Click here to see all of the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow; Narrated by Andrea Laing and Jennifer Haralson
Publication Date: June 2, 2020
Tavia and Effie are best friends living their lives and trying to survive their junior year of high school. Set in a current-day Portland where magic and fantastic creatures are part of the norm, the girls each have secrets that could destroy their families and communities. Effie is running from literal demons in her past, finding solace in her seasonal Renaissance Fair performances as a mermaid. Tavia is hiding her powers as a siren, one of the most feared magical creatures, after a recent siren murder trial becomes national news. When Tavia lets her powers escape during a traffic stop, the girls’ carefully balanced lives begin to tumble. This book is part contemporary fiction, part black fantasy and part social justice.
Morrow’s novel is an expert blending of black girl magic and social justice issues. The narration is engaging and readers will be hooked by the world Morrow has created using current-day Portland as well as the mystery elements surrounding Effie’s past.
This is a great look at social justice using a fantasy lens and will appeal to readers of contemporary fiction such as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan. Readers who want to see more black protagonists in fantasy novels like L.L. KcKinney’s A Blade So Black and the Shadowshaper series by Daniel José Older or TV shows like American Gods will devour this title.
I Believe in A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo; Narrated by Emily Woo Zeller
Publication Date: April 21, 2020
Desi Lee is perfect at almost everything. She has perfect SAT scores, school president, on varsity soccer and tennis, and high achieving in five different clubs. One area where she is not perfect is romance, and there she is a total dunce. After a completely embarrassing encounter with cute new boy Luca, Desi holes up for the weekend watching her father’s beloved Korean television drama series. Seeing a pattern in each series where the seemingly star-crossed lovers are together by the end, Desi decides to use their formulas as a blueprint to love. What could possibly go wrong?
A good hearted romcom with some emotional depth as Desi is also facing the stress of navigating college admissions, and centers a strong father-daughter bond as both deal with the grief of Desi’s mother’s death a year earlier. Zeller’s narration captures the teen voice in all of Desi’s ups and down with both its comedic and emotional beats.
This is a great companion to the Sandhya Menon’s Dimple and Rishi and Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series, as well as stand alones like Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan, We Are the Perfect Girl by Ariel Kaplan, and Charming As a Verb by Ben Phillippe.
I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick; Narrated by Dan Bittner, Inés del Castillo, Jonathan Davis, Gibson Frazier, Madeleine Maby, Soneela Nankani, Jackie Sanders, Candace Thaxton, Jesse Vilinsky, Jenni Barber, Jayme Mattler
Simon and Schuster Audio
Publication Date: June 30, 2020
Anna is excited about her new summer nanny job in the luxurious town of Herron Mills where she can escape her out of control life back home. When she arrives in town, she discovers she bears an eerie resemblance to a local girl named Zoe Spanos who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna starts to become obsessed with Zoe’s life. She hangs out with Zoe’s boyfriend and listens to a podcast called Missing Zoe to learn more about her disappearance. The deeper Anna gets into Zoe’s life, the more strange and unusual memories come up, memories that Anna can’t explain or understand. When Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, Anna is charged with the murder. How did this happen when Anna never knew Zoe? The book moves back and forth in time from Anna’s point of view during the summer, to after she has been arrested. Slowly the two stories converge into a twisty, never-see-it-coming conclusion.
The various viewpoints in the story are narrated by a full cast creating an effect that’s like listening to a play. Anna’s summer in Herron Mills is tense, and the narration helps pull the reader into the suspenseful atmosphere. The podcast Missing Zoe is narrated by several people, and could be mistaken for a real NPR investigative story.
For more unpredictable mystery’s that involve multi viewpoints and podcasts listen to Sadie by Courtney Summers and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. Or if mistaken identity is more your speed listen to Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart.
I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee; Narrated by Greta Jung
Publication Date: June 16, 2020
Skye Shin is Korean-American, fat, bisexual, and ready to be the next K-pop sensation. Against her mother’s protests, Skye auditions for both the singing and dancing tracks on a K-pop competition show. As Skye navigates an intense practice and performance schedule and reality TV drama, she grows closer to model, and fellow competitor, Henry Cho.
It is refreshing to read a story about a fat girl pursuing a career in entertainment and refusing to conform to the industry’s beauty norms. While others criticize her weight and question if she has a place in K-pop, Skye has already grappled with her self-image and her resolve to be herself never wavers. Jung’s narration perfectly captures Skye’s effervescent personality and steely determination.
There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon for a fat girl pursuing her passions without changing herself, a similar complicated mother-daughter relationship and a swoony romance. Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo for K-pop fans. Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff for more LA and the perils of dating a famous dude.
Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen; Narrated by Piper Goodeve
Publication Date: April 21, 2020
Seventeen-year-old Codi has stayed pretty sheltered during high school. She’s never stayed out late, gone to a big party or kissed anyone. She spends her weekends with her two best friends Maritza and JaKory playing games and watching movies. This has all been ok with Codi until one night she unwittingly attends a party and sees a popular boy named Ricky kissing another boy. In exchange for keeping what she saw a secret, Ricky befriends Codi and exposes her to all kinds of new, wild, experiences and people. One of these new people is Lydia, a girl Codi starts to develop feelings for. All of these new things push Codi out of her comfort zone and make her question who she is. By the time Codi realizes her old friends feel left behind, it may be too late to salvage their friendship.
This angst filled coming of age story is perfectly narrated by Goodeve whose pitch and tone resembles that of a teenager questioning their choices. Codi’s struggle with who she is and who she wants to be is clearly shown in the dramatic reading and writing.
For those looking for other coming of age stories where the protagonist pushes themselves to try different experiences, read or watch The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky or Simon and the Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli. For more blossoming love stories you can also try The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg.
The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep: Voices from the Donner Party by Allan Wolf; Narrated by Bahni Turpin, Whitney Dykhouse, Teri Schnaubelt, Tim Gerard Reynolds, Lauren Ezzo, Eric G. Dove, Ramón de Ocampo, Shaun Taylor-Corbett
Candlewick on Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
Hunger made up of arrogance, greed, need and hope drove a group of emigrants bound for California in 1864 to attempt an untested shortcut on the brink of winter. After getting stranded on the high Sierra mountains in one of the worst winters on record, they are led to make unthinkable choices to survive. Told through a variety of voices in poems, prayers, and essays, this is a story of survival, but also one that challenges the hubris of Manifest Destiny.
Listeners will be immediately drawn in by the compelling narration of Turpin as the omnipresent narrator, Hunger. Focussing mainly on members of the Reed family, as well as a pair of Miwok guides, this is elevated by its varying narrators bringing a distinctive voice to each character that might otherwise be hard to keep track of, and adding to the multidimensional aspects of this harrowing piece of history.
With pacing that keeps the listener on the edge of their seat, while also showing compassion and complexity, this will pair well with Ruta Sepetys’ Salt to the Sea, Markus Zusack’s The Book Thief, and Mildred Taylor’s The Land. For more historical fiction from multiple perspectives try Alan Grantz’ Allies, Traci Chee’s We Are Not Free, and Deborah Wiles Kent State.
Where Dreams Descend: Kingdom of Cards Book #1 by Janella Angeles; narrated by Imani Jade Powers and Steve West
Publication date: August 25, 2020
Kallia just wants to escape her life as a show girl where her master, Jack, continuously uses illusions to keep her content. She wants to use her magical skills out in the world. When she sees that a nearby city is having a magical contest, she makes her move. Once the contest starts however, strange things start happening in the town and to the contestants.
Set in a vibrant, ethereal world, Where Dreams Descend has magic, romance, and suspense. Kallia is a show stealing character, with inner strength and drive. Powers’s narration is excellent at setting the tone and voicing the characters, while West’s narration of Jack’s chapters adds a spooky tone to Jack’s above the story point of view.
Readers who enjoyed V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series, or Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone series will enjoy the magic and romantic tension here. Readers might also enjoy the books of Jennifer L. Armentrout.