Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2020) Nominees Round Up, November 13 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren; Narrated by Erin Spencer and Kirby Heybourne
Audio Published by Listening Library
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
ISBN: 978-1984890665

The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren tells the story of 16-year-old Miriam and Caleb who live in a place called New Jerusalem, a haven in the desert far away from the sins and depravity of the outside world led by its founder and leader: Daniel. The events revolve around the Matrimony ceremony in which each 16-year-old boy will say the name of their wife as God has told them. But the Matrimony ceremony goes wrong, the aftermath will shake the foundations of New Jerusalem. The story follows Miriam and Caleb as they discover more about New Jerusalem, Daniel, and the truth of their world.

Schuren’s weaves a unique story that is rarely talked about in young adult novels: modern-day cults or “utopian” communities. It provides teens a  unique opportunity to read about a dystopian setting happening today. Her debut novel is a compelling story in which young adults discover how to speak out, stand up, and break free. Spencer and Heybourne do a superb job conveying emotions from confusion, anger, belittlement, and freedom. The narrators’ tone and inflection for the characters were identical which made characterization seamless between the two narrators.

Fans of dystopian and cult books like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments, Educated by Tara Westover’s, Vox by Christina Dalcher, Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa, or The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes. Fans of dystopian show and moves like The Handmaid’s Tale, Hunger Games, Divergent, 3%, Black Mirror, or 100.

–Brittany Garcia


Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; Narrated by the author, Jeanne Birdsall, Richard Ferrone, Jenna Lamia, and a Full Cast
Graphix / Scholastic Audio
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
ISBN 9781987162127

Popular children’s book writer/illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka created an award-winning graphic novel memoir depicting his often difficult childhood entitled Hey, Kiddo.   Born to a heroine-addicted mother and unknown father, Jarrett explores how his grandparents adopted him, what led him to become an artist, and his struggles and joys along the way.

The audio performance of Hey, Kiddo can be considered both a standalone performance piece as well as an amazing companion to the printed book. Jarrett himself narrates the book with The Penderwicks series author Jeanne Birdsall as his grandmother, familiar audiobook narrators Richard Ferrone as his grandfather and Jenna Lamia as his mother, and well as a full cast, including many of the actual people from his life narrating their voices, all with the unique Worchester, Massachusetts accent.

The sound effects convey so much of the tone of the story that the illustrations are captured in print. To depict his grandmother’s habitual smoking, the sounds of a lighter sparking and a long intake of breath preface almost every time she speaks.  As Krosoczka explains that he dealt with his anger by driving around listening to grunge rock, the sounds of the Smashing Pumpkins songs play in the background.  This article from PW explains the entire fascinating and wonderful process of making the audiobook.

Hey, Kiddo audiobook is for fans of other audiobooks with full casts and great sound effects like See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng, and Sadie by Courtney Summers.  For those who want to see the effects of drug abuse, the new book Heroine by Mindy McGinnis as well as other books The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, and the Crank series by Ellen Hopkins will fit the bill.

–Sarah Ressler-Wright


Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid; Narrated by Jennifer Beals and a Full Cast
Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication Date: March 05, 2019
ISBN: 9781984845306

This breakout novel with teen appeal traces the rise and dissolution of a fictive long-ago, short-lived but nonetheless iconic rock band named Daisy Jones and The Six. A hyper-realistic documentary format conveys the artists’ memories of musical collaboration, 1970s debauchery, and unrequited love. The decades that have elapsed since the band’s last performance provide perspective and hint at the conflicting egos and behind-the-scenes romances at play in other bands of the era.

Audio is a natural presentation given the oral history format of Reid’s book, and a full cast of narrators, including some very familiar voices like Jennifer Beals as Daisy Jones, January LaVoy as Camilla Dunne, and Benjamin Bratt as Graham Dunne, give voice to the musicians and their friends and family surrounding the band. Listening is a particular treat as excellent production quality includes dampened microphones and careful editing for a lush and immersive listening experience. Even minor characters are afforded real consideration and vibrant characterization.

Teen listeners will enjoy lots of behind-the-scenes details about the recording industry and the vibrant Los Angeles music scene of the era. The careful detail Reid uses to describe the evolution of well-known album cover art and tour bus decor and antics make you think the band really might have existed, and you will end up humming “Honeycomb.” A solid recommendation for aficionados of cult films Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, This is Spinal Tap!, and Laurel Canyon and for those who have enjoyed YA read-alikes The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos and Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway.

–Wendy Stephens


Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi; Narrated by Cathy Hirano
Pushkin Children’s Books / Macmillan Young Listeners
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
ISBN: 978-1250212023

The Beast Player is a beautiful story that follows Elin from age 10 through her early 20’s. Elin’s love of nature and animals give her the special ability to communicate with the Royal Beasts and the Toda. This ability puts her in many tight spots with the Royal Beast caretakers and those who rule the land.

The narration perfectly matches the tone of this story. Cathy Hirano is able to make her voice age with the character as time passes. Elin is a wonderful character who cares about the beasts and people, and that empathy is felt through the narration. Not only Elin, but all the characters in the book have distinct voices that suit their personality. From the beginning, you can’t help but fall in love with Elin and her story.

An easy comparison would be for fans of anything produced by Studio Ghibli. Other TV shows that might be of interest would be Air Bender Last Avatar, Netflix’s The Dragon Prince, and of course the show based on the book, The Beast Player Erin.  For other read-a-likes about “beasts,” there’s Eragon by Christopher Paolini, Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling, and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. For those who just love an epic fantasy world, there’s also Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan, and Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.

–Samantha Jackson