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Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, October 28 Edition

See the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

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Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe; Narrated by James Fouhey
HarperAudio
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
ISBN: 9780063025622

Henri  “Halti” Haltiwanger, a first generation Haitian-American is full of charm and ambition. Excelling at his prestigious New York high school, running his own successful (if slightly misleading) dog walking service, he is determined to get into Columbia, his (or his father’s?) dream school. When his neighbor Corrine blackmails him into teaching her how to be more social, unexpected ventures begin. 

James Fouhey’s narration brings Henri to life and gives the story a light, happy feel even as the book delicately looks at issues of race and class in regards to the college admission process. Fouhey lands Philippe’s sharp and observant humorous one liners, as well as the cringe-worthy moments of potentially disastrous bad choices. 

Fans of Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Almost a Star and David Yoon’s Frankly in Love will appreciate the complex, but amusing real life antics of Halti’s life. Also, for more books that will hit you in the feels, try Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram or What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. 

–Danielle Jones

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The Lightness of Hands by Jeff Garvin; narrated by Caitlin Kelly
Balzer + Bray
Release date: April 14, 2020
ISBN: 9780062977823

Ellie Dante is barely holding it together.  She and her Dad are living in an RV, and living from gig to gig.  Her dad is a magician, who had a spectacular fail on live television, and since has been working clubs and parties.  Their itinerant lifestyle has pushed Ellie’s life online.  She attends online school, and has a best friend she has never met IRL.  Their situation becomes even more dire as they lose their space in the RV park they have been staying at and their health insurance (Ellie struggles with Bipolar II and her dad has a heart condition).  An offer to retry the failed illusion on a new show for a whopping fifteen thousand dollars gives Ellie hope, but she knows her dad will refuse.  So she has 10 days to lie to her dad, and scrape together enough money for gas and food to get to L.A. for the show.

A heartfelt story that deals with difficult topics (poverty, suicide and mental health) in an unusual and interesting backdrop.  The story includes the suspense of survival along with a road trip with mysteries and complications on the way with unforgettable characters. Caitlyn Kelly is the perfect voice for Ellie, and her other character voicings are spot on.

Those who liked the quirky road trip in Mosquitoland by David Arnold, or those who like the trying to save the family business aspect of This is My Brain in Love by I.W. Gregorio will like this book.  

-Cathy Outten

Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold; narrated by January LaVoy
Harper Audio
Publication Date: February 25, 2020
ISBN: 9780062974884

Bisou Martel was living a quiet life with her grandmother in Washington, until the night of the Homecoming dance, when Bisou was attacked by a wolf. Fighting back, she kills the wolf, only to find a boy from her school was found dead in the same spot, with the same wounds. When a second wolf attack happens, with similar results, Bisou knows there is something deeper going on.

As the book moves from third to second person narratives, LaVoy’s narration holds the suspense and intensity of the story throughout the audiobook. In this dark, violent, feminist retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, patriarchy, toxic masculinity and the incel phenomenon are challenged by feminine power.  

For more feminist fairytale inspired fiction this will pair well with books like Anna-Marie McLemore When the Moon was Ours and Blanca & Roja and Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels and The Brides of Rollrock Island

–Danielle Jones

Parachutes by Kelly Yang; narrated by Cassie Simone and Karissa Vacker
Harper Audio
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
ISBN: 9780062941084

Claire Wang had heard of Parachutes, teens who are sent to live and study in the United States while their parents remain in Asia. She never expected to become one. After Claire and her mother have a run in with a teacher, Clare’s parents send her to California. Claire embraces her new found freedom, going out with new friends. She is thrilled to be asked out by Jay, a hot and eligible parachute. Claire’s new host sister, Dani De La Cruz, is a hard working debate team star who is determined to earn a scholarship to Yale. She finds that her debate team coach has other plans. Dani and Claire clash with each other as they each struggle for success.They soon find that their constant battles with each other will change their lives for good.

Parachutes starts with a trigger warning for sexual assault. The heavy themes of class differences and sexual assault are handled skillfully and sensitively. Cassie Simone and Karissa Vicker skillfully provide each character with a unique and distinct voice.

Readers will find the same skillful and sensitive coverage of these themes in Saints and Misfits by SK Ali.

–Beth Slade