#AA2019 Nominees Round Up, March 14 edition

The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian, narrated by Kyla Garcia
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication Date: December 22, 2017
ISBN: 978-1538512227

Daria Esfandyar and her best friends call themselves “the Authentics” because they are all trying to be who they really are inside, whether or not it is considered cool or acceptable.  When a school assignment prompts Daria to take a DNA/ancestry test to surprising results, she suddenly doesn’t feel so true and real. As she investigates her family’s history, Daria also contends with her mother’s planning of a grand Iranian-American sweet sixteen party (which she doesn’t actually want) and new developments among her friends.  Along the way she also falls for a somewhat forbidden boy.

Narrator Kyla Garcia truly becomes fifteen-year-old Daria, voicing her confidence and spirit as clearly as her doubts and introspection.  Garcia masterfully portrays both female and male characters diverse in age and cultural/linguistic background. It’s easy to forget that this recording is not an ensemble cast, so distinct is the sound of each character’s dialogue.

Those who enjoy The Authentics may also want to try The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen and Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta.  Without revealing too much about the plot of The Authentics, these books also focus on family history and self-identity.  And for those who simply enjoy Kyla Garcia’s voicing of the teen experience, her recording of Isabel Quintero’s Gabi, a Girl in Pieces is a also a “must-listen”.

–Anna Dalin

Artemis, by Andy Weir, narrated by Rosario Dawson
Audio Published by Audible Studios
Publication Date: November 14, 2017
ISBN: 978-1543641493

Jazz Bashara is a criminal… or is she? Artemis is the first and only city on the moon, but it is tough to live in it if you’re a rich tourist or a billionaire. Wealthy tourists get to experience the city’s luxuries, while ordinary citizens experience the normalities of everyday life: the struggles between the haves and have-nots, corruption, violence, crime, the usual. You do what you have to do to get by, even if it means smuggling contraband into the city. What’s a young woman to do? Jazz has debts to pay and working as a mere porter barely covers her rent.

Our female protagonist grew up in the city and knows the place like the back of her hand. This knowledge makes her work easier, hauling stuff around, and working as a smuggler on the side. One day, a wealthy client gives her a job that may help Jazz back on her feet. Finally, a chance to set herself up for life, whether it be on or off of Artemis, even if it is morally wrong. Things don’t go as planned. Jazz realizes that she is now in the middle of something much bigger than a “get-rich-quick” scheme. She soon finds herself on the verge of being deported back to Earth or in danger of getting killed.

Rosario Dawson’s performance of Artemis breathed life into the character Jazz Bashara from the moment she failed her test to join the E.V.A. guild because of her “bought-used” suit and her near-death experience during the exam. The vocals from Dawson makes the audiobook a fast-paced listen, listeners yearning for more. Jazz is a great personality to follow in Weir’s book, with her “don’t give two sh***” attitude, despite her being “one of the little people” living in the lowest of the low in Conrad’s bubble; a “capsule domicile,” or what the Artemis common-folk call a “coffin”. Dawson has given this audiobook exactly what it needed: the kick-butt tone, the dreariness of what realities are like for the working class people living on Artemis, the hoity-toitiness of the upper class tourists, etc.

Andy Weir’s Artemis is classified as Adult Fiction, but has a lot of Young Adult appeal. It is recommended for older teens for its content.

–Joyce Fong