Click here to see all of the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Light It Up by Kekla Magoon; Narrated by Landon Woodson, Karen Chilton, Cherise Booth, Eevin Hartsough, Christopher Carley, Peter Jay Fernandez, T.Ryder Smith, Julian Thomas, Kevin R. Free, and Korey Jackson
Publication Date: October 22, 2019
Shae Tatum hurries home from school one night. She has her earphones on, tuning out the world around her. Shae is tall and looks much older than her thirteen years. A case of mistaken identity leads to tragedy.
Shae never makes it home. In the aftermath, one fact is clear, a white police officer has shot an unarmed thirteen year old girl. Shae’s community, angered by the senseless taking of black lives, protests. Chaos erupts when white supremacist counter-demonstrators arrive to support the officer.
Light It Up is a powerful story about injustice and strength in the face of injustice. A cast of ten narrators brings the characters to life with an energetic and engaging narration. Each character is unique in their viewpoints and experiences. The narrators successfully switch between adult and teen characters without disrupting the flow of the story.
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas are similar titles that focus on the same themes of injustice and strength.
Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds; Narrated by Jason Reynolds, Heather Alicia Simms, Chris Chalk, Bahni Turpin, Adenrele Ojo, Kevin R. Free, J. D. Jackson, Guy Lockard, January LaVoy, and David Sadzin
Audioworks: an Imprint of Simon and Schuster Audio
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Ten stories about a group of middle school kids walking home from school are interwoven together to show the ups and downs of being a teen. Stories about bonding over parental illness, anxiety about neighborhood dogs and trying to avoid bullies are juxtaposed with funnier stories about boogers and video games. All ten stories flow together and characters are mentioned outside of their own chapters to give the reader insight into how the teens’ lives differ, yet affect each other.
The impressive cast of ten narrators gives a distinctive voice to each chapter while Reynolds’ character driven writing enables the listener to see connections between the stories. This is a short, impactful book that takes an everyday situation and zeros in on how day to day interactions can change lives. Although the characters are in middle school this humorous, touching book would appeal to high school and upper elementary audiences.
For read-alikes that have sympathy, diverse characters and varying narrative perspectives try Harbor Me by Jacqeline Woodson, Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks or the Track series, also by Jason Reynolds. If you like a full cast of narrators in your audiobooks try The Hero Next Door edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh.
Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo; Narrated by Jorjeana Marie
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
It’s 1979 in the final book of DiCamillo’s Three Rancheros trilogy, four years after the events that initially bound Beverly, Raymie, and Louisiana together. Beverly Tapinski, mad at her absent best friends, her alcoholic mother, and the constant reminders of Buddy, the dog she, Louisiana and Raymie rescued, hitches a ride to Tamaray Beach, Florida. Tough-talking Beverly manages to get a job at a restaurant, find a place to stay, and meets a cast of characters that help Beverly learn to trust in others and herself.
DiCamillo crafts a moving story with colorful characters. Her prose is short, with turns of phrase that mimic poetry in places, and that at other times show the turmoil of Beverly’s mind. Jorjeana Marie is an energetic narrator, with voices that pull the listener deeper into the novel. The story unwinds in a slow realism that makes the listener aware of the danger that Beverly is in, having run away from home. Though Beverly takes risks, nothing terrible happens to her. DiCamillo concentrates the story around the arc of Beverly finding trust again, not an arc of an adventure gone awry. This novel is written for middle grades, but the themes, narration, and pace will appeal to any reader who enjoys a coming of age story line.
The first two titles in DiCamillo’s trilogy are Raymie Nightingale and Louisiana’s Way Home, but they need not be read first to enjoy Beverly, Right Here. Readers who appreciate the poetic nature of Beverly will equally enjoy Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds, and the theme of connection and belonging is echoed in Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga and Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy.