Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, November 18 Edition

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

Sanctuary Audiobook By Paola Mendoza,
        Abby Sher cover art

Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher; Narrated by Paola Mendoza
Listening Library
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
ISBN: 9780593341018

In the year 2032, all American citizens are chipped and every movement is tracked, making it near impossible for the undocumented to survive.  Somehow, Valentina “Vali” Gonzalez Rameriz, her mother and her younger brother manage to eke out an existence in small-town Vermont using counterfeit chips.  When Vali’s mother’s chip malfunctions, the three of them make a harrowing journey across the country to her Tia Luna’s in California, the sanctuary state that is being walled off and forcefully seceded from the rest of the country.

Narrated by co-author Mendoza, the listener becomes invested in the story of Vali and her family.  While it is set in the near future, it feels like something that could very easily happen in real life.  The subject matter is intense and does not shy away from the brutal moments and could be a hard listen for those who are sensitive to violence and xenophobia.

Listeners who are interested in the near-future dystopian aspect of this novel will also enjoy Interment by Samira Ahmed.  For those who are interested in learning more about the experiences of undocumented Americans, this is a great companion to Lobizona by Romina Gerber and We Are Not from Here by Jenny Tores Sanchez.

–Candace Fox

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We Had to Be Brave: Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport by Deborah Hopkinson; narrated by Lauren Irwin
Scholastic Audio
Publication Date: February 04, 2020
ISBN Number:  9781338605310

In 1938, over 10,000 children under the age of seventeen became part of the Kindertransport.  In “We Had to Be Brave: Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport” we learn through immaculate research unheard stories of young children who were part of this unfortunate time.   During this historical era in Nazi Germany and Austria, young children were placed on trains and sent to England to be protected from the events that happened during this time era.  Such events have been forgotten, but through the voices of survivors, we learn through raw emotions that overtake us as we listen to this piece of truth.

History books have often forgotten to include truths that depict unfavorable events.  This piece is filled with true testimonies, followed by additional resources for students, educators, and parents.  This book provides a historical context of the events of Kristallnacht and how the country of England advocated and worked with British government to save young children.  It is compelling, it is a tear-jerking piece, but it provides perspectives that we need to understand history.

If you enjoyed “Night” by Elle Wiesel or “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, you will absolutely love this.  The narration allows readers to see the stories depict the heroes and resilient fighters that they are.

–Kiera O. Vargas

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Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley; Narrated by Bahni Turpin and Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Listening Library
Publication Date: August 11, 2020
ISBN: 978-0593214992

Della doesn’t take “snow” from anyone, and will stand up to bullies in her class. Della, darker skinned than her older sister Suki, are now in foster care. Before, they lived with their mother’s boyfriend, after their mother was incarcerated, but something happened and now they are with Francine, their foster mother. While Della is starting to thrive, Suki, who has always protected Della, is starting to push her away, and is becoming more and more reclusive. As the story unfolds, so does the realization of the years of abuse Suki endured in trying to protect her sister.

Ten-year-old Della may seem like a young protagonist for teen novel, but Turpin’s masterful narration will draw teen listeners into the empathetic and heartfelt novel and its captivating characters, and will appeal to listeners of all ages. This novel deals with hard issues of attempted suicide, sexual abuse, and consent, but does skillfully and with a strong sense of hope. 

Rex Ogle’s Free Lunch, Jarrett Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo, and Gary Schmidt’s Orbiting Jupiter will pair well showcasing the resilience of young people. Books with positive portrayals of foster care such as Jennifer Longo’s What I Carry and Tanita S. Davis’ Peas and Carrots are also great companions. 

–Danielle Jones

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Unscripted by Nicole Kronzer; Narrated by Nicole Kronzer
Dreamscape Media, LLC
Publication Date: April 21, 2020
ISBN: 9781690595847

Zelda Bailey-Cho has her future in improv all planned out, which is why she is thrilled to be accepted to a prestigious summer camp in the Rocky Mountains.  Her excitement is diminished when she gets to camp and experiences  blatant sexism and cruelty of her teammates and especially her coach.  Zelda must decide whether she is willing to take a stand against the rampant toxic masculinity of the camp and possibly be branded as a difficult and overly sensitive improv teammate.

Narrated by the author, Unscripted is an honest examination of the toxic bro culture that often runs rampant in society, as well as a study in how many find themselves in abusive relationships, one rationalization at a time.  Kronzer voices Zelda with the perfect combination of vulnerability and snark to create a realistic heroine.  There is also plenty of comedy and an inside look at what it takes to become an improv comedian.

For fans of The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly by Jamie Pacton as well as those who enjoy improv comedy shows such as Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Saturday Night Live.

–Candace Fox

Watch Over Me Audiobook By Nina LaCour cover art

Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour; Narrated by Jorjeana Marie
Listening Library
Publication Date: September 15, 2020
ISBN: 9780593108970

After aging out of the foster care system, Mila is invited to live on a rural farm in California. The farm takes on younger foster children and runs a school to educate them. The farm seems like a dream come true, and Mila slowly begins to adjust to her new independence and responsibilities. She grows close to the kids she teaches and the other young adults living on the farm. The problem is that the farm is haunted by ghosts and spirits. Sometimes they seem comforting and whimsical, and other times threatening. These ghosts also bring up memories of the trauma and abuse Mila suffered by her mother’s boyfriend. As these painful visions come back, Mila will need to decide if she’s strong enough to overcome them, or if she’s going to let them consume her. 

The haunting, atmospheric narration pairs well with the slow reveal about Mila’s past and her struggles to come to terms with her pain. The magical realism element of ghosts at the farm feels believable due to the straightforward writing and Marie’s relatable narration.

For more books that incorporate ghosts and otherworldly elements check out All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle and Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno. If readers are looking for other stories of gaslighting and mental abuse then they can listen to Furious Thing by Jenny Downham.

–Rachel Adams

We Are Totally Normal Audiobook By Rahul Kanakia cover art

We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia; Narrated by Sunil Malhotra
Publication Date: March 31, 2020
ISBN: 978-1094118307

Nandan, an Indian-American teen, sees his plans for a perfect junior year challenged by growing realizations about his sexuality after an unplanned hookup with his friend, Dave. His anxiety grows as his relationship with Dave develops and he has to reimagine what a “normal” life looks like. 

Kanakia’s novel is a realistic take on the complexities of discovering one’s identity during their teen years. Listeners will be captivated by the slice-of-life drama of Nandan’s relationships and high school experience and by Sunil Malhotra’s casual, relatable narration style.

We Are Totally Normal is a great choice for readers of Nina LaCour and Adam Silvera and is recommended for fans of movies like The Half of It and shows like Never Have I Ever. 

–Jaimie Crawford