#AA2018: Amazing Audiobooks Nominees, Volume 5

This installment of Amazing Audiobook nominees feature stories of real life and the “not so afterlife” and are perfect for fans of hard-hitting realistic YA fiction, and more humorous stories.

The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, narrated by Bahni Turpin
Audio published by: Harper Audio
Publication date: 2/28/17
ISBN: 9780062677082

The Hate U Give, titled after a Tupac Shakur song, reaches deep into an ongoing issue in American culture today; that of police violence against the African American community. Starr Carter is torn between two worlds. In one world, she’s the token black girl, smoothing out her personality and demeanor to fit in with the other students at her suburban prep school. In her other world, Starr faces a glaring reality that only comes from living in a drug- and gang-ridden community. But even with its problems, Garden Heights looks after itself, neighbors helping each other; and Starr’s father’s store provides a staple business in the community. One evening Kenya (Starr’s half-brother’s sister), convinces Starr to join her at a local party. During the party, Starr reunites with an old childhood friend, Khalil. Seeing Khalil brings forward some of the reasons the two grew apart; Starr’s attending a prep school in a different town and the death of their childhood friend, who was killed in a drive by shooting while swimming at the public pool. After witnessing the death of their friend, Starr has never been quite the same.

When a fight breaks out at the party, Khalil and Starr leave together, and Khalil offers to drive Starr home. On the way to her house, while talking and listening to Tupac on the radio, Khalil is pulled over. The police officer shoots Khalil, stating later that he felt threated by the teenager. Starr goes through the motions and starts to put her life back together. However, grief and anger creep in at unexpected moments, especially with her wealthy white school friends and boyfriend who know nothing about her first-hand experience with Khalil’s death. In the end Starr has a choice: she can stay silent about what really happened to Khalil, or she can stand against the violence committed by the police officer and defend her friend.

In this audiobook, Bahni Turpin breathes life and truth into Starr Carter and her family members. The dialogue between the teenagers is spot on, narrated with attitude and personality, taking you effectively between the different worlds, the prep school Starr attends and Garden Heights where she resides. The tone is at times angry, at times grief-ridden and at times hopeful. This story blows you away with its power and relevance, ending with a list of names of American youth killed senselessly.

This book does depict an act of violence and may be more suited for older teens. Readers that enjoy this book may also like other socially conscience books such as American Street by Ibi Zoboi, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, and Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers.

— Erin Durrett


Goodbye DaysGoodbye Days by Jeff Zenter, narrated by Michael Crouch
Audiobook published by: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication Date: 3/7/17
ISBN: 9781524709488

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner tells the story of a teenage boy, Carver Briggs, who has to deal not only with the grief of losing his three best friends (Eli Bauer, Thurgood Marshall “Mars” Edwards and Blake Lloyd), but the legal ramifications and emotional distress of how a text message he sent may have resulted in their deaths. While waiting for his friends to pick him up at work, Carver texts Mars “Where are you guys? Text me back.” Carver knows Mars would be driving, but also would be the friend most likely to text back. After the accident, Mars is found to have an unsent message draft to Carver on his phone.

The families of his friends have varying reactions to Carver’s contribution to their loved one’s deaths. In fact, the only person Carver may have to call friend is Eli’s girlfriend, Jesmyn, whom he begins to have conflicting feelings towards. Carver does not blame them, but agrees that he shares responsibility in the tragic accident and starts having panic attacks. Through his grief, Carver finds another ally Blake’s grandmother, Nana Betsy. She has the idea that Carver spend a “Goodbye Day” with her, recreating all of Blake’s favorite activities and keeping his memory alive throughout the day to aid in dealing with their grief. While this “Goodbye Day” is incredibly difficult for both Nana Betsy and Carver, they both learn things about Blake that they had not known before. Can Carver and the community ever fully move past this incident?

This timely topic is relevant with the issues we see with texting and driving accidents today. The audiobook, read by Michael Crouch, is handled with care. Crouch does a great job narrating the accents of the characters, especially Nana Betsy’s Southern drawl and the Irish accent of Carver’s father. This story is filled with sadness and grief that the listener feels with Carter, but there is a hopeful tone that can be found sweeping throughout the story. While Eli, Mars and Blake could be seen as peripheral characters, they are well developed through the memories provided by their families and Carver. The investigation into Carver’s involvement of the accident helps keep the story moving forward and the end result of the investigation is a natural ending point.

This book’s subject matter may fit well with older teens. Hand this audiobook to teens who are drawn to stories that highlight the repercussions one tragic choice can make, from Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann to Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert.

— Erin Durrett

Denton Little’s Still Not Dead by Lance Rubin, narrated by the author
Audiobook Published by: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication Date: 2/7/17
ISBN: 9780553556063

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Denton Little’s Deathdate.

Denton Little has a lot going for him right now: he lived through his deathdate, his mom is alive, and he’s in New York city! Of course, he also has the Death Investigation agency after him, can’t see the rest of his family ever again, and he’s pretty much stuck in a dank apartment pretending he really is dead. So, I guess you could call his lot in life a mixed bag?

This dark but funny title is the sequel to one of the most unique books of 2015, Denton Little’s Deathdate, and it picks up right where its predecessor left off. Whereas the first book focused more on Denton’s immediate situation, this title fills in a lot of the backstory and builds a near-future world that is just a little too real. While there is plenty of plot to go around, this novel is, at its core, driven by the nuanced and funny characters; their relationships and back-and-forth banter make the minutes fly by.

The audiobook is a real joy to listen to. The author, who narrates his own work, does a great job differentiating between the many characters, which is challenging with an ensemble comedy like this. Rubin also delivers the jokes perfectly and nails the patter between the characters effortlessly – probably because he wrote them!

This book will have you laughing, tearing up, and gasping in shock – sometimes all in the same chapter. Give this book to teens who enjoyed Patrick Ness’s tongue-in-cheek The Rest of Us Just Live Here, anyone who loves gallows humor, and, of course, readers who read Denton Little’s first outing.

— Ariel Cummins