Click here to see all of the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune; narrated by Daniel Henning
Release date: 03-17-20
Linus Baker takes his job as overseer of magical children’s orphanages very seriously. His by-the-book approach to visits and reports gets him noticed by Extremely Upper Management. They select him for a special job visiting a house at what seems like the end of the world to report on a particularly special group of kids. But while there, he finds that there might be more to life than filling out forms and boxes, and in this case, the children and their enigmatic master are teaching him more than he expected to find.
Whimsical and atmospheric, the House in the Cerulean Sea takes the reader to a new world full of the most lovable characters while gently teaching themes of tolerance in a world where the lack thereof much resembles the world now. The story includes a sweet, light, gay romance between Linus and the house master as well. Henning’s narration is phenomenal as the perfect choice for Linus’s voice while also performing all the unusual characters in the book splendidly.
Fans of Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman will love the magical feel of this book. For more contemporary fantasies where the narrator adds just as much to the world building and characterization as the author, A Peculiar Peril by Jeff VanderMeer and In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan are good companions. For more offbeat books about chosen family listeners may like Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson and The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O by Neal Stephenson.
Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon; Narrated by Inés del Castillo
Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: August 18, 2020
American-born Liliana lives in Boston with her two twin brothers, her El Salvadoran mother, and Guatemalan father, who has been absent for a few weeks now. She finds out her parents have applied for her to be a part of METCO, a desegregation program that moves teens from urban areas to wealthy suburban schools. Now, as she is having to navigate the predominantly white high school and facing racism and microaggressions, she finds out the truth of her father’s absence, and has to hold a secret that is devastating and dangerous.
As Liliana code switches her two worlds, Inés del Castill’s raspy voice is the perfect match for this first person narrative with frequent Spanish words and Latinx pop culture references while bringing issues of racism and xenophobia to the forefront.
For listeners that like stories with a strong voice this pairs well with Nadine Jolie Courtney’s All-American Muslim Girl and Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X. For those that want to explore issues around immigration, detainment, and deportation, this is a great companion to Alexandra Villasante’s The Grief Keeper, Ibi Zoboi’s American Street, and Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star.
Dear Justyce by Nic Stone; narrated by Dion Graham, Nic Stone
Listening Library; Penguin Random House Audio
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Vernell LaQuan Banks and Justyce McAllister couldn’t be more different- so Quan thinks. Sure, they grew up in the same neighborhood and neither had a great home life but Justyce wound up at Yale and Quan is… behind bars at the Fulton Regional Youth Detention Center. Shifting between Quan and Justyce’s perspectives, we see how Quan’s drive to work hard and take care of his siblings slowly morphs into a struggle for basic survival. When Quan admits he didn’t commit the murder that he was incarcerated for, Justyce must work to free Quan from the detention center and his old life.
A companion book to Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, this novel can easily be read and enjoyed on its own. Stone carefully crafts the story of a teen with big potential but few choices. Dion Graham narrates the book with passion and nuance giving life to a poignant tale of black youth in America’s juvenile justice system.
This is a great title for readers who enjoyed Punching the Air by Ibi Zoobi and Yusef Salaam, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, This Is My America by Kim Johnson as well as the book and movie versions of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.
Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare; Narrated by Jesse Vilinsky
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Quinn Maybrook and her father just moved from Philadelphia to tiny Kettle Springs, Missouri in the hopes of a fresh start. While the town seems, yes, a bit old fashioned, there’s actually a generational war brewing between the more traditional adults and the partying, prank-video creating teenagers who want nothing more than to leave town as soon as possible. Things come to a head following Founders Day, a local holiday celebrating the founding of the town led by the town’s mascot: a creepy clown named Friendo who was the symbol for Baypen, the now defunct local corn syrup factory. The teens set out to a party in the middle of a cornfield only to discover that the adults want to “make Kettle Springs great again” at any cost. This is a classic teen slasher horror romp filled with fast paced action and yes, a creepy clown in a cornfield.
This bloody horror novel is brought roaring to life by narrator Jesse Vilinsky. Her inflections make the writing seem even more realistic and she handles the inner dialogue of various characters really well.
Great for teens who love gory horror reads like Rotters by Daniel Kraus as well as creeping mysteries like One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline, Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis and The Haunted by Danielle Vega. Lovers of slasher flicks like Happy Death Day, classics like the IT reboot or creepy documentaries like Wrinkles the Clown will want to try this title.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A Brown; Narrated by Jordan Cobb and A.J. Beckles
Publication Date: June 2, 2020
For Malik and his sisters, the festival of Solstasia is a chance to escape their poverty and war-stricken homeland and start over. When a vengeful spirit abducts his younger sister, Nadia, Malik strikes a deal: kill Karina, the crown princess, and get his sister back. But Karina has plans of her own. Her mother was assassinated in front of her eyes and Karina is desperate to resurrect her, no matter the cost. When Karina discovers a ritual which will bring her back that requires the beating heart of a king, she decides to offer her hand in marriage to the victor of Solstasia.
This West African folklore inspired story is perfect for listeners who enjoy stories with characters who fight to deny their growing attraction to each other. Malik and Karina are both strong characters who know what their end goals are and will do whatever it takes to achieve them. Cobb and Beckles both voice their respective characters perfectly, with Beckles showing Malik’s softer side and the love he has for his sister extremely well.
Fans of other Afrofantasy books such as Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi and The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna will appreciate the strong Black characters that make up the world of Ziran.
A Deadly Education (The Scholomance, Book 1) by Naomi Novak; Narrated by Anisha Dadia
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Galadriel “El” Higgins, is a student at the Scholomance, a deadly school with no teachers where monsters called mals lurk behind every corner waiting to eat the students. The school “hero”, Orion Lake, much to El’s annoyance, keeps saving her life. El quickly realizes, though, that she can pretend to be Orion’s girlfriend to help gain herself some allies and make it more likely to survive her upcoming senior year and the bloodbath graduation often turns out to be.
This action-packed story drops the listener right into the middle of the story, as El is finishing up her junior year. The world-building is top-notch and Dadia’s narration style is a perfect match for El’s dry wit and sarcastic nature.
Fans of Harry Potter and The Magisterium series by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black will enjoy this darker take on the well-known setting of a magical boarding school. Those who appreciate strong heroines with quick and acerbic wit, like Jane McKeen from the Dread Nation duology by Justina Ireland will be attracted to El’s sarcastic nature.