelin Van Draanen; narrated by Wendelin Van Draanen
Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Wendelin Van Draanen is the author of more than 30 YA novels, and in this book, she gives listeners a peek into how she has been so successful. The secret, she says, is to harness what is familiar and use it as inspiration, but perhaps even more importantly, to never give up.
Van Draanen’s book is part writing guide and part memoir. Throughout, she is a voice of wisdom and no-nonsense encouragement for any young adult. This book weaves stories of her own childhood, life as an adult, and her beginning stages of a writer into a how-to of the writing and publishing process. This isn’t just a how-to book though. She also urges her listeners that empathy and understanding will make them better writers.
Van Draanen’s narration is energetic and engaging. In the introduction, she mentions how much easier she finds it to speak to children and young adults, rather than an adult audience. That carries through in the audio. Van Draanen’s enthusiasm for this subject matter is absolutely infectious.
This would appeal to teens who are interested in crafting their writing skills, who enjoyed Write Yourself a Lantern: A Journal Inspired by The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo or No Map, Great Trip: A Young Writer’s Road to Page One by Paul Fleischman, another memoir based how-to. This is also appropriate for readers who enjoy Van Draanen’s numerous novels, including the middle grade Sammy Keyes mysteries series and Flipped.
Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao; narrated by Emily Woo Zeller
Simon and Schuster Audio
Publication Date: October 15, 2019
As the only Asian at her school in rural Indiana, Ali Chu tries hard not to call attention to her difference even if that means putting up with racist jokes from teachers and classmates. When an Asian boy named Chase moves into town Ali can’t stand him at first, but through shared cultural experiences they grow closer. As Chase and Ali start to fall for each other, Ali’s mother finds out about the relationship and forbids her from seeing him. Determined to find out why her mother is so against Chase, Ali begins to dig into her family’s past; discovering painful secrets, hidden letters and long lost relatives. Interspersed between Ali and Chase’s story is a folktale called “The Butterfly Lovers” about a young Chinese woman who disguises herself as a man to go to school. How these two stories are connected is slowly revealed, resulting in a beautiful and touching end.
This intricately plotted story is full of sarcastic humor, coming of age drama, budding romance and cultural expectations. Zeller’s subtle voice changes during her narration make the story easy to follow and give life to each character. The included Mandarin dialogue isn’t defined but left for us to interpret through context, helping the reader feel entrenched in Ali’s world.
The story’s sweet romance, witty dialogue and cultural family dynamics will appeal to readers who enjoyed Frankly in Love by David Yoon, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon or the TV show Never Have I Ever on Netflix.
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