Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, December 2 Edition

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

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Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds; Narrated by A.J. Beckles, Preston Butler III
Publication Date: September 22, 2020
ISBN: 978-0062748409

Jamal is still reeling from his parents’ deaths two years ago, and it is affecting all of his relationships. It has been causing friction with his girlfriend Autumn, but more importantly, it has broken his relationship with his best friend and comedic partner, Quincy. Jamal even blames Quincy for his parents’ death, something that Quincy is unaware of. During a party on the beach, Jamal witnesses Quincy save a drowning girl’s life, only to lose his own. When a mysterious man offers Quincy’s mother a chance to bring him back through experimental technology, Jamal takes this as a second chance for him to heal his relationship with Quincy before it’s too late. 

Full of both humor and heartbreak, this centers on male friendships. Predominantly told from Jamal’s perspective by Beckles, Butler’s narration of Quincy has impact when used to voice scenes from videos that the two made together, and later when he gets a full chapter from his point of view. 

This speculative fiction would pair well with books by Adam Silvera like More Happy Than Not or They Both Die at the End, as well as Jason Reynolds’ Long Way Down and John Corey Whaley’s Noggin. For more books with extremely likeable characters with a bit of a fantasy twist try Kristen Cashore’s Jane, Unlimited or Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson.

–Danielle Jones

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The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller; Narrated by Caitlin Davies
Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: February 25, 2020 
ISBN: 9781250249098

Alessandra has a simple three part plan: woo the Shadow King, marry the Shadow King, kill the Shadow King and take over his kingdom.  This is made more complicated by the fact that no one is allowed to ever touch the Shadow King, but Alessandra uses her wiles and determination to infiltrate his court, while trying to fight her growing feelings for him and thwart other assassination attempts against him.  

Alessandra is a complex, flawed antihero who knows what she wants and does not hesitate to do anything she needs to in order to reach her goals.  She is power-hungry, selfish and materialistic, but still the reader cannot help but be drawn to her.  Caitlin Davies captures Alessandra’s attitude, ambition and passion perfectly.

Readers who appreciate flawed female characters like the queens from the Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake and Jude from The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black will appreciate Alessandra’s determination and ambition.  This title is also perfect for fans of Sarah J Maas and Leigh Bardugo.

–Candace Fox

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Six Angry Girls by Adrienne Kisner; Narrated by Khristine Hvam
Feiwal & Friends/ Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: August 18, 2020
ISBN:  9781250619167

Raina Petree and Millie Goodwin are seniors who thought they had their futures figured out, at least until after winter break when everything went downhill.  Raina’s boyfriend and the drama club both dump her and Millie is kicked off the mock trial team.  After an advice columnist suggests Raina take up a hobby where she uses her hands, she joins a knitting circle at a local yarn shop and eventually teams up with Millie to form an all female mock trial group to take on the boys.

This novel is filled with strong, feminist characters who are a joy to listen to.  Hvam brings them all to life masterfully and really helps to drive home both the feminist and social justice aspects of the novel.

Fans of novels with strong feminist characters, like Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron, will enjoy hearing about the adventures of Raina and Millie.  The range of LGBTQAI supporting characters will make this an easy sell to anyone who enjoys the Simonverse novels by Becky Albertelli or You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson.  

–Candace Fox

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The Left-Handed Booksellers Of London by Garth Nix; Narrated by Marisa Calin
Imprint / Publisher: Listening Library
Publication Date: September 24, 2020
ISBN: 978-1473227804

In 1983, in an alternative London, Susan Arkshaw is searching for the truth about her father. Going off of the only clue she had, she accidentally stumbles into a strange world filled with magic. Thank goodness Merlin, a handsome dashing young man appears just when she needs help the most. It turns out, it is not just her searching for her father… This book is full of magic, humor, and adventure! 

The production of this audiobook was fantastic. The narrator’s crisp British accent was perfect for performing the different roles. She was able to convey different accents perfectly, and had excellent comedic timing. 

Best for teens that enjoy occult stories that are also humorous, like Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, books by Terry Pratchet, and those by Rick Riordan. 

–Kristin Kern

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Crying Laughing by Lance Rubin; Narrated by Katie Schorr
Listening Library
Publication Date: February 11, 2020
ISBN: 9780593289907

Winnie Friedman loves to make people laugh, taking inspiration from her father (a former comedian himself). Ever since her debut stand-up routine at her own bat mitzvah ended in disaster, Winnie has stuck to sharing jokes only with family and friends. But now a chance interaction with a cute classmate has her interested in joining her high school’s improv troupe and conquering her fears. Unfortunately, as Winnie starts to ease back into comedy, she receives devastating news: her beloved dad has ALS. Faced with her father’s gut-wrenching diagnosis, difficult performances, and dating woes, Winnie must find a way for her humor to guide her through the dark.     

A spirited, likable protagonist and laugh-out-loud moments throughout a story of a tragic diagnosis make this a memorable listen. Katie Schorr capably narrates the voice of a young teen dealing with relatable, painful issues. In particular, Schorr’s treatment of both Winnie’s sarcasm and her most emotional moments emphasizes the character’s struggles as she learns from her own mistakes.  

Recommend this title to fans of John Green, Jesse Andrews, and Becky Albertalli. Readers who enjoy funny, character-driven coming-of-age novels such as Ben Phillipe’s The Field Guide to the North American Teenager will also be eager to cheer Winnie on. 

-Allison Riendeau

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This Is My America by Kim Johnson; Narrated by Bahni Turpin
Listening Library
Publication Date: july 28, 2020
ISBN: 978-0593118764

Tracy Beaumont doesn’t believe her father committed the murder he has been sentenced to death row for, and has spent the years since writing weekly letters to the  Innocence X project, asking for legal help for him. Just as his execution is getting ever closer, Tracy’s bright, trackstar brother Jamal is accused of murdering a white classmate. When Jamal goes on the run, Tracy works to solve the mystery and prove Jamal’s innocence only to uncover a deep history of White Supremacy in action in her community. 

Bahni Turpin’s narration is a perfect fit for this first-person narrative showing a determined, and understandably frustrated, goal-driven teen fighting the systemic generational effects of police brutality, mass incarceration, and racism on the Black community.

A great companion to Ava Duvernay’s Netflix series When They See Us and the book and movie of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson that also show the many issues of the criminal justice system. Listeners that enjoy the mystery element might also enjoy Slay by Lamar Giles and Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany Jackson. For more titles with social justice themes with teens in the lead, try A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow and Dear Justyce by Nic Stone.

–Danielle Jones

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We Used to Be Friends by Amy Spalding; Narrated by Julia Whelan, Cassandra Morris
Recorded Books, Inc
Publication Date: January 6, 2020
ISBN: 9781980060932

James and Kat have been best friends forever and are ready for an epic senior year. But things don’t quite go as planned. Told in dual perspectives with James’ chapters starting as she leaves for college and moving backwards and Kat’s moving forward from the beginning of senior year, new revelations in their lives drive the friends apart. Kat moving forward with a new relationship and coming out as bisexual and James realing from a revelation about her parent’s marriage and questioning her own place in the world.

Seeing the conflict from both friends’ perspectives, but moving in opposite directions, highlights the ways both girls contribute to the rift in their relationship. This book acknowledges that friendships can be as meaningful as a romantic relationship and just as painful when they end. The two narrators really capture the personalities of each of best friends–Whelan as dry, skeptical James and Morris as bubbly, girly Kat. 

Another friend break up story that came out in 2020 is When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk. You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Thomas also features a queer girl running for prom queen and looking back at what went wrong with a friendship. If you loved the structure of We Used to Be Friends, check out the musical The Last Five Years as the couple moves in opposite directions through their relationship.

–Emily Blaeser