Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2025) Featured Review: SWARN by Jennifer D. Lyle

  • SWARM by Jennifer D. Lyle
  • Narrated by Krystal Hammond
  • Blackstone Publishing
  • Release date: November 7, 2023
  • ASIN: B0CCSVDLPP
  • ISBN: 978-1728270913

A super intense story of survival. 

Thanks to climate change the world has warmed and a swarm which has laid dormant for centuries has resurfaced and they are hungry! 

This plot driven story begins as an average school day for 16 year old Shur and her classmates, until she notices an unusually large butterfly outside of her classroom window. Soon after her discovery, cell phones begin buzzing with a flood of emergency reports that these butterfly-like monsters have invaded all 7 continents and people should stay indoors or shelter in place.

As the confusion and tension mounts, Shur, her twin brother Keene, and their 2 best friends, Jennifer and Nathan, flee the high school parking lot in an attempt to make it to their respective homes, but first they must pick up Shur’s brother Sean, aka “Little” from daycare. Terrified, they finally make it to Shur’s suburban home unscathed, only to find this will be their last stop. The Swarm is rapidly increasing and the teens must hole up alone and are forced to fend for themselves.  Shur, the protagonist, is riddled with extreme anxiety and panicked thoughts resulting from the death of her father a few years earlier. What the teens don’t  know is that the butterflies are only the beginning; the next onslaught will be deadlier, and even closer to home.

Krystal Hammond’s narration captures all the fear, anxiety and resolve of each character’s voice. Shur’s coping skills are strained to the max, and yet she is not as fragile as the others think. Hammond’s believable performance conveys Shur’s inner thoughts showcasing her unique perspective on how to navigate this apocalyptic setting to keep them all safe. The angst-filled narration propels the plot forward causing listeners to anticipate what could possibly happen next and to wonder if the world could actually survive such a swarm.

Jennifer D. Lyle has written a vivid portrayal of terror made all the more exhilarating by Krystal Hammond’s narration. Part apocalyptic science-fiction, part horror survival story with a sprinkle of teen crush, makes SWARM an audiobook with a little something for everyone.

Recommend for ages 13 & up.

-Ellen E. McTyre

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2025) Featured Review: Sky’s End by Marc J. Gregson

  • Sky’s End
  • by Marc J. Gregson
  • Publisher: Peachtree Teen
  • Release date: January 2, 2024
  • ISBN: 9781682635766

Conrad’s family once ruled their floating island, before his uncle murdered his father. Now destitute and eager to reunite with his sister who is a ward of their uncle, he trains to be a hunter. The deadliest of the Trades, hunters defend the islands from gargantuans. Conrad and his fellow trainees must compete in the gauntlet, a competition to see who can kill the most gargantuans. It is a battle filled with treachery, mutiny, and hidden alliances.

Conrad’s ragtag crew is fun to cheer for both in the gauntlet and their character growth. The battles come quickly with plenty of action for fans of adventure stories. The political upheaval provides a growing sense of unease while the game continues to unfold. 

The breakneck speed of this book will appeal to teens who like science fiction with a lot of action and little downtime. Fans of political drama will find plenty in Sky’s End. Similar titles are Sevenfold Hunters by Rose Egal and Skyward by Brandon Sanderson.

-Cathy DeCampli

Other Nominated Titles

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.
The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: https://bit.ly/BFYA25TeenFB

Dispatches from the End of the World: Survival Stories

Though it might be a bit unsettling, there are undoubtedly teens who see all the hurt and disruption in the world today and turn to dystopian futures or post-apocalyptic tales as the remedy. With those readers in mind, here is a list of titles that dive into the dark realities of an uncertain future.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher

Cover of A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher
A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher

This 2020 Alex Award winner holds more than a few surprises, and it is a great title to suggest to the reader who has already worked through the more common dystopian titles. Griz is a finely-drawn and fully-complex character who teens will connect with, and the hunt for loyal dog Jess will keep them turning pages until the unexpected and remarkable ending.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

This book. It haunts me. Set in the early 2020s, but written in the early 1990s, it is a prescient and terrifying look at the kind of chaos and social disorder that could descend upon us. Climate change has led to massive water outages, and safety is dependent upon avoiding the mobs bent upon destruction. 15-year-old Lauren is wise beyond her years, but she is an ideal guide through this world and into a possible future.

Continue reading Dispatches from the End of the World: Survival Stories

The Giver Movie: A Reader’s Perspective

The_Giver_posterAs a reader, I’m not sure if I went to the movies because I wanted to watch The Giver or because I wanted to hatewatch it.

I did a little of each. I’ll try to explain my reaction to the film, while also leaving out enough information to keep the movie surprising if you’d like to be surprised. That may leave this post incomprehensible until after you’ve seen the movie. I’m not sure. You’ll have to let me know. But be forewarned: this post either has spoilers or is impossible to understand.

I think your liking of this film will depend on how passionate you are about the book. I’m not someone who thinks movies have to stick to the book word-for-word; different media require different approaches. But I’m also not someone who likes it when a movie slaps a book title on its poster and does nothing else to base it on the novel. The Giver is somewhere in between, and it’s not really a bad movie so much as a film that suffers from the glut of dystopian movies, TV, and books and designed itself to be attractive to people just catching on to that genre, not people curious to see Lois Lowry’s beloved book come to life.

That’s not to say that readers won’t enjoy this film. The creators did a brilliant job of dealing with the colorless world. The slow transitions and back-and-forth from plain to color and back again, as Jonas learns new colors and as he goes back and forth between the colorful world of the Giver’s home to his own bland dwelling, is just perfect. The set design is spot-on, and the costumes and props are stylized but not too corny. This film has excellent trappings, but it didn’t do much to translate the power of the book to the screen.  Continue reading The Giver Movie: A Reader’s Perspective

The Rise and Fall of YA Lit Trends: Timing is Everything

In 2008, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight hit the big time with the release of movie version. Millions flocked to the theaters, then to bookstores and libraries to finish Stephenie Meyers’ saga. Suddenly, everywhere we looked, there were vampires: scary, sexy, sparkly, fangs… you could take your pick. More books hit the shelves (or were discovered) like PC Cast’s House of Night series, Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy, and Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. Not to mention the many TV shows cropping up everywhere, such as HBO’s True Blood and CW’s Vampire Diaries. It was vampire frenzy. Then the inevitable backlash hit—hard. Folks had clearly hit a saturation point with vampires (particularly Twilight.) It became cool to loudly proclaim ones’ hatred of Twilight—and all things vampire. Twilight spoofs were being produced, such as Nightlight: a Parody by the Harvard Lampoon and the Vampires Suck movie.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly BlackFast forward to 2013 when Holly Black (author of both children’s and young adult gold like The Spiderwick Chronicles and the overlooked but spectacular Curse Workers trilogy) offers The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. This book has everything a lover of gothic reads could want: creepy cool cover art, a terrifying opening scene, scary and dangerously hot romance, flawed narrator, realistic intriguing side characters, and a vividly described falling apart Las Vegas-like town under constant camera surveillance (showing another frightening side of reality TV like that depicted in the Hunger Games trilogy.) In fact, in this librarian’s humble opinion, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown has nary a flaw to be found—except that it’s about vampires. As Karyn Silverman of the Someday My Printz Will Come blog writes, “…I think the anti-vampire bias runs so deep in most librarians these days that Coldtown risks a cold shoulder as a result.” I fear Silverman might be correct in her assessment, as I haven’t heard much buzz from other readers about Coldtown—unless of course, I’m the one who brought it up (which I do, often and loudly). On a bright note, Coldtown‘s appearance on YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults list offers hope for this overlooked gem.  Continue reading The Rise and Fall of YA Lit Trends: Timing is Everything