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Audiobooks for Reluctant Listeners

By RCA Records (Billboard, page 29, 18 November 1972) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By RCA Records (Billboard, page 29, 18 November 1972) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
June is Audiobook Month!  Many of us have fond memories of being read to as a child, but did you know that you can still be read to?  That is the value of audiobooks! The story comes alive and, with the right narrator, you can hear a story much more differently than you would reading it.  Accents are perfected, exclamations are understood, and even words or names you may not know or have never heard before make sense to you.  This is my second year evaluating audiobooks for YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee.  As chair of this year’s committee, I am so excited for all the great audiobook-related things happening this month.  Articles are being written about the importance and resurgence of audiobooks, you can get in “Sync” this summer and download free audios, and the audiobook circulation at my Library sees a nice increase starting in June with many people going on road trips and vacations.

To give you an idea of what makes an audiobook a good listen, here are some of the criteria that gets an audiobook on the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults selection list:

  • The narration has to expand or compliment the original text.  In other words, when you listen to a narrator tell the story, it comes alive and allows the you to experience the text in a different way.
  • Character voice variation is key!  We must have a sense of who the character is by the different qualities in the voices that the narrator uses.  For example, it is a lot more enjoyable when you are listening to a narrated conversation and can tell which character is talking without the text cues letting you know.  Accents, exclamations, and sound effects also are considered.  If done well, they really make an audiobook amazing!
  • There is also the importance of a match between the text and the narrator.  You know when it is right; your ear picks it up.  The narrator embodies the main character and sometimes even all the characters in the books.
  • The technical production on an audiobook is also a criteria for the Amazing Audiobooks list.  We want to make sure the editing is done well, the sound quality is even, and that there are no issues with extra sounds or mike pickups. Additionally, we do consider the music that you hear at the beginning, end, or in between the tracks–does it match the story?  Is it effective in heightening the story? If it is, then it just adds more quality to the production.

So, where should you start if you have never listened to an audiobook before?  Well, some great awards and lists are put out every year: the Odyssey Award, the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults annual list, and the Audies are a few places to start.  Below I have compiled some of my favorites, that I think will be a great first listen for all of you who are new to audiobooks and want to give them a try.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, read by Jeff Woodman.  Brilliance Audio: 7 hours. (2008 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)


A Bad Romance– Love Gone Wrong in Teen Lit

By CMEarnest (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By CMEarnest via Wikimedia Commons
Springtime is when love is in the air.  New relationships are blooming, the warmer weather drives people outdoors and puts everyone in a better mood, and it just seems like the perfect time to fall in love…

But what happens when you don’t want to fall in love?  When you just want to snarkily smirk at those silly people holding hands and picking flowers?  How do you avoid, nay how do you embrace the idea that falling in love is just not for you..?

Well, one good way is to read books about love gone wrong.  Luckily, teen lit is filled with excellent examples of books about all the ways love can be so harmful to your well-being.  From bad breakups to unrequited crushes, check out the list below if you want to fall in love with a bad romance!

Star-Crossed Love

tearcollectorswoongeneration deadmonstrous beautyEveAdamUnderNeverSky

The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones

Cassandra comes from a long line of vampire-like creatures who need human tears to survive rather than blood.  Cassandra is very good at collecting tears by being the shoulder for her friends to cry on, and even volunteering as a grief counselor.  However, Cassandra is growing tired of her life and wants to be human, especially when she begins to fall in love with Scott.

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ALA 2013: Odyssey Award Presentation

odyssey award sealEvery time I attend ALA there is one event that sticks out from all the other amazing happenings and goings-on. Three years ago it was the Newbery-Caldecott Awards Banquet. And although it can’t match that event in pomp, the 2013 Odyssey Award Presentation will prove just as memorable.

The Odyssey Award is given to the producer of the best audiobook for young and adults and children that’s available in English. Each year a selection committee made up of YALSA and ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) members chose a winner along with honor titles they feel are deserving of being named as the best in audiobooks. The Odyssey Award presentation is a chance for the Odyssey Award Committee to present the winner and the honor recipients with their awards and to allow the narrators being honored an opportunity to speak and the audience a chance to hear a selection of the honored audiobooks.


Genre Bending Fantasy

One interesting publishing trend that I have recently noticed in teen literature are traditional fantasy themes being paired with another genre. [For more “one genre plus something else” examples, check out our recent post, “Love Plus: YA Books with More Than Romance” –ed.] It is a trend I am really excited about because the books that are being published don’t seem like they are trying to capitalize on a single trend (vampires, werewolves, dystopias). In contrast, these recently published novels are the trendsetter themselves! Want some examples?  Check out some of my top picks for recently published genre-bending teen fantasy novels:

Fantasy + Historical Fiction

monstrous beautyMonstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Hester knows that she cannot have children, since all the women in her family die shortly after childbirth. What she doesn’t know, however, is that her family is cursed. Told in alternating chapters, Monstrous Beauty tells the tale of how modern-day Hester discovers the truth of her ancestry while also unveiling the story of the mermaid Syrenka. Set during colonial time, Syrenka’s story is one of a gruesome and devastating love story.

Mermaids are a trend that seems to have been trying to be the next big thing in teen literature for a while now. One novel that I think really got this right was Monstrous Beauty. Fama uses the trend of mermaids, but offsets the current-day plot with a secondary plot set in the colonial era. The result is a complex and interesting story, alongside rich descriptions of settings both in and out of the water in both time periods. The incorporation of the historical setting definitely helps this mermaid novel stand out among the rest!

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2013 Odyssey Award: Next Listens

odyssey award sealThe Odyssey Award is given to the producer of the best audiobook for young and adults and children available in English. Each year a selection committee made up of YALSA and ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) members chose a winner along with honor titles they feel are deserving of being named as the best in audiobooks.

This year’s winner, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, narrated by Kate Rudd and produced by Brilliance Audio, enjoys the company of four honor titles: Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian, written by Eoin Colfer, narrated by Nathaniel Parker, and produced by Listening Library; Ghost Knight, written by Cornelia Funke, narrated by Elliot Hill, and produced by Listening Library; and Monstrous Beauty, written by Elizabeth Fama, narrated by Katherine Kellgren, and produced by Macmillan Audio. I highly recommend all five titles as they are beautifully produced and excellently narrated.

But then what? What to listen to next after you’ve worked through this year’s Odyssey list? Sure you could listen to previous winners and honors (highly recommended) but after that here are next listens that highlight more great storytelling.


America’s Next Top Book Cover: Season 2012

As 2012 draws to a close, everyone on the interweb is reflecting on the “best of” from the past twelve months. Here at The Hub, we’re joining in the fun by listing some of our favorite book covers of the year. Enjoy a look through the image gallery, then read more to find out why each cover was selected. Tell us your favorites in the comments!


September Debut Novels

I don’t know what it is about late summer and early fall this year, but they sure are bringing out the debut novels. Like last month, there are many new faces making their appearance on YA shelves. I’ve arranged the titles by genre and included read-alikes where possible, and all descriptions come from WorldCat. Remember, if you read something by a debut author — that is an author who has never published a book before in any genre or for any age group — take the time to suggest it to YALSA’s William C. Morris committee.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Origin by Jessica Khoury (Razorbill/Penguin, 9781595145956)

Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home — and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life. Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin — a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.


Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan, 9780374373665)

In alternating chapters, tells of the mermaid Syrenka’s love for Ezra in 1872 that leads to a series of horrific murders, and present-day Hester’s encounter with a ghost that reveals her connection to the murders and to Syrenka. Technically, Fama is not a debut author, though this is her first YA novel.

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