Click here to see all of the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson; Narrated by Fajer Al-Kaisi, Feodor Chin, Gisela Chípe, Michael Crouch, Janina Edwards, James Fouhey, Renata Friedman, Catherine Ho, Nicole Lewis, Omar Leyva, Guy Lockard, Jesus E. Martinez, and Lisa Renee Pitts
Publication Date: August 11, 2020
Through poetry, essays, lists, and letters, The Talk gives 17 different conversations that delve into race, racism, identity, and self-esteem. Coming from a variety of experiences, which are often intergenerational and intersectional, this is a conversation starter for dissecting structural racism, moves to be more antiracist, and ways to be more inclusive with a focus on being affirming to listeners.
Efforts were made to have each entry matched with a narrator of similar identity giving each piece a greater sense of authenticity. Listeners will hear pieces from a variety of favorite authors such as Renée Watson, Meg Medina, and Grace Lin to name a few.
A great companion to the editors first collaboration, We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, this is a must to any anti-racist reading list along with Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibrim X. Kendi, We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden, and Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott.
Skyhunter by Marie Lu; Narrated by Natalie Naudus
Roaring Brook Press / Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Talin Kanami is a Striker, part of the elite fighting force for Mara, the only nation that is free from the Karensa Federation. As a Striker, she battles Ghosts, which are formerly human war beasts that can cause people to transform from just a bite, but Talin must also battle xenophobia due to the fact that she is a refugee that many Marans look down on with distrust and disgust. After Talin’s partner is killed in battle and an enemy combatant is captured and made to be her new partner, Talin and her friends come up with a plan to destabilize the Federation and hopefully turn the tide in the war.
As Talin is mute due to trauma that occurred during her family’s escape to Mara, major attention is paid to the sign language that Talin uses and her innermost thoughts. Naudus perfectly captures Talin’s inner voice.
This is a book that is sure to be enjoyed by fans of Lu’s other works, but especially her Legend series. Fans of titles with attention to world building will enjoy such as the Shatter Me series by Taheri Mafi and Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko.
Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland; Narrated by Inés del Castillo
Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: August 11, 2020
Sia and her father are still mourning the disappearance of her mother after an ICE raid that ended in her deportation. After escaping, her mother attempted walking across the Sonoran Desert, but has been missing now for three years. During one of her monthly rituals that she holds in a special place in the desert on the new moon, Sia runs into the new kid Noah. After the two get paired up to do an assignment, they return to that part of the desert when a U.F.O. lands, from which her mother emerges.
Blending magical realism and science fiction this tackles themes of racism, xenophobia, immigration, trauma, first love, and friendship. Funny, moving and fast-paced, del Castillo captures the teen voice of Sia, making her experiences and emotion front and center in the first person narrative.
A great companion to other genre-blending issue-driven titles such as Lobizona by Romina Garber, When Light Left Us by Leah Thomas, The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante, and They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera.
Illegal: Disappeared Book 2 by Francisco X. Stork; narrated by Roxana Ortega and Christian Barillas
Release date: August 4, 2020
After narrowly crossing the border into the U.S., siblings Sara and Emiliano have been separated as a cartel from their home in Juarez continues to chase them. They hold evidence of the cartel’s human trafficking exploits. Sara has surrendered herself to the U.S. Border Control and Emiliano is making his way across the U.S. to his estranged father. Both are working desperately to get their information to someone who can act on it and bring the trafficking ring down, while also trying to survive their current circumstances.
Narrated in two voices with alternating chapters, Ortega captures Sara’s determination as she seeks asylum in a detention center, and Barillas makes visceral the fear Emiliano faces hiding with the evidence he possesses. Intense, and exposing the harsh realities of immigration to the U.S., Illegal is a suspense crime novel with heartfelt characters.
For more suspense titles, readers can look to A Good Girls Guide to Murder by Holly Jakson or Dry by Neal Shusterman. For more about the trials of immigration over the southern U.S. border, try The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border by Juan Pablo Villalobos or Beast Rider by Tony Johnston.
How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi; narrated by Vikas Adam, Ali Afkhami, Nikki Massoud, and Nazanin Nour
Release date: 09-22-20
When blackmailed by a fellow student threatening to out him as gay to his Muslim family, Iranian-American Amir Azadi flees to Rome. Once there, he finds an entire community of friends that accept and validate him, and freedom to be his authentic self. After his sister discovers his whereabouts and his family collects him from Rome, they are detained by Customs and Border Protection at the airport where a full cast is used to capture Amir and family each telling their side of the story.
Told in alternating points of view, mostly Amir’s experiences, with the voices of his parents and sister being questioned by customs agents, How It All Blew Up touches on racism, bullying, family and religious dynamics around coming out, as well as finding one’s self and a found family. The full cast performance gives each character a strong voice of their own.
For more coming out stories, readers can try Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, and Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye For stories about Muslim Americans, read Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali, A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi, and All American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney.
Harrow the Ninth, The Locked Tomb Trilogy, Book 2 by Tamysn Muir; Narrated by Moira Quirk
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
After the events of Gideon the Ninth, Harrowhark Nonagesimus finds herself on the Emperor’s space station, the Mithraeum, with only the Necrolord Prime, three ancient Lyctors and her worst enemy for company. Something went terribly wrong during Harrow’s own transformation to Lyctor, leaving her mind wracked with hallucinations and no real memory as to how she got there. One thing Harrow does know for sure is that there is something sinister lurking that wants nothing more than to murder her and the Emperor.
As with Gideon the Ninth, Muir’s snarky and hilarious tone is unmatched, as is her world building, which Quirk elevates with her narration. The story is told in an alternating second and third person point of view format, making it easy for the listener to differentiate between the past and present storylines. There are many characters, and Quirk is able to do a wide range of voices, making it easy for the listener to keep track of characters.
Fans of Gideon the Ninth will be glad to continue the adventures of Harrowhark. Listeners who are interested in other fantasy books with strong LGBTQIA+ characters will also enjoy The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon and A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. Those who enjoy Muir’s darkly humorous writing will also appreciate Neal Schusterman’s Arc of the Scythe trilogy.
All the Things We Never Knew by Liara Tamani; Narrated by Preston Butler III, Joniece Abbott-Pratt
Publication Date: June 9, 2020
First love and high school basketball are centered in this story of two sensitive teens figuring life out on and off the court. Rex, whose mother died in childbirth, and whose father has been distant most his life, longs for a day where he can join the NBA, and leave his large and lonely home. After her parents announce their separation, Carli is starting to question everything, even her role as a star player on her high school’s basketball team. When Carli catches a kiss that Rex throws out as before every free throw intended for his deceased mother, she faints. When Rex catches her, it is love at first sight for both.
Getting together at the start of this book, this explores what relationships entail. Butler and Abbott-Pratt capture the inner monologues of the alternating point-of-views as they explore first love, loss, disappointment, family secrets that are experienced by these two funny, smart, and introspective teens.
Perfect for romance fans of Pride by Ibi Zoboi, You Should See Me In a Crown by Leah Johnson, and Throw Like a Girl by Sarah Henning as well as the television series Friday Night Lights and Never Have I Ever.