Click here to see all of the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes; narrated by Barrie Buckner
Hachette / Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Moving from New York to Boston, and from a public school to private, Donte would love to be under the radar at his new elite prep school. Biracial, but darker skinned than his older brother, he finds that he really stands out at his mostly white school. After getting expelled for an infraction he didn’t commit, and experiencing bullying by the captain of the fencing team, he takes up fencing as a means to stand up to the racism he is experiencing. He seeks out a Black former Olympic fencer who agrees to coach him.
Exploring topics of bullying, colorism, and racism, Buckner’s narration captures Donte’s voice full of justified anger, vulnerability, and agency for the listener.
Fans of Jason Reynolds’ Track series, and Rhodes previous novel Ghost Boys will find a lot to appreciate. To experience more fencing, try the graphic novel series Foiled by Jane Yolen and Fence by C.S. Pacat, as well as the novelization version of Fence by Sarah Rees Brennan. For those that want to read or listen to books that explore the nuance of colorism try Genesis Begins Again by Alicia Williams and When You Ask Me Where I Am Going by Jasmin Kaur.
Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin; narrated by Emma Galvin
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Coin is Nameless, a member of her city’s underclass that has no rights, no status, and no official names. Most are homeless and unemployed and live short, brutal lives. She finds herself suddenly endowed with a tattoo that decries her as the next heir to the throne. With it comes magic abilities and new enemies that don’t want to see their first Nameless Queen. Coin must fight against Royals and Nameless alike if she wants to establish a better way of life.
The audiobook is an example of excellent narrator selection and great direction. Emma Galvin forgoes accents and much variation in her characters for a clear annunciation of the text. Once readers understand where different characters are speaking (which is well established by the author) comprehension is straightforward. Galvin’s voice is not without emotion, giving Coin’s point of view narration an appropriate dose of snark.
Similar book choices include Throne of Glass, Three Dark Crowns, and The Guinivere Deception.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer; narrated by Kate Handford, Davis Brooks, and Matt Reeves
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
A dark fairy tale starring a modern strong female character, A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a good book made greater by the audio production. The main female character, Harper, is mistakenly kidnapped by Grey – Prince Rhen of Emberfall’s captain of the guard – to attempt one final time to break the land’s curse. Harper is a modern day teen from Washington DC who also happens to have been born with Cerebral Palsy. Harper is not Grey’s original target, but she proves to be an asset to rebuilding the kingdom of Emberfall with Rhen. What she doesn’t know is the actual curse involves falling in love with Rhen and preventing him from becoming a horrific monster.
The strongest part of this audiobook is its writing style, but the narrators here lend so much more depth and emotion to characters. Chapters are in alternating viewpoints, so it makes sense to have more than one narrator. Kate and Davis have excellent voice compatibility and sound enough like each other when speaking as the other characters that you believe they’re actually Harper and Rhen. It isn’t immediately apparent when Matt is to begin speaking so it’s a nice surprise when one hears his voice. His appearance is a spoiler for the plot so no more should be said.
Similar book choices include The Iron King, Sorcery of Thorns, and Caraval.
— Gina Kromhout
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