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Young Adult

Six months after his sister's sudden death, 16-year-old Quinn is numb, his mother is grieving, and his father is long gone. That might not sound like the premise for a laugh-out-loud audiobook, but Quinn is witty and instantly endearing, which both softens the heartbreak and makes it feel more real. Author Tim Federle's genuine narration is just right--self-deprecating, heartfelt, a little snarky, and always authentic. He puts listeners squarely into Quinn's point of view. We feel what Quinn feels--guilt, lust, fear, love, and the heat of a Pittsburgh summer--as he tries to figure out his place in the world without Annabeth, navigates his first crush, and tests his relationship with his best friend, Geoff. A lovely, winning match of novel and performance. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Four narrators tell the story of teens in a 1970s Alaska fishing town. Jorjeana Marie portrays Ruth in a soft, slow voice that expresses the character's lyrical nature and a longing born of contrasts. Ruth's early life was idyllic before her father died and her mother went crazy. She faces the antithesis of her earlier life with her harsh grandmother. Dora, portrayed by Erin Tripp, suffers abuse from her father and sounds world-weary. The voice of Alyce, read by Karissa Vacker, is brighter, reflecting the possibilities she has due to having money and parental understanding. Robbie Daymond dramatizes the burdened, fearful Hank, who has escaped a cruel stepfather. Stories connect and relationships build as these talented narrators weave individual experiences into a tapestry that evokes Alaska's cultural and emotional landscape just after statehood. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Three narrators deliver the alternating voices of three protagonists. Lydia, Dill, and Travis are graduating seniors who have supported each other through the challenges of school, home, and rural living. Ariadne Meyers renders the wit and confidence of Lydia, a fashionista blogger who is eager to depart for college. Michael Crouch portrays Dill’s disguised passion for Lydia and barely contained disgust for his snake-handling preacher father who’s been imprisoned for child pornography. Ethan Sawyer contrasts Travis’s gentle, dreamy nature with the menacing tone of his demeaning father. All the narrators deliver nuanced, engaging depictions, which strengthen as the characters grow and their relationships evolve. Listeners will be engrossed by their disturbing stories. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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A taut time-travel romance is given added emotion through Saskia Maarleveld's thoughtful narration. When Etta discovers she's part of a long line of Passengers--or time travelers--her world is turned upside down. She must travel around the world and through time with fellow Passenger Nicholas to save her mother and recover a stolen object that could change history. While at times the pacing is a bit slow, Maarleveld remedies this with perfection in the characters of Etta and Nicholas, keeping listeners engaged and intrigued. When the action picks up and stakes are highest, Maarleveld excels at heightening the tension. Listeners will be waiting on the edge of their seats for Book 2. S.B.T. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Charlotte Parry and Christian Coulson’s narrations, coupled with eerie musical snippets, set an ominous tone that draws listeners into this horror story involving two teenage girls. The story includes police reports, psychiatric evaluations, “video footage,” and diary entries surrounding the mysterious fire that claimed the lives of several students at Elmbridge High. Though it was Carly Johnson who disappeared in the fire, it’s the diary of Kaitlyn, a girl who seemingly did not exist, that causes the case to be re-examined decades later. The narrators infuse their performances with qualities that exemplify their characters’ emotional states, making the two girls easily distinguishable. They do stellar jobs with the secondary characters, as well. A thoroughly entertaining and engrossing production. J.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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In New England, 1892, Abigail Rook and her employer, Jackaby, investigate a pilfered antiquity, a ghost, a murder, feuding scientists, and dangerous supernatural creatures. Narrator Nicola Barber creates a large cast of distinctly identifiable characters as this second case reunites the pair with Abigail’s love interest, Officer Charlie Barker, who is a shape-shifter. Barber switches seamlessly from Miss Rook’s brisk, no-nonsense English accent to Charlie’s polite Romanian-accented speech. In showcasing Jackaby’s precise, undemonstrative speech, she accurately reflects the dispassionate character’s Holmesian personality. The pace is fast, matching the action and claiming the listener’s full attention. Campy humor is delivered smartly, like repartee at a party you have the good fortune to attend. Don’t miss it. L.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The points of view of four young people caught in the clash between Germany and Russia during WWII are well realized by four narrators. Lithuanian Joana, Prussian Florian, Polish Emilia, and German Alfred share their secrets in alternating chapters. While the narrators’ differing vocal qualities are a plus, they make no attempt at reproducing cultural accents, instead encouraging listeners to imagine the linguistic differences featured in the story. Rather than being a disservice to this powerful novel, the straightforward narration allows the life of each character to unfold without distraction. The heartbreaking climax will leave listeners stunned. An author’s note outlining the true story behind the fiction brings everything full circle. S.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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In the mid-1990s, 16-year-old Maggie, from Chicago, finds herself in the midst of grunge rock, first love, and burgeoning independence. When Maggie's mother marries her Irish boyfriend, the family moves to Ireland. Narrator Erin Moon excels at giving heart to Maggie's journey and growth, especially as the teen takes off for Rome to hear the band Nirvana, a favorite of her beloved Uncle Kevin back home. Moon's expertise at a number of Irish brogues is a treat to hear, and she deftly illuminates the subtle cultural differences that Maggie must adjust to. The audiobook also stands out as Moon sings the songs of various characters, giving them depth and emotion through the music. This blast from the past is perfect for teens and adults. S.B.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Two talented narrators portray the alternate realities of two teenagers involved in a complex situation. Rashad, an artistic African-American, is savagely beaten by a policeman. Hospitalized, with internal bleeding, he wants only to be left alone. Narrator Guy Lockhard shifts briskly between Rashad’s tormented thoughts and the intrusions of the well-meaning people who surround him. An overly enthusiastic nurse, family members, and friends, as well as constant news coverage, compromise his recovery. In alternate chapters, Keith Nobbs portrays the anguish of Quinn, a solitary white teen who witnessed the crime. Nobbs conveys Quinn’s emotional journey from wanting to hide his knowledge about what happened to finding the courage to speak. These sensitive portraits describe emotional journeys behind today’s all-too-common events. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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M.T. Anderson narrates his own extensively researched work in a gentle, emphatic tenor, simultaneously methodical and sympathetic. Although his discussion focuses on Shostakovich's personal experiences, Anderson incorporates a great deal of historical information, using primary sources and detailed accounts of events to give listeners an immersive account of one of Russia's darkest periods. With a balanced, impartial tone, Anderson recounts the daily lives of Shostakovich's friends, family, and fellow citizens amid the actions of corrupt dictators, outlining how machinations from above affected ordinary people. Anderson's use of Shostakovich's music and his thorough, direct approach as an author and narrator make this an immersive listen for music and history enthusiasts alike. K.S.B. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Allan Corduner’s deep voice pairs well with the graceful, intelligent prose in this mesmerizing account of a girl whose life in Krakow, Poland, is altered forever by the encroaching horror of WWII. Seven years old when her father, a professor, is taken by the Nazis and too young to fend for herself, Anna is taken under the wing of the Swallow Man, an enigmatic stranger who teaches her “the ways of the road.” Crisscrossing the countryside, hiding from Germans, Russians, and Poles, the two oddly matched yet infinitely well-suited travelers are joined for a time by a Jewish musician, whose firmly held beliefs of right and wrong set the stage for an exploration of the morality of self-preservation. Corduner’s elegant, discreet voicing and measured pacing keep listeners focused on the three main characters in a wrenching coming-of-age story that will appeal to adults as well as thoughtful mature teens. S.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Schmidt’s sparse writing sings with rhythms and repetitions that soften this story’s difficult subject matter. Narrator Christopher Gebauer maximizes the author’s lyrical style as his pacing and pauses enhance the story’s poignancy. In the voice of Gebauer, 12-year-old Jack’s first-person narrative is filled with wonder as his innocence is sometimes sparked and sometimes strained by the arrival of his 14-year-old foster brother, Joseph. Gebauer emphasizes Joseph’s clipped speech, depicting the defensiveness that shields his vulnerability. The portrayals of Jack’s parents dramatize their belief in Joseph, who has been abused by his father, suffered the death of the one girl who loved him, and faced the cruelties of a social system that has failed him dismally. This audiobook is short in length, long on heartbreak. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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There’s something spellbinding about Euan Morton’s voice, which is only appropriate for this novel set in magical England. From the start, listeners know that the hero of this story is a different kind of Chosen One. Using subtle changes to differentiate characters and indicate different social classes and genders, Morton’s voice goes rough and growly, sharp and cultured as he inhabits Simon Snow, his friends Penelope and Agatha, and his roommate, Baz, at the Watford School of Magicks. The world is both familiar and not—Hogwarts with swearing, with less whimsy and more grit. As the story builds, there are plenty of moments of intrigue and romance that will have listeners catching their breath. Through it all, Morton stays in perfect, sympathetic step.  J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Seventeen-year-old Michelle has heartaches and responsibilities aplenty. Narrator Adenrele Ojo eloquently expresses Michelle's emotional reactions and reflections in a Baltimore police station at 1:00 a.m. Michelle's worried about protecting her younger siblings and keeping her family together, furious with her drug-addicted mother, and resentful of the father who deserted them a decade before. Fears, frustrations, and other feelings multiply as Michelle learns that her father is dying in California and sets off to see him in the rattletrap car he left behind, traveling with her two siblings, a white half-sister she's just met, and that sister's half-brother. Ojo skillfully negotiates Michelle's shifting moods, the personalities and dynamics of all the travelers, the trip's turmoil, themes of racial and economic divisions, and Michelle's resilience in the face of past and present pain. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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A fatal accident puts Samantha, a 15-year-old Chinese girl, on the Oregon Trail with an unlikely companion, a runaway slave named Annamae. Narrator Emily Woo Zeller’s easy pace fits the long, contemplative hours on the trail and affords time to enjoy Lee’s descriptions. With lawmen searching for them, the girls disguise themselves as boys and join a trio of cowboys. Together, the conflicted girls struggle with the trail, desperados, and their feelings toward the boys as they work to to avoid the hangman's noose. Zeller’s nuanced character portrayals require Mandarin, Mexican, African-American, and Scots accents. It’s no easy task to switch from character to character AND between the genders of Samantha and Annamae and their alter egos, Sam and Andy. Zeller does it without a hitch. L.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In this latest retelling of "Beauty and the Beast," narrator Jennifer Ikeda gives voice to a spellbinding tale of love, adventure, and discovery. She brings a colorful cast of faeries, high fey, and monstrous creatures to life with subtle voicings, impeccable timing, and excellent character differentiation. Nineteen-year-old Feyre kills a giant wolf while hunting for food for her starving family, unleashing a chain of events out of all proportion to the crime she's committed against the faeries. Ikeda paints the archvillain, Amarantha, beautifully, using a spiteful, mocking tone. She renders Tamlin, the high-fey hero, first with a hateful countenance, then ultimately with the soft loving persona of Feyre's potential lover. M.C. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Twylla lives in a castle among those who consider her the human embodiment of a goddess. Narrator Amy Shiels brings concern and angst to Twylla's voice as she expresses her distrust of the royal family she's been raised in. This slowly unfurling YA fantasy takes a while to get rolling. Twylla is unable to touch anyone—if she does, the person will die—and when she starts to fall for her guard, she’s torn between duty and love. Shiels’s narration keeps the story exciting and balances political intrigue, an evil queen, and a love triangle in an engaging way. This is a good choice for listeners looking for a slow-paced listen with chilling characters and an open ending. S.B.T. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Amy Rubinate invites listeners to enter the inner and outer worlds of 16-year-old Samantha McAllister. Rubinate conveys Sam’s anxiety as she curries favor with a clique-ish set of friends and their mean-girl leader. She dramatizes Sam's inner struggles as she hides her compulsive behaviors, finding her stress relieved only by competitive swimming and comforting discussions with her therapist. Sam’s life begins to change on the first day of her junior year when a mysterious student introduces her to the Poet’s Corner, a secret room where student share poetry and music. There Sam finds artistic freedom, love, friendship—and a problem more frightening than any she’s faced before. Rubinate’s characterizations and a surprising ending enhance this story. S.W. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Hoose offers a fascinating glimpse of a little-known historical moment when a group of Danish schoolboys, infuriated by their country's lack of resistance, committed acts of sabotage to protest German occupation, ultimately inspiring their nation to act. The book alternates between passages of meticulously researched historical narrative-- read ably by the author, who masters challenging Danish names and words--and Knud Pedersen's first-person accounts, performed by Michael Braun. Listeners of all ages will be captivated by Hoose's thoughtful portrayal of courage under fire: Using only bicycles and relying on sheer nerve, the boys stole weapons and defaced Nazi property. Meanwhile, Braun's dramatic presentation of Pedersen's recollections adds an immediacy that rounds out this astonishing account of a time when a handful of brave boys helped change history. J.C.G. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Finn, the epileptic son of a famous sci-fi writer, lives on the site of the catastrophic Mulholland Dam failure. Narrator Kirby Heyborne’s measured, carefully enunciated narration reflects the contemplative nature of this 17-year-old, who measures time in the distance the Earth travels: 20 miles per second. Finn is reserved, but his loyal friend for billions of miles has been the foul-mouthed, funny Cade Hernandez. Heyborne captures their mirror-like personalities as they banter. Finn’s life is remarkably similar to that of his alien, epileptic namesake in his father’s famous book, and he feels trapped by the book’s story. When he falls in love with Julia, whom Heyborne imbues with a sweet mysteriousness, Finn tests the boundaries of his sheltered life in the shadow of many sorrows. L.T. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Hearing Laura Knight Keating give voice to this passionate story of love, loss, and growing up is an experience, regardless of the listener’s age. Heroine Eva Roth views romance novels as metaphors for life and her struggles with growing up. Keating provides wonderfully irreverent narration in all the right places while maintaining the underlying poignancy of a story laden with painful emotions. How Keating says the word “what . . .” when Eve is surprised carries a paragraph of vocal meaning on its own. And the voice Keating uses for Eve’s “Aunt Gonorrhea” is hysterical in all her over-the-top sanitary obsessiveness. Keating's timing couldn’t be better. M.C. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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It's October, and 17-year-old Cara and her family are girding themselves for the accident season. For her family, this is the time of year when frequently and randomly "bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom." Sometimes disasters can be more devastating--Cara's father died nine Octobers ago. Colby Minifie's accent immediately transports listeners to Cara's small Irish town. She also carries listeners into Cara's inner world, where worries about mishaps mingle with uncomfortable romantic feelings for her stepbrother. Minifie is as masterful at registering mounting tension as Fowley-Doyle is at increasing the story's menace. As Halloween nears, mystery and magic, specters and secrets make it difficult to tell the real from the fantastical. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In this long-awaited sequel to THE DIVINERS (2012), Diviners and Dreamwalkers abound in 1920s New York City, and narrator January LaVoy’s performance is simply amazing. Now that she’s “outed” herself as a Diviner, Evie O’Neill is the Sweetheart Seer, a radio star. But all is not “jake.” Evie is at odds with Uncle Will, the occult museum is in the red, and she’s forced into a “faux” relationship with smart-alecky Sam Lloyd. Meanwhile, a sleeping sickness is plaguing the city and Dreamwalkers Henry and Ling Chan try to find the cause. In a plot crowded with so many characters, LaVoy doesn’t utter a false note. Her vocal range is awe inspiring, her characters are fully developed, and her voice is lovely. The divine duo of Libba Bray and January LaVoy does not disappoint. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Normandy Pale is writing a creative nonfiction paper about her life. Narrator Kate Rudd weaves together Norm’s clever commentary, satiric humor, and breezy, erudite style. Norm’s paper is overwhelmed with footnotes—which are indicated with an electronic bleep—but has few mentions of her famous sister, a graphic artist. Soon the paper veers off to describe a project on honesty begun with her fellow students at their artsy school. When the lens of truth focuses on Norm’s family, particularly on her manipulative sister, Rudd increases emotional intensity. Rudd’s dramatization emphasizes Norm’s development from passivity to assertiveness as she learns to stand up for her beliefs. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In 1944, 19-year-old American pilot Henry Forrester is shot down over France. Narrator Elizabeth Wiley impeccably inhabits the young man as he copes with this terrifying situation. The Virginia farm boy often hears his abusive father's voice in his head, which ultimately helps him survive. Wiley’s true-to-life German and French accents, characterizations, and performances of moving hymns and war songs add to the atmosphere of this fine novel. When Forrester is finally rescued, conversations with the Resistance are often in French, giving young listeners the opportunity to learn a few words. Wiley deftly presents a range of emotions; in particular, her evocation of personal terror is realistic and nerve-racking. The epilogue reveals that the author based the story on her own father's wartime experiences. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, SYNC 2015 © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Andrew Bates employs a conversational tone and conveys the intensity of highly charged situations without overwhelming the storytelling. Finally reaching Portland, Maine, after a terrifying escape from their home on Pemberwick Island, 14-year-old Tucker Pierce and his friends are in for a shock: No one is there! They also make the astonishing discovery that SYLO, a division of the U.S. Navy, seems to be battling none other than the U.S. Air Force. Following a clue broadcast on radio, the group travels to Nevada, experiencing a host of harrowing incidents along the way. Those who listened to SYLO will be eager to continue the adventure and to find out whether the conflict ends with the third book, STRIKE. S.G. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Maggie Mayfield's tumultuous family life is skillfully depicted through the masterful pacing and vocal modulation of narrator Therese Plummer. A straight-A student with loads of self-confidence, Maggie writes her memoir in order to capture everything that's happened in the past year. What's going on is that her father has multiple sclerosis, but it's 1988, and her former-hippie parents elect to keep this fact from her for as long as possible. So when the disease takes a turn for the worse, Maggie is completely unprepared. Plummer expertly mines the depths of emotion of each family member, and her portrayal of Maggie is a tour de force. Listeners will long remember this remarkable child and her fascinating family. S.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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A listener might get lost in Hartman's rich, complex plot and detailed world-building if not for Mandy Williams's captivating narration. With the kingdom of Goredd on the verge of war, Seraphina travels to gather her fellow half-dragons and struggles to understand her own heritage and abilities. Williams sweeps us along on the journey, never stumbling over Hartman's invented words or the panoply of dragon, half-dragon, and human characters. Williams's soft-edged English accent makes for an appealing Seraphina; she adds a lilt to her voice for Seraphina's mischievous young friend, Abdo, and makes it higher and sharper for her queen and confidante, Glisselda. It won’t take long for listeners to be drawn into the story's intrigue or to find themselves rooting for a happy ending. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Cherise Boothe anchors this production with her performance as world-weary Jennica, a teen we meet when she tries to save her schoolmate, Tariq Johnson, after he’s shot in broad daylight. In the wake of Tariq’s death, a full cast alternates between points of view as diverse as that of the shooter, who believed Tariq was armed, and that of the Reverend Alabaster Sloan, who comes to town in the wake of the tragedy to bolster his political career. As Tariq’s family, other teens, and neighborhood stalwarts fail to agree on the facts or on what they mean, the full-cast approach highlights the way people’s expectations and assumptions influence what they see and believe. Timely, but also timeless in its exploration of the mysteries at the core of being human. A.F. 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Sense of place is everything in Almond’s coming-of-age novel, set in the 1950s shipyards of Tynsdale, England, and Richard Halverson’s heavily accented narration is spot-on. While he makes use of minor dialect changes to distinguish between a variety of characters of different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, Halverson spends most of the novel giving voice to aspiring writer and son of a ship-builder Dominic Hall. Halverson switches effortlessly between a voice of maturity looking back on childhood and the voice of a child experiencing awe, pain, love, and trauma. In narrating conversations, Halverson illuminates subtle changes in relationships by making use of pauses that are heavy with the weight of what is left unsaid. A rich and rewarding listen. E.M.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrators Khristine Hvam and James Fouhey are well cast in their dual narration of the interwoven story of Lane and Sadie. In the not-so-distant future, a virulent strain of tuberculosis is sweeping the U.S., and the two teens have been confined to a residential facility. James Fouhey portrays the newly arrived Lane, defining him by his drive, wit, and innocence. In contrast, Khristine Hvam’s Sadie is sarcastic, jaded, and angry. Most of all, she’s angry with Lane for a wrong he never committed. But it’s not long before their truer emotions emerge, and the two are delighting in first love. Then comes the announcement of a possible cure—threatening everything. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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With empathy and humor, author Toten dramatizes the challenges of coping with mental illness through the story a boy and his support group. Narrator Johnathan McClain masterfully gets inside the head of 14-year-old Adam, who is trying to cope with his worsening OCD symptoms as well as his parents’ divorce while trying to rescue his stressed-out mother, his anxiety-ridden stepbrother, and anyone else he perceives is in need of saving—all while trying to navigate his first crush and control his rituals. McClain uses his voice well, especially as the anxiety-ridden stepbrother, Sweetie; the compassionate group leader, Chuck; and Adam himself, who will inspire listeners with his grit. N.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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With the expert narration of Julia Whelan, the continuing story of Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, Aurora, can only be described as alluring. Dressed as a boy, Aurora enlists the help of Prince Niklaas, who is also under a curse, to help her raise an army to defeat the ogre queen who is holding her brother hostage. It’s difficult to decide which is more appealing in Whelan’s narration: Aurora’s lilting, slightly accented confessions or Niklaas’s growling reflections. As an extended comedy of errors prevents the star-crossed couple from uniting until the last possible moment, Whelan provides impassioned dialogue and a few surprises. Fairy-tale adaptations abound, but this narration is as enchanted as its characters. C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Being gay in 1969 meant living in fear. It was a criminal offense—you could go to jail or lose your job. Your family might disown you. But as equality movements for women and African-Americans grew, gay activists began to flex their civil rights muscles, too, and on June 28, 1969, when the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, enough was enough. Bausum's account of the gay rights movement, from Stonewall through the AIDS crisis to the present, is told with heartbreaking candor, and Tim Federle's narration wrings all the emotion from this gripping history. With vocal intensity that is by turns fearful, angry, or touching, Federle takes listeners on this affecting journey through a shameful part of our national story that, while improved, still leaves much to be desired. S.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Thomas Mann is flawless as insecure high school senior Greg Gaines. Based on a shared love of filmmaking, Greg establishes an unlikely friendship with Earl, an African-American teen from a dysfunctional family. Greg has cultivated "invisibility" in school, but that changes when his mother insists he befriend the dying Rachel. First-person narration allows Mann to channel the paradox that is Greg. We hear his muttered responses to girls while at the same time being privy to his humorously insightful self-examinations. R.J. Cyler portrays Earl, whose street-talking honesty is in sharp contrast to Greg's reticence. As the two friends make their movies, listeners are treated to scenes—complete with narrator, setting, and script notes. L.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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A book by Sarah Dessen never misses, and Taylor Meskimen’s narration is sure to be a hit. Sydney is a good kid, but she’s always lived in the shadow of her older brother, Peyton. Now that he’s serving a jail sentence for drunk driving, Sydney begins to develop her own identity. Meskimen delivers Sydney’s words with just the right emotion and expression, and characterizes her friends, Mac and Layla, well. Sydney’s parents and the concept of family are an important part of this story, and Meskimen portrays them realistically, giving Sydney’s mother both an assertive voice as she takes on a new project and a more resigned one when her relationship with Peyton falters. Sydney’s father is portrayed in a more distant tone. With its engaging story and narrator, this audiobook will keep listeners wanting to hear more. E.N. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Physical items from WWI inspired this collection of 11 short stories, but no visuals are necessary to bring these powerful generation-spanning tales to life. The listener will recognize the accents of Scots, Aussies, African-American, French, Irish, and English characters as six different narrators (one per story) reveal uniquely personal tolls of war through the eyes of soldiers, siblings, children, families, and young workers. After each fictional story, a narrator briskly describes the actual item that inspired it, for example, a helmet, compass, or butter dish. With a death toll of approximately 17 million and another 20 million wounded, no one in the Allied Countries was unaffected. Listeners will also be greatly affected by these compelling stories of loss, luck, patriotism, and perseverance at war and at home. L.T. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Phoebe Strole brings listeners into the mind of Mim Malone, who is on a solo cross-country expedition to find her mother. Through first-person narration and letters, Strole highlights Mim’s quest to understand her conflicting emotions, her parents’ divorce, the complexities of mental illness, and her struggle to trust others. Strole’s earnest voice has the sound of youth with a glimpse of wisdom beyond Mim’s years. Her characterization of Mim is at once bright and somber, and her wide range of delivery also brings humor and heart to the outlandish array of people Mim encounters. The story is not without its dark moments, and Strole handles heartbreaking issues by imbuing her character portrayals and storytelling with respect and precisely rendered details. K.S.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Richard Poe handles Lange's splendid biography of Edgar Allan Poe with skill and compassion. Young listeners will learn about Poe's rich yet tragic life, which began with his birth in Boston and ended with his death in Baltimore. Narrator Poe fittingly quotes author Poe's words and writings and delivers the complimentary and blistering statements made about him. He conveys a wide emotional range when Poe's life disintegrates after the death of his wife and alcohol becomes his solace. It's amusing, and even surprising, to hear the author Poe skewer some of the writers of his day, which he did when he worked as a reviewer. The afterword enumerates those whom Poe influenced--from Arthur Conan Doyle to the Baltimore Ravens football team, which is named after his most famous poem. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In alternating journal entries and letters, 16-year-old adopted siblings Emilia and Teo describe Ethiopia’s path to war with Italy in the 1930s and how it involved them in pilot training. Narrators Lauren Saunders and Maanuv Thiara detail the close friendship of Emilia and Teo in a story that also depicts Ethiopian race relations at that time. Listeners will need to give this high-flying adventure a long runway. Saunders’s voices for Em, Teo, and their mothers are too similar, and Thiara’s earnest reading draws the listener out of Wein’s rich descriptions of Ethiopian life. To their credit, both manage the Amharic vocabulary adroitly. In the chaos of war, both narrators use more subdued voicings, which better match the author’s dynamic shifts. C.A. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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A 12-year-old boy has just lost his father, his most trusted friend. The boy was to inherit the farm, but his stepmother and a mysterious farmworker have other plans, so Joey Shipman sets off deep into the heart of 1880s Texas. With the energetic sound effects of rushing rivers, skittish horses, glowing campfires, and heavy body blows, every moment of this 36th (1997) Elmer Kelton Western is enhanced by realistic sound. The tale leans heavily on Ken Jackson's relaxed delivery of both the narrative and the 1960s TV-Western-style dialogue, with chapters framed by spots of guitar music. But what sets the story apart is that the hero's search isn't for gold or a gunfighter's glory. It's for family. And that's got a good, honest sound to it. B.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Depicting the formative years of Malcolm X, narrator Dion Graham captures the great humanity of the civil rights leader who is most known for his angry, confrontational style. Hooking listeners with his dynamic rendition of the opening scene, Graham portrays Malcolm on the run in Harlem, and then moves deftly between the bravado of his teen years and the vulnerability of his childhood in periodic flashbacks. As the text portrays Malcolm’s keen intelligence as well as the insecurity and pain that drive him, Graham delivers a sensitive performance that keeps the time shifts clear and gives vibrancy to the large cast of characters. The production concludes with historical notes as well as an afterword read by coauthor Ilyasah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s daughter. A gripping, moving, and illuminating production. A.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, SYNC 2015, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Edward Herrmann’s authoritative voice lends weight to this young people’s adaptation of Meacham’s book THOMAS JEFFERSON: THE ART OF POWER. He sounds like the history teacher you always wanted, bringing history to life and breathing life and humanity into one of our most complicated and contradictory Founding Fathers. Whether he’s relating Jefferson’s belief in the high ideals of education and basic human rights or sharing less savory aspects of this enigmatic man’s complex personality, his delivery is even and nonjudgmental. He paints a picture of a man who was able to reconcile the contradiction of a philosophy based on freedom to all and a culture dependent on the enslavement of one race to another. N.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The dual narration team of Ramón de Ocampo and author Reedy tells a coming-of-age story that deals with friendship, advice, grief, and the everyday trials of getting through one's sophomore year of high school. As Michael Wilson's sixteenth birthday approaches, he begins receiving letters from his father, who died in Afghanistan. The narrators team up nicely, alternating between present-day characters and the reading of the letters in the voice of Michael's father. The narration captures a variety of voices--stern football coach, bratty sister, tired and overbearing mother, and girlfriend. The narrators carry the well-paced story, using both serious and lughead tones for Michael's teammates. It's an enjoyable listen that meshes mystery, sports, and teen life. M.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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GraphicAudio manages to take all the fun of the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movie, combine it with some serious Marvel Comics scholarship, and turn out a wonderful audiobook. Replete with explosions, outrageous fight scenes, and snappy dialogue, the audiobook is a treat for listeners of all ages. Younger folks might not follow the complicated plot, but they'll love Rocket Raccoon and Groot, the walking and talking tree. Read by a full cast, including Richard Rohan, Terence Aselford, Eric Messner, and dozens more, the work is written by veteran comic author Dan Abnett, and the love shows. There are many amazing touches in the book, such as many alien races well known to comic readers as well as equally recognizable background characters. M.S. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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A cast of three offers a stirring performance of this moving fictional story, set at the turning point of the War of 1812. Tom Picasso is the voice of James, the son of an American trader. Picasso’s dynamic narration highlights James’s roots with quick speech and a light pace. Michael Bakkensen is the voice of Anikwa. His narration takes on a slower and more rhythmic pace than Picasso’s, echoing the poetic observations and speech patterns of Anikwa’s Native American language. While Tandy Cronyn’s precise narration of the boys’ poems reflects the growing tension between the traders and the Natives, her velvety voice also highlights the themes of friendship in this powerful story for teens. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Katherine Kellgren is astounding, as always, as she narrates the twelfth and final book of this series. With such a nimble narrator, listeners will feel as though they’re hearing an entire cast performing men, women, and children with American, Irish, Scottish, and other British accents. Fans of the series know what to expect and won’t be disappointed as Jacky Faber continues her roguish ways. She gets into deep trouble with both the English and U.S. governments and goes undercover as a governess and a circus acrobat. Meyer’s story has many laugh-out-loud moments, but Kellgren’s performance may also bring tears. She gives a wild, wonderful send-off to both Jacky and her author, L.A. Meyer. G.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Jorjeana Marie's wide range of shifting reactions gives a convincing picture of 18-year-old Cody, who learns that her best friend, Meg, has committed suicide. Could there be any situation that provokes a more complex tangle of emotions? Marie provides subtle shadings throughout. Cody's grief and sorrow are tinged with warm memories that suddenly give way to a reproachful tone, then disgust at the town's endless eulogizing and guilt at her own lack of awareness of her friend's pain. While Cody's outward expression seems snarky, listeners are privy to the anger that fuels her search for the person who aided Meg in her suicide as well as her fear of that confrontation, her torment at discovering first love with a boy she holds partially responsible for Meg's death, and her unremitting need to forgive herself. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Edward Herrmann never gets in the way of this story of WWII heroism, survival, and redemption. His voice is so compelling that the narrative flows smoothly and engagingly. The author is a magazine journalist, so the text itself is especially listener-friendly. In this young listener version, some of the most harrowing sequences and historical background passages are left out or abridged, but the scope and dramatic arc of the story remain. This production will have listeners driving round and round the block, unable to turn it off. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Emily Foster's blend of pragmatism and emotionality embodies teenaged protagonist Cynthia Rothschild as she fights the demon librarian who is menacing her school and seducing her best friend. The everyday triumphs and struggles of a group of high school students create verisimilitude for listeners as a supernatural battle builds around them. Foster uses this same humanizing power in her characterizations, which endear audiences to Cynthia while making the demons intriguing and unnerving. Foster's high voice, almost rushed pace, and earnest intonation work well for Cynthia and her friends. She reserves a vocal boisterousness and silken determination for Cynthia's demon enemies. This is a great listen for YA listeners who favor romance and humor in their thrillers. K.S.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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A British teen sends a series of letters to a death row inmate in Texas. Zoe (not her real name since she’s confessing her part in the death of a boy) tells the story of her family, friends, romance, and death. Julie Maisey delivers the salutation of each letter with a slow, stilted narration, as if she were reading as Zoe writes it out. The rest of the letters she reads fluidly and evenly. Her British accent and vocal expression are perfect for the funny and introspective Zoe. While the mystery builds as Zoe gets closer to ending her story, Maisey’s narration remains true to Zoe’s voice. With this story the listener gets an inside look at the mind and emotions of a teenager who is exploring love and grief. E.N. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Kyla Garcia moves easily between English and Spanish, establishing the cultural confusion of a 17-year-old Mexican-American high school senior. Gabi’s diary entries are a lyrical mix of courage and frustration, confusing sex and honest friendship, shame and pride. Garcia’s wide range of tones authentically expresses the thoughtful teenager’s rapidly shifting feelings, which move from self-deprecation at being overweight to tearfulness as she writes a letter to her meth-addicted father and giddiness when she’s asked out on a date. Gabi is eloquent and messy, smart in school but not wise enough to restrain her emotions amid conflict. Garcia’s versatility and Quintero’s vivid writing unite to show the strength and beauty of a complex young woman. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Wolitzer’s debut young adult novel opens with Jam Gallahue, who is suffering from the recent death of her boyfriend, Reeve, settling in at the Wooden Barn, a school for teens with traumatic pasts. With the help of mysterious journals, Jam and the four other students in her Special Topics in English course begin to process and heal from their traumas. As narrator, Jorjeana Marie renders Jam’s haunting vulnerability, and as her past slowly unfolds, listeners will feel themselves in the role of confidant. Marie uses pitch and pacing to her advantage—both to differentiate characters and to suggest concealed facts and feelings. She can infuse a few words with a character’s unique suffering or hope, making her overall narration a touching and intimate experience. E.M.C. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Katherine Kellgren’s exuberant performance reflects Jacky Faber’s irrepressible personality in this eleventh installment of the Bloody Jack series. Here, Jacky finds herself in Boston among friends. Kellgren moves fluidly between singing, narration, and a cast of distinct voices and accents as Jacky copes with her shipping company’s financial problems and the absence of her beloved Jaimy by purchasing a rundown pub, opening a theater, and setting out to recover buried treasure. Kellgren keeps pace with Jacky’s emotions, which range from rage to joy to sorrow as she navigates the consequences of antagonizing the temperance movement, her friends, and a mob of arsonists. This rollicking production will appeal to both fans of the series and those new to it. A.F. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Sixteen-year-old Bettina’s rigid Greek-American father has taught her to kiss hardship goodbye, but it’s impossible in her increasingly complex life. Narrator Lauren Fortgang portrays Bettina with emotive tones that ring true. Bettina’s confusion becomes disbelief and then horror at the escalating brutality of her boyfriend, who once provided freedom from her strict home. Discovering real love with the older Cowboy, she struggles to hide the truth from others and herself. Fortgang achieves believable portraits of the secondary characters as well. She imparts the essential qualities of each—Bettina’s father’s control has a measure of protection, her mother’s timidity is steeped in caring, and Cowboy’s hesitancy is flavored with tenderness. All these relationships strengthen her portrayal of Bettina—as well as the story’s heartbreaking conclusion. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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When Pen, her friends, and her family are lured away from their home, they begin a quest that mirrors the events of Virgil's AENEID. Julia Whelan channels the desperation and longing that Pen feels as she tries to accept the possibility that she might never return to the comforts she knew before the events of LOVE IN THE TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING, Block’s earlier novel. Whelan takes on a dreamy tone as Pen falls under the spell of an enchanted island’s horned king, drawing listeners in as gently as Pen is enticed. When her actions force the group to once again flee into the unknown, Pen’s devastation is evident. Listeners will be eager for the final chapter of Pen’s haunting, evocative tale. J.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Amy, a high school senior with cerebral palsy, uses a talking board to communicate. Rebecca Lowman’s gift for nuance flavors the narrative and Amy’s dialogue with humor, wit, hidden desires, delight, and sometimes despair. Amy’s isolated life changes when she’s allowed to choose peer caretakers, one of whom is Matthew. Matthew’s obsessive-compulsive disorder has made him an equal outcast, and Lowman expresses both the torment of his insecurities and the way his hopelessness shifts when Amy drives him to betterment. These sensitive portrayals are strengthened by Lowman’s skill in evoking the intensity of Matthew and Amy’s struggles to be themselves and, at the same time, find a path to a genuine relationship. Ultimately, Lowman lets listeners feel the full triumph of their hard-won love. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Walter Dean Myers’s epic story spans the generations of the Lewis family dating back to Muhammad’s arrival in America on a slave ship in the eighteenth century. Although narrator Ezra Knight's performance begins with a jarring, almost staccato, cadence, his delivery smooths out as the characters move toward the twentieth century. Knight's voice is deep and strong, and, when matched with a more natural delivery, lends additional gravitas to the story. His gift, however, is dialogue and characters. Knight's emotional range is impressive, especially since it’s continually tested throughout each generation's struggle to define, defend, and celebrate what it means to be a Lewis. A.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Alexandra Duncan has created a dark future that is at once utterly remote and disturbingly familiar. Johanna Parker’s perceptive, energetic narration makes the fantastic seem real and emotionally relevant for listeners of all ages. Parastrata Ava has assumed a position of immense responsibility and danger within her father’s space community, but when she realizes just how big the universe is, and the number of choices that have been denied her, she finds the courage to defy everyone and carve a life of her own. Parker makes the fear and wonder in Parastrata’s journey tangible and creates a supporting cast of readily identifiable, sympathetic characters. Parker is a calm and steady guide for listeners through this haunting, ominous, and ultimately captivating world. B.E.K. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrators MacLeod Andrews and Arielle DeLisle both shine in this smart and funny coming-of-age story. High school students Lesh and Svetlana enjoy role-playing games. Metalhead Lesh lets peer pressure get the best of him. Creative Svetlana is a dreamer and happy in her own skin. The story doesn’t simply alternate between Lesh and Svetlana; it also shows the points of view of the characters they role-play. This is delightfully silly as listeners hear Andrews performing as both a huge ogre with a deep, gruff voice and an ethereal female elf with breathless enthusiasm. Brezenoff’s book captures the confusion about identity that many teens feel. DeLisle’s performance is charming and confident while Andrews’s is top-notch, breathing life into ogres, elves, boys, and girls alike. G.D. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Chris Weitz’s postapocalyptic adventure is a gritty, taut, and unexpectedly funny gem, made even more engrossing by expert narration. A mysterious Sickness has changed New York into a haunting alien world, and those remaining have banded into tribes for survival. But when two teenagers find a clue to a cure, they must embark on a journey into the unknown to save humankind. Jose Julian and Spencer Locke perfectly capture the brash, vibrant energy of these two youthful protagonists, timing their quips, confessions, and grousing perfectly, and creating a tense, compelling relationship that propels the plot forward. Through their eyes, the world of the story becomes a thoroughly engrossing one that readers will find hard to leave behind. B.E.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Khristine Hvam narrates parallel stories of witchcraft in seventeenth-century Salem and a mystery illness that strikes a private girls’ school in present-day Massachusetts. Hvam expertly differentiates the plotlines, using a refined and quiet voice for the story of Ann Putnam, while the contemporary story, told through the eyes of high school senior Colleen Rowley, is more fast paced and vibrant. Colleen’s voice has all the emotion of a stressed-out teen who is trying to cope with the pressures of high school. All the supporting characters, from the school nurse to Colleen’s “maybe” boyfriend, have distinct voices that fit their roles. Ann’s part of the plot doesn’t have as much action, but Hvam’s delivery creates a narrative drive that keeps listeners engaged. E.N. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In this thoughtful debut, narrator Amanda Cobb gives listeners an emotional story of a girl on a journey to find herself. Leila is traveling across the country to see the Northern Lights. On her way she encounters four teens whose lives she changes—and who end up making an impact on hers. Amanda Cobb hits all the right notes in her narration, showing us various facets of Leila's personality—her spunk, charm, and pensiveness as she searches for her identity, as well as the intensity of her crush on a boy she’s just met. Cobb varies her accents, tone, and pacing for an engaging listen. Listeners will be hooked to the end. S.B.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Dan Bittner and Emma Galvin's expert dual narration portrays Isabel and Cole, secondary characters in Stiefvater's popular Shiver trilogy. Cole is a former drug addict and rock god who has become part-wolf and now seeks a comeback with his career and with Isabel. Bittner illuminates the many sides of Cole, using tones of sarcasm that can be cutting to the point of brutality. But in internal conversations and private moments with Isabel, Bittner shows Cole's tender, even tortured, side. Galvin is equally talented in conveying the multifaceted Isabel, who is sometimes witty and playful, other times cold and bitter, and still others hurt and fragile. Together, the two narrators show how these wounded characters come together in a relationship that is magnetic, explosive, and, finally, honest. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Thirteen-year-old Noah believes he shares one heart with his twin sister, Jude, but jealousy and secrets threaten their relationship. Dual narrations by Julia Whelan and Jesse Bernstein distinguish both protagonists, articulate their changing personalities, animate minor characters, and reveal dramatic truths. When Jude resumes the story at age 16, the two barely speak. Jude reveals a history of hurt and betrayals, and a desire for their former closeness. Whelan’s Jude sounds overtly sarcastic, but listeners are privy to her feelings of vulnerability. For example, she believes she can fend off her mother’s vindictive ghost by continually wielding superstitions devised by her quirky grandmother. Bernstein’s young Noah is vulnerable as well, coping with the pain of a turbulent family and his burgeoning homosexuality. Two emotive performances describe the heartbreak of lonely teens who long for a closeness they feel they don’t deserve. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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It’s rare for a story to hold equal appeal and emotional resonance for listeners of all ages, but Blankman’s story, combined with Heather Wilds's intense narration, does so in dramatic fashion. Growing up in 1930s Munich, Gretchen Muller clings to the teachings of her honorary Uncle Adolf, whose power has always protected her family. Then, a chance encounter with a Jewish reporter makes her question everything she believes and forces her on a quest for the truth. Wilds’s German accents, adopted for the story’s dialogue, are distracting amid the British-accented narrative. But she excels at differentiating characters of different ages, genders, and backgrounds. B.E.K. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The author brings stellar research and nonfiction storytelling skills to the fate of Russia’s last imperial family, the Romanovs, including young Anastasia. Narrator Kimberly Farr adds energy and soul to their story, conveying a range of emotions as she recounts the highs and lows of the family’s life. She expresses contentment as the close-knit family enjoys their secluded palace and desperation whenever hemophilia threatens the life of the young tsarevich, Nicholas. Primarily, however, she conveys a mix of sadness and bewilderment as the royal couple callously and repeatedly blunder in dealing with their subjects. In sections titled “Beyond the Palace Gates,” Russian-accented narrators read period newspaper articles, diaries, and correspondence, providing a fully immersive experience of a time, a place, and a tragically doomed family. L.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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From the first moments of Brittany Pressley’s narration, listeners will have no doubt that this story is something special. For 17 years, Dorothea Hemlock, a powerful, spirited—and toothless—witch, has protected her granddaughter, Josephine, from a family curse. But now it seems the curse has caught up with them, and life for the Hemlocks will never be the same. Pressley captures Josephine’s assurance and curiosity with easy grace and showcases Dorothea’s strength without sacrificing the humor and levity of the characters’ deep bond. She navigates the various ages and genders of the supporting cast adroitly, keeping the pace quick and the tension high. Her contemplative narration is beautifully effective, lending emotional tension and vitality to this imaginative story. B.E.K. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Nell is enthusiastic about her freshman year because she’ll attend the same school as her adored older sister, Layla. Julia Whelan narrates a first-person narrative that is voiced as a plea from Nell to her older sister. Nell’s characterization demands a nuanced reading, and Whelan’s layered portrayal is perfect. She emphasizes Nell’s longing to return to childhood, when she felt so united with her sister that she referred to herself as “Nellayla.” Whelan expresses the growing tension as Nell’s loneliness and frustration at their separateness turns to worry and then fear about Layla’s secret life—a hidden affair with the school’s most popular teacher. Whelan dramatizes the changes in Nell as she centers herself with sarcasm, suffers with the truth and ugly school rumors, and struggles to determine a proper course of action. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Riley, a teenager in the Victorian period, and Chevie Savano, a teen FBI agent in the present day, team up once again in this second installment of WARP (Witness Anonymous Relocation Program). Narrator Maxwell Caulfield once again displays his magnificent range of characters, accents, and emotions in this race-to-the-finish story. Maxwell’s timing matches the action perfectly as the teen duo works to save Europe from the evil Colonel Clayton Box. Both fans and newcomers will agree that Maxwell Caulfield’s interpretation is just the ticket for satisfying listening. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Jennifer Ikeda offers up a crisp, complex narration of a novel that features royalty, drama, and intrigue. Princess Marie is the heir to the throne. Aelwyn is a magician who will serve the kingdom. But both girls desire a different path, so they devise a dangerous plan in the hope of changing their fates. In a rich and engaging narration, Ikeda blends voices and accents to create distinct characters. Her narration alternates from the regal voices of the court to the brash tone of the American and the snobbish voice of the former fiancée of the prince. Overall, Ikeda captures the intrigue and drama with an air of mystery. S.B.T. SYNC 2015 © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In the epic conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, Karou becomes an epicenter for both Chimera and Misbegotten Seraphim as they struggle to save their home world, Eretz, from the newly crowned Emperor Jael. The war’s emotional toll is hauntingly evident in Taylor’s novel. However, Khristine Hvam’s narration brings levity and hope to listeners as Karou’s friends and former enemies band together to fight the evil that could destroy them all. Hvam’s accents and cadence for these characters, Zuzana especially, give lightness to this rich, dark tale. At the same time, she captures the tension in each scene, keeping listeners riveted until the final sentence. J.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Cassandra Morris offers a flawless portrayal of a perceptive 12-year-old protagonist who is trying to come to terms with her mother’s illness, actions, and absence. Morris’s high pitch and unrushed narration capture the youthful innocence and contemplations of Sarah Nelson, who survived her mother’s attempt to drown her. Left to cope with an alcoholic father and the death of her twin brother, Sarah seeks comfort and guidance from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and its protagonist, Atticus Finch. Morris’s lilting intonations highlight Sarah’s intelligence and curiosity, bringing out Sarah’s determination and optimism. Morris’s stirring performance deftly complements this enticing story, making for a moving YA listening experience. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Mark Turetsky's intense voice propels listeners through this futuristic mystery, in which a young man discovers a sanctuary for children where things may not be as they seem. A vivid grasp of imagery is essential to the success of Turetsky's delivery as the protagonist of this tale has synesthesia, and his unique view of the world shapes the listener's perception of the unusual Home for Childhood, its disturbingly cheerful guardians, and the bewildered, uneasy children who roam the grounds. Listeners will appreciate Turetsky's ability to keep the suspense alive by dropping hints lightly and keeping the subtext at bay until the moment is right for dark secrets to be revealed. K.S.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Julia Whelan draws out the most interesting facets of each character in this vampire story. Mel has lived in a town founded by vampires her whole life, but it’s not until teen vampire Francis begins to attend her high school that Mel realizes how uncomfortable she is with living amongst the undead. As Mel fights to keep her friend Cathy from becoming a vampire, tries to ferret out her principal’s dark secret, and struggles with feelings for a boy, Whelan keeps each character distinct. She uses varying cadences and succeeds with both British and French accents as needed. Young vampire lovers will be thoroughly entertained. J.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Gerard Doyle’s straightforward narration of the conclusion to Bowman’s Odyssey of a Slave trilogy is certain to keep listeners of all ages enormously entertained. Finding himself suddenly free from his captors, the Trojan Alexi is determined to find and rescue his sister at any cost. His quest brings him into the world of the Greeks, and close to the young Telemachus, who eagerly awaits the return of his father, Odysseus. Though subdued, Doyle’s performance is composed and steady, guiding listeners through the high drama and continual surprises with calm confidence. His accents and inflections add color, and he captures the innocence and determination of this trilogy’s intrepid hero admirably, making this re-imagined epic richly entertaining. B.E.K. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Rebecca Lowman embraces the earnestness that is the essence of Elise Dembowski. Despite a summer of studying lipsticks and fashion, Elise enters her freshman year of high school knowing “there are so many rules” that she can’t possibly change herself to satisfy everyone. Listening to her iPod constantly doesn’t protect her from the cruelty of her classmates, so she tries suicide to stop the pain. At this point, Lowman’s voice is flat and toneless. Seven months later, however, Elise walks into the night “to escape feeling trapped in her life” and, in a surprising turn, winds up at a warehouse party. Amid impassioned dancing and the security of music she’s loved her whole life, Lowman portrays Elise’s amazement at discovering DJing, friendship, first love, and finding her true self. S.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In a low, confidential voice, narrator Rebecca Lowman introduces us to Georgie McCool, a sitcom writer whose marriage is in trouble. Separated from her family at Christmas and camping out at her mother’s house, Georgie discovers that the old rotary phone in her childhood bedroom can somehow, magically, connect her to the 15-years-ago version of her husband, Neal. Some early sections of the book might call for a slightly zippier delivery, as when Georgie’s trading quips with her writing partner and best friend, Seth. But Lowman’s tone is perfect for the intimate, late-night phone conversations between Georgie and Neal. Rowell’s writing deftly avoids cliché, and the book’s action builds cleverly. Listeners might find themselves a bit breathless for the final two hours as Lowman skillfully sweeps us along to the satisfying, romantic, hopeful conclusion. J.M.D. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Alexander’s lyrical free verse and Corey Allen’s musical narration are as magical a combination as this story’s pairing of basketball and poetry. Allen blends rhyming, hip-hop, and jazzy words into a melodic flow. His tones switch like a fast-changing crossover dribble as he narrates from the viewpoint of 13-year-old Jordan Bell, aka “Filthy McNasty.” Filthy crows with cockiness, taunting his twin brother in a pick-up game, then is immediately meek at his mother’s stern reminder to clean his filthy room. In one moment Filthy is on the court trash-talking his father, formerly a famous basketball player. Seconds later, he’s plunged into a life-or-death situation. Allen maintains the tension throughout the sibling rivalry, athletic competition, and sudden tragedy. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The illegal epistolic communication between Madeleine in Cambridge, England, and Elliott, in the Kingdom of Cello, through a crack between their worlds, continues in the second charming installment of the Colors of Madeleine trilogy. Elliott is an attractive and brave farm boy, and Andrew Eiden’s voice is suitably swoon worthy and appealing. Fiona Hardingham’s Madeleine is whimsical and dreamy but also something of a confused teen. When Elliott and Madeleine make contact, their conversation almost echoes with isolation as they talk in limbo between their two worlds. Princess Ko enlists Elliott and the Royal Youth Alliance to rescue her family, abducted from Cello, and Kate Reinders adeptly swings between Ko’s airhead public persona and her actual single-minded intensity. Peter McGowan rounds out the cast with an authoritative tone for the missing royals. A.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Julia Whelan’s narration is flat-out amazing. When Julie moves to Boston to begin college, she takes up residence with the Watkins family. Whelan portrays Julie with the practical tone of a teenager who is used to dealing with whatever life throws at her. Whelan’s reading of Watkins brothers Matt and Finn offers just enough differentiation for the listener to keep track of who is speaking. Younger sister Celeste rounds out the siblings with a high-pitched voice that is completely at odds with her articulate speech yet is appropriate for her quirky personality. The Watkins aren’t exactly what they seem, and throughout the year she spends in their home, Julie falls in love, discovers a tragedy, experiences betrayal, and still has time to be a regular college freshman. E.N. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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At what point does love become obsession? Australian natives Eloise Oxer and Paul English coax every bit of charged emotion from this complex tale, which tells of the strange wives of the men on fictional Rollrock Island. Oxer uses a high-pitched voice for the crafty sea witch Misskaella, who cackles, mocks, and grieves in equal measure as she discovers she has brought a woman out of a seal, a selkie. English transitions from the gruff tones of a father to the innocent, sparkling notes of his young son, who has all the freshness of youth. Oxer's harshness and English’s warmth are like ice-cold waves hitting warm sand, leaving the listener spellbound and shaken as the grim consequences of love without boundaries unfold. E.E. SYNC 2015 © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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With the talented Andrew Eiden and an ensemble of other actors narrating, this novel makes the most of the audiobook format. High school senior Danny Wright’s National Guard unit is called in for crowd control at a protest in Boise, and Danny’s gun accidentally fires. Twelve people end up dead, and the state of Idaho verges on civil war with the U.S.A. Narrator Eiden’s performance is excellent as he conveys Danny’s anguish and the belligerence of the men in charge as well as a mother’s concern and a teen girl’s longing. The other voice actors are uneven in their performances. But using them to let listeners hear the “news” of the brewing civil war on radio broadcasts and in protest songs adds verisimilitude to the idea of a war fought on U.S. soil. G.D. SYNC 2014 © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Ariadne Meyers’s tone is candid as 17-year-old Cadence Sinclair Eastman reveals ugly realities about her proud, wealthy family. She harshly judges her bigoted, manipulative mother, aunts, and grandfather from a secure position as one of the “the Liars”—the younger generation of teens who spend summers on an exclusive island. Soon Meyers reveals the opposing views of a teen named Cady. She suffers crippling headaches and is gripped by a tragedy that lurks at the edges of her unstable mind. Meyers’s expression of Cadence’s pain is raw and startling, as is the Liars’ tragic response to her unlocking of secrets. The impact of Cady’s realizations will be just as shocking to listeners, who may immediately return to Meyers’s narration of this haunting story. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Ilyana Kadushin narrates the concluding audio in Zevin’s futuristic Birthright series. As in the first two audiobooks, her portrayal of Anya Balanchine is as complex as the heroine. Kadushin’s youthful, world-weary tone is an accurate reflection of Anya’s troubled life. She has lost her parents and her true love, been to prison, negotiated with sparring Mafia leaders, and supported her diminishing family members. Now the future appears brighter for the 18-year-old “Mafia princess” as she has turned into a nightclub darling who gives chocolate back to New York, where it’s been outlawed. But Kadushin must continue to mirror Anya’s indomitable spirit as darkness finds her one last time. This satisfying conclusion fulfills the promise of the series. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In this audio collection of seven stories, two characters act as the connecting fibers. Julian Rhind-Tutt strengthens those fibers with a stellar narration that exudes mystery and intrigue through meticulous pacing and selective emphasis. As each story takes the audience back further in time, Rhind-Tutt adjusts his dialect and tone to match the period, characters, and events. He simultaneously maintains consistency in the connecting narrative, which focuses on the return of the two souls, Merle and Eric, as well as recurring symbols like the hares, apples, and dragon flowers. The atmospheric music that signals each story shift adds suspense, but it’s the passion of Rhind-Tutt’s reading that makes this audiobook extraordinary—and one not to be missed by listeners of any age. J.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Cassandra Campbell’s lovely alto grounds the magical realism that flows through this multigenerational tale. Born with wings, Ava Lavender is hidden away from the world by her mother and grandmother. Listeners hear the story of the Roux family—from the first generation that immigrated to New York from France, through Ava’s grandmother and mother, and then through Ava and her brother, Henry—all of whom have extraordinary lives. Campbell uses rich Gallic tones when performing the heavy French accents of some family members, and she playfully rolls her “r”s when portraying Spanish characters. In the moments when dark, violent things happen to Ava and her family, her strong, warm voice offers a sense of security. Listeners are in for a strange and beautiful audiobook experience. G.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Rebecca Soler delivers a take-no-prisoners performance for the third title in The Lunar Chronicles. Soler’s lilting yet edgy voice builds rapport between Lunar captive Cress and her dashing rescuer, Captain Carswell Thorne, all the while building their romance in this fairy-tale space opera. Listeners who aren’t “Team Cress” within the first few chapters must be as heartless as Lunar Queen Levana, whose plans to take over Earth are seriously cramping the budding romance between Emperor Kai and fugitive Cinder. Soler’s instinctive delivery of Meyer’s humor makes the story an addictive listen. Cress and Thorne’s repartee, along with the chatter of the fashion-obsessed droid Iko, are just a few of this audio’s entertaining moments. Series fans and new listeners will be equally entranced. C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Four years after Francesca’s small brother, Simon, drowns, she begins falling apart. Narrator Tara Sands tracks Francesca’s courageous summer journey as she confronts an array of fears—from swimming to being honest with her parents and her “bff.” Confusion clouds Francesca’s already complicated emotions when she agrees to babysit Frankie Sky, a 4-year-old boy born on the day of her brother’s death. Is this coincidence, or is Frankie her brother reincarnated? Nearing the story’s climax, Sands expresses the terrible anger that Francesca has denied for years. Even stronger than this crescendo of a performance is Sands’s portrayal of the active, adorable Frankie Sky. His malapropisms and misunderstandings counteract Francesca’s pain—winning her heart and wowing listeners. S.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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With a stiff speech pattern and a flat affect to her voice, narrator Kate Rudd draws listeners into this chilling story of teens and terrorism. Valley and her older brother, Bo, have been taught to distrust conventional society, especially the government, which they believe is responsible for the death of their mother. When their father goes missing, Valley and Bo join others who are living off the grid and plotting ways to bring the world to its knees. Rudd’s stark delivery perfectly captures Valley’s twisted worldview and makes the teen’s gruesome determination to have an impact shocking. Rudd clearly navigates the alternating time sequences, making this terrifying story seem all too believable. S.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Teenager Josie Moraine, portrayed perfectly by narrator Lauren Fortgang, is typical in so many ways that you forget about the dire and dangerous circumstances of her life. Fortgang affects a teenager’s edge of anger and shame as she describes the brothel where Josie has grown up and the plaintive yearning of her dream to attend an Ivy League college, worlds away from New Orleans. Tension grows in Fortgang’s performance as Josie become entangled in a murder investigation that threatens her escape plan. Listeners who enjoyed Sepetys’s previous bestseller, BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, will find the same quality of writing and characters to root for, enhanced by the superb performance of Fortgang. R.O. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Jerry Dixon's strong performance and Philbrick's exceptional story about a young boy living through Hurricane Katrina ensure that this audiobook will become a classic. Zane Dupree travels to New Orleans from New Hampshire to meet his great-grandmother for the first time. During his visit they’re stranded by the hurricane. Eventually, they're rescued by Tru, an elderly musician, and a feisty girl named Malvina. Dixon perfectly captures Zane's voice as well as Tru's warmth and calm—which keeps the kids centered—and prickly Malvina—who is dealing with her absent mother. When they seek help, the trio meets the best and worst of people—all impeccably conveyed by Dixon. Listeners can almost SEE the people caught up in this American tragedy. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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At the age of 5, Gerald became “the Crapper,” known for inappropriate defecating on a reality TV show that focused on his family. Narrator Michael Stellman portrays Gerald at age 17 with all his complicated layers. Gerald has been in anger management counseling for years. Stellman’s skillful narration melds the teen’s fury with confusion as he “wakes from his ten-year-old nap” to explore the causes of his extreme behavior. Stellman’s narration shifts rapidly and believably between flares and more subtle icy anger as Gerald realizes the effects of TV, his sociopathic sister, and living with a reputation unjustly earned at an early age. Stellman’s reading takes listeners below the surface to experience Gerald’s transformation and courage as he escapes isolation and abandons a comforting fantasy world to find real love. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Harry is ugly, shy, and covered with hideous burn scars. Befriended by the charismatic Johnny, he finds his way back to life through participation in a band. Narrating this story about the power of music and friendship to heal, Lincoln Hoppe strikes just the right note with the character of Harry—offbeat, a touch sarcastic, a little wistful—as Harry describes the teen friendships and tensions that arise around the band, The Scar Boys. Hoppe’s perfect pacing moves the story along while allowing Vlahos’s details to unfold in the listener’s mind. Saturated with musical references, this audiobook has chapter titles that are song titles. The author even plays the guitar music that introduces the production and provides the accompaniment when Hoppe sings one of Vlahos’s original songs. J.C.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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If there’s such a thing as respectful irreverence, Nick Podehl has it in spades. By lending humor and compassion to the story of an adolescent boy who is visited by Jesus, Podehl provides a simple, direct interpretation of Christ, free of pretense or posturing, which enhances this narrative for the religious and nonreligious alike. Podehl’s sullen, surly young protagonist is given a commiserative touch that allows listeners to empathize with his struggle to find meaning in the wake of a tragedy. A relaxed pace and smooth delivery keep this moderately short work from feeling too brief. Podehl’s reassuring tone imbues it with a sense of hope throughout and a feeling of solid resolution at the end. K.S.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Robert Ramirez captures the listener’s attention immediately, recounting the events (and the aftermath 10 years later) of a massacre that killed all the adults and many children in the Thorn Hill community in Brazil. In this addition to the Heir Chronicles, 17-year-old Jonah, a member of the Nightshade network, becomes concerned when someone begins murdering members of the Wizard Guild. Ramirez’s performance offers an intriguing look at the backstory of Jonah, the surviving children, and their magical gifts. He creates a credible world in which Jonah and Emma , a lovely young woman, search for the truth hidden in their past. Ramirez keeps listeners engaged with his youthful voice, his spot-on pacing, and his ability to convey Jonah’s sense of longing and confusion. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Leonard Peacock is a complicated character, and narrator Noah Galvin quickly conveys his disturbing emotions. On his eighteenth birthday, a day his mother forgets to remember, Leonard plans to kill his former best friend and then himself. There’s drama in the situation, and Galvin portrays Leonard’s quick changes from hot, vengeful anger to cold, sarcastic distance as well as his flashes of longing and sadness. As Leonard delivers gifts to four people who improved his “worthless” life, Galvin marks Leonard’s mix of self-loathing, tenderness, and regret. Galvin’s success is in unifying the many facets of the book. He integrates the narrative and footnotes seamlessly, and, more importantly, he connects the many feelings and tones into a powerful whole with a haunting ending. S.W. 2014 Audies Finalist, SYNC 2014 © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Nick Podehl’s narration energizes this cerebral story of the afterlife. The story begins with Seth’s death and subsequent awakening in a familiar, yet deserted, neighborhood where his worst memories reside. Much of the story takes place with Seth as the only character, although flashbacks to his past allow Podehl to explore more characters. He expertly adds dimension to the dialogue—which takes place in Seth’s head. He’s especially adept at delivering the sarcasm of Seth’s friends, particularly that of his friend Monica. Overall, Podehl captures Seth’s emotions as he tries to understand his experiences before and after his death. E.N. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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A splendid performance by Simon Prebble conveys the intrigue of this gripping story about the origins of Yassen, the Russian assassin in the Alex Rider thriller series. Prebble’s narration embodies the 14-year-old protagonist, effectively conveying his fear and grief when he narrowly escapes a covert government attack on his village. Prebble’s change in tone reveals Yassen’s growing confidence as he matures and finds a place in his new world of espionage and danger. Prebble’s assortment of international accents, including a credible Russian one, makes for compelling characters, while his impeccable timing and modulation create the highly charged moments of this listening experience. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This well-deserved winner of the 2014 Odyssey Award is not for the faint of heart. Kirby Heyborne begins with precise pronunciations that illuminate the alliterative, imagistic writing. Immediately his dolorous tones establish the setting, a dying 1981 midwestern farm, as well as the vulnerability of 19-year-old Ry, who fears for his family. Heyborne’s voice is low and guttural as he portrays a stranger who tells Ry’s family of a prison break. Heyborne shifts from a tone of longing to one of menace when the stranger warns Ry that his sadistic father is coming for him. As Ry remembers his escape from horrific past abuses, Heyborne’s reading makes his feelings palpable. These amp up even more viscerally when the monstrous father reappears and Ry, and the listener, descends further into a nightmare. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Odyssey Award Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Fans of the surprise hit MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN will welcome Kirby Heyborne’s engaging narration of Riggs’s second book. Jacob and his band of peculiar friends continue to travel through time, encountering strange creatures and chilling hollows—shadowy monsters that Jacob is peculiarly able to detect. Heyborne deftly guides listeners through the complex story. Never hurrying the pace, he allows listeners to absorb Riggs’s image-rich, densely plotted prose. Heyborne also moves masterfully among the large cast of characters, creating distinct British voices for each of Jacob’s peculiar friends. Heyborne’s sense of timing, evident pleasure in the material, and ability to thrillingly execute the book’s many dramatic moments will keep listeners riveted. J.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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De la Peña’s apocalyptic adventure story, which starts off on a cruise ship and ends with a tsunami on a disease-ravaged island, will have listeners hanging on for dear life. As Shy, a Mexican-American crew member, reels from one disaster to the next, narrator Henry Leyva excels at dialogue. He brings to life the voices of the crew and passengers aboard the luxury liner, highlighting for listeners de la Peña’s provocative exploration of class tensions and making them care when lives are lost. Everyone from Shy’s Mexican grandmother to a spoiled rich kid to Shy’s fellow crew members gets his or her own distinct treatment, adding dimension to this fast-paced story. Listeners will find Leyva's plain-spoken, likable Shy especially engaging. J.C.G. SYNC 2015 © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Cherise Boothe narrates this award-winning story of war, dislocation, and immigration with restrained feeling. Her soft cadence is measured so as not to overwhelm the listener but holds enough vigor to testify to the horrors experienced by Viola, the teenaged protagonist. Boothe's lilting voice captures the Sudanese background of the novel, lacing the speech of the older characters with a slight accent that makes their dialogue authentic. Her vocal dexterity brings this novel alive for the listener. At varying times gentle, angry, and sad, Boothe's narration captures the complexity of this family's journey from Sudan to Egypt to the U.S. M.R. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Known for writing about difficult issues that affect contemporary teens, Anderson focuses her latest novel on 17-year-old Hayley and her father, Andy, who suffers from PTSD after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Julia Whelan's expert performance brings out the complexity of Hayley's character, picking up on her vulnerability and defensive toughness, mixing both with a good dose of teen attitude. Whelan's solid characterizations, varied cadence, and expressive reading strengthen the listener’s connection to this emotionally intense story. Narrator Luke Daniels delivers the few sections told from Andy's point of view. His mature voice makes a believable contrast with Whelan's, and he captures Andy's tortured flashbacks and overwhelming feelings of survivor guilt. An unforgettable audiobook for older teens and adults. C.B.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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On the high school lawn, Harry and Craig are attempting to break the Guinness World Record for longest kiss. Meanwhile, other gay youth are searching for acceptance, navigating relationships, confronting prejudice, and dealing with the overwhelming reality of now. In the background, a Greek chorus of gay men—the generation lost to AIDS—watches. Narrating his own work, David Levithan strikes a balance between elegy and hope—perfect for a story about generations. Though his performance is not polished, it is impassioned. This sincerity resonates and deepens the emotional weight of the intersecting stories, particularly the observations of the chorus. Characters are recognizable by personality and nuanced delivery, allowing the wide-ranging plot to unfold seamlessly. An afterword provides insight into the story's origin. A.S. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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From the first word, this rich recording envelops the listener. Both the production quality and the performance are superb. W. Morgan Sheppard's narration is a vehicle of otherworldly transport that truly takes the listener far far away. Sheppard's voice embodies the haunting aspects of this dark tale. Jacob Grimm, of the Brothers Grimm, is a ghost seeking redemption. Through guiding and protecting Jeremy, a boy whose odd talent is hearing the dead, he hopes to find his way beyond the in-between. First, he must prevent the dark whispered threat that shrouds Jeremy’s life from coming to fruition. Sheppard's tone conveys Jacob's tenderness toward his charge—whether he’s consoling, chiding, or urging Jeremy not to let the spirited Ginger lure him into certain trouble. A.M.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Author Valente narrates September’s latest trip into Fairyland with unabated delight. Listeners will feel September’s despair over growing up and her deep joy as she reunites with Ell the Wyverary and Saturday the Marid. Valente’s engagement with the minutiae of September’s trip to the moon in a magical jalopy will keep listeners riveted to every detail. She trumpets September’s wildly swinging emotions, but when her voice becomes quiet and still, listeners will clearly hear September’s fervent desire to remain in Fairyland with her best friends. With elegant phrasing, Valente captures the wonders of discovery in this marvelous alien land and the universal truths of the human heart. Better sound editing would have made this production just about perfect. C.A. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator James Langton portrays 14-year-old Sherlock Holmes, ably capturing the qualities and quirks that the famed detective became so known for when he grew up. After his American sleuthing partners, Virginia and Amyus Crow, father and daughter, go missing, Sherlock and his friend, Matty, follow clues all the way to Scotland to find them. Their survival hinges on the combination of Sherlock’s unwavering logic and Matty’s instinct. Langton demonstrates a genuine understanding of every character’s motivations and deftly portrays their various foreign accents and class distinctions. As delivered by Langton, the voice of the criminal mastermind, Scobell, exudes such malice it makes one’s blood run cold. This series is a must for Sherlock fans and will undoubtedly attract new ones. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Amy McFadden’s superb narration propels the listener into the high- stakes world of professional horseback-riding competition. Vivienne Taylor, the 17-year-old daughter of a horse veterinarian, is an equine empath who dreams of an opportunity to ride in the Olympics. When she receives a scholarship to the elite Fairmont Riding Academy in L.A., she finds she can communicate with all the horses except Harmony, the one assigned to her, who remains silent. Vivienne’s research into Harmony’s strange silence uncovers secrets others would do anything to keep buried. McFadden’s diversity of snooty accents for the school’s wealthy students is impressive. Her depiction of the close bond between Vivienne and the horses is perfectly paced. This emotionally charged production will touch listeners’ hearts. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Kidder recounts the transformative story of Paul Farmer, a Massachusetts doctor whose work in Haiti, Peru, and Russia influenced world health policy, especially for the poor. Farmer’s charismatic personality looms large as he advocates tirelessly for a “preferential option” for the poor in many matters of need. Farmer emerges as a selfless advocate for humanity’s most vulnerable. Narrator Lincoln Hoppe’s slow, matter-of-fact style allows listeners to absorb the complex text. His neutral tone also makes it easier to hear upsetting subject matter. On the other hand, his slow pace makes his reading sound stiff, and he does not project the inherent drama of Farmer’s aspirations. In sum, Hoppe’s narration makes for an understated delivery of a powerful story. C.A. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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In this sequel to the Newbery honor book ONE CRAZY SUMMER, Delphine and her younger sisters are caught between the middle-class mores of their Brooklyn grandmother and the radical views of their mother, a poet in California who sends them missives on the struggle for black power. Narrator Sisi Johnson conveys Delphine’s continual dilemmas as the eldest sister who is old beyond her years—hence her mother’s constant admonition—"P.S. Be Eleven." She readily shifts to the younger-sounding voice of the sixth grader who is enraptured by a new band—the Jackson Five. Johnson splendidly conveys the times, capturing the childish enthusiasms of the three girls, the scolding voice of grandmother, and the anguish of an uncle returned from Vietnam. D.P.D. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The polished narration of Brandon Gill paints a crystal-clear picture of two high school seniors, Darius and Twig, who are struggling against the burdens of growing up in Harlem. The emotion, warmth, and humor given to the boys' ruminations about school, family, the neighborhood, and Darius’s own bird's-eye view of the world are tangible. Despite poverty, gang violence, bullies, and domestic problems, they hold fast to their dreams. Darius, a writer, wants his story published, and Twig, a runner, needs a track scholarship for college. Their dreams are what set them apart from the chaos around them. Gill’s performance is intense, relaxed, detached, or light in all the right places. Listeners will stay engaged with this story long after it’s over. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Riveting. Young adult listeners will learn a lot from Swanson’s overview of John F. Kennedy’s early years, election, and administration—as well as from his minute-by-minute account of Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas in November 1963. Will Patton is purposeful and precise as he narrates. With the you-are-there style, listeners ride in Kennedy’s limousine, look down from the Texas School Book Depository, move through the halls of the Dallas police station, fly with the shocked and grief-stricken entourage in Air Force One, and walk with the funeral cortege. With brisk and urgent pacing, Patton voices each factual nugget and lets it hang momentarily before pressing on to the next. Other features include audio excerpts from Kennedy’s inaugural speech and a list of landmarks listeners may want to visit. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Will Patton’s narration enriches this contemporary fantasy, helping to provide verisimilitude to the setting of Henrietta, Virginia, a town steeped in magic and mystery. His drawl adds authenticity as he hints at the social divide between the prep school boys and those less fortunate. And his softened tones add to the suspense as the crew of boys and their female companion, Blue, continue their search for the mythic sleeping king of Wales. Particularly noteworthy is Patton’s portrayal of Ronan, a dark character who dreams objects into reality and explores his murky past. In addition, the menace in Patton’s voice makes the Gray Man all the more intimidating. As Stiefvater’s series continues to develop, Patton enhances both its characters and plot. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Few people know of the 1876 plot to snatch President Lincoln's body and ransom it for money and the release from jail of the era's most notorious counterfeiter, Ben Boyd. The plot was foiled only by the committed work of a Secret Service agent, a stool pigeon, and a loyal groundskeeper. Will Patton narrates this true story with tempered drama, bringing richness to the background material and excitement to the action. Patton's skillful manipulation of volume, pace, and expression catches listeners' attention, keeping them fully invested in Agent Patrick Tyrrell's attempts to thwart the gang of grave robbers. The entire family will enjoy this real-life cat-and-mouse thriller, complete with great characters, bungled plans, well-timed luck, and a spooky graveyard. C.B.L. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Emma Galvin reprises Blume’s timeless novel of grief and self-discovery for today’s teens. Fifteen-year-old Davey Wexler struggles to accept her father’s murder and her family’s relocation to Los Alamos, New Mexico. A chance meeting with an intriguing boy gives Davey a secret joy that helps her cope. Galvin eschews Blume’s dreamy, remote text for an immediate, intimate reading. Her choice to avoid accents helps the story retain its universal nature. However, Galvin sets a rapid pace in the first chapters, which makes it difficult to absorb the backstory. Some secondary characters don’t have distinct voices. And while Galvin doesn’t overact, her youthful insouciance labors to capture Davey’s poignant desperation. Still, TIGER EYES is a classic that makes for a powerful audiobook. C.A. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Fred Sullivan’s rich voice strikes the perfect balance of intimacy and authority as the mass migration to California during the Dust Bowl era gets renewed attention in this short audio. Stanley contrasts the poverty and despair of the migrants, many from Oklahoma, with the progress migrant children made at the innovative Weedpatch School, near Bakersfield. The story describes the school’s development and the useful skills children learned, including plumbing and animal husbandry. Sullivan’s natural style in delivering instructive quotations adds immediacy. While his pacing is perfect for engaging listeners of any age, the repeated use of an expletive in primary source quotations makes this performance more appropriate for teen listeners. Sullivan’s stellar performance complements Stanley’s captivating vignettes. C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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In this dystopian novel listeners are led down the primrose path to the City of New Hope, a seeming Garden of Eden that promises a new future for the survivors of “the floraes.” Julia Whelan gives a commanding performance as Amy, the young protagonist who survives the green globs of terror with wit and cunning. It looks like her life has returned to normal—better than normal, even—until she finds herself questioning the principles of her new society. Lunetta's characters—Amy herself; her mother; the silent toddler, Baby; and even the wily Dr. Reynolds—are all superbly portrayed with Whelan's vocal arsenal. Her tempo complements the quick and clever plot, which leaves listeners breathless with anticipation. Listeners who want a heart-thumping ride will find that this audiobook and Julia Whelan deliver. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Rebecca Lowman creates another stunning portrayal in Cath, a fanfiction writer who deals better with her thousands of online friends than the real people who surround her during her first year of college. Lowman begins by expressing Cath’s snarky dialogue as well as her unvoiced fears about separating from her identical twin, caring for her emotionally fragile father, and adjusting to college life. Gradually, Lowman demonstrates Cath’s tentative warmth as she falls in love and begins to trust in others and in her own abilities. Narrator Maxwell Caulfield delivers periodic snippets of a Harry Potter-like series and fragments of Cath’s fanfiction. His crisp British tones provide exquisite contrast to Lowman’s more emotive narration. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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By turns tender and terrified, Jenna Lamia's voice brings tight focus to this first-person account of 17-year-old Radley's efforts to find her way home after political upheaval rocks the U.S. Hesse, a Newbery Medal winner, once again spotlights the poetry inherent in everyday people and ordinary things. Lamia holds on to listeners' sympathy for the dumpster-diving heroine who is so fearful that she never musters the courage to ask what’s going on as she focuses on day-to-day survival. As Radley picks up companions on her eventual trek to Canada, including a girl and her dog, a helpful Quebec farm woman, a couple of comic chickens, and an African exchange student, Lamia renders each with care. The print version of this book comes with 50 photographs taken by Hesse to accompany the text. Radley's descriptions of them come to such vivid life in the narration that the printed photos are never missed in audio. M.M.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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Fourteen-year-old Madeleine and 15-year-old Elliot live in two different worlds—from which they communicate to each other by letter. Madeleine is being homeschooled in Cambridge, England. Elliott is a farm boy from the Kingdom of Cello whose father was killed by a purple storm (or he ran off with the physics teacher). The two find a crack between these two worlds in a parking meter. Fiona Hardingham makes Madeleine’s pluck, obsession with Isaac Newton, and amused disbelief in the existence of Cello both believable and lovable. Andrew Eiden’s Elliott is a smooth heartbreaker but one full of good cheer, common sense, and bravery. Also in the mix is a giggly newspaper column by a royal princess, voiced by Kate Reinders, with corrections and footnotes delivered with appropriate authority by Peter McGowan. It all adds up to a terrific fantasy voiced by equally terrific narrators. A.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, SYNC 2015 © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This second installment in the Violet Eden series is fascinating, emotional, and utterly addictive, thanks to Rebecca Macauley’s sympathetic and expertly nuanced performance. Violet has accepted her identity as a Grigori—a part-angel, part-human warrior who is defending humanity from exiled angels. But she hasn’t yet come to terms with a shattering betrayal at the hands of one of her mortal enemies—or her developing, and forbidden, relationship with her partner, Lincoln. And now that the Grigori are in a desperate race to secure the fate of the world, Violet might never get the chance to figure it all out. Macauley’s accents and characterizations are flawless, and her ability to convey the bravery, determination, and desire of this remarkable heroine will leave listeners eager for more. B.E.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Lin-Manuel Miranda’s neutral tones highlight the simplicity of this powerful, sparely written book. He accurately represents the defensive posture of 15-year-old Ari, who feels distanced from his own life. Miranda’s clipped expression reflects the teen’s frustrating attempts to comprehend secrets and other important aspects of his world: why his father hides his memories of Vietnam and why no one speaks of his imprisoned older brother, along with how he can come to terms with his confused feelings for Dante, another Latino boy, and, toughest of all, how he can make sense of who he really is. The dispassionate tone of both author and narrator belie the conflicting emotions Ari feels as he tries to grow up in a “universe of almost-men.” S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Tavia Gilbert captures every facet of Rachel Corrie's journey from middle school in Olympia, Washington, to her death at 23 beneath a bulldozer blade in Palestine. Rachel's parents released this collection of their daughter's poems and journal entries to fulfill her wish to be a published author and to let the world know her for more than her tragic death. The family's poignant introduction is movingly presented in Edward Asner's deep tones and measured delivery. From the adolescent's wonder at life to the young adult's tears of anger and frustration at the world's injustices, Gilbert's talented shadings of tone and intensity convey all the passion and talent of this remarkable young woman. Rachel gives us herself through her words; Tavia Gilbert gives us her voice. M.O.B. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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At the end of BLOOD RED ROAD, Saba rescues her brother, kills a friend out of mercy, and parts ways with her heart's desire, Jack. All of these haunt her in this dystopian sequel—plus she has a price on her head. Narrator Heather Lind continues to maintain suspense as Saba struggles externally with her ungrateful twin and internally with her nightmares and self-doubt. A new character adds comic relief, and Lind makes use of her wide vocal range to fully flesh out the supporting cast. In print this middle book is a long, dusty journey filled with disparate and disagreeable villains. Lind adds a crackling energy like the static charge of an approaching storm to keep the action—and the listening—unstoppable. M.M.O. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Some narrators have an intangible star quality. Their voices say, “Listen to me! I have a wonderful story to tell.” Gerard Doyle is such a narrator. His facility for accents and characterizations and his ability to set time and place by just the slightest vocal nuance make it almost impossible not to listen to him. The morning after the Greek invasion of Troy via the Trojan horse, 15-year-old Alexi is enslaved by Odysseus and brought aboard his ship. With a slave’s vision of the legendary heroes, Alexi tells of the ship’s foundering, of coming ashore to the land of the Lotus-Eaters, and of meeting the monstrous Cyclops, who likes the taste of Greeks. A delightfully original introduction to Homer’s ODYSSEY, read by a master craftsman. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, SYNC 2014 © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This historical audiobook focuses on the events that culminated in President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s assassination. Although the book is targeted for a younger audience, Edward Herrmann’s narration is magnificently suited for both adult and child listeners. He leads his audience expertly through this fact-filled account to its unforgettable end. Herrmann creates a compelling cadence that builds to a crescendo as the drama and horror unfold in the last chapters of Kennedy’s life. This will be the first time that many young listeners hear a detailed account of how one man’s anger and delusions changed the course of American history. Adult listeners who remember that fateful day will feel a strong connection to Herrmann’s presentation. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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In this series debut, set during the Bronze Age in ancient Greece, 12-year-old Hylas is on the run in desperate search of his sister. At the same time, a ruthless band of warriors known as Crows is set on destroying all Outsiders. Rich in historical detail, this harrowing story of survival and intrigue, complete with a runaway princess and an empathic dolphin, is brought to life with the husky, low tones of British actor Toby Stephens. Stephens excels at capturing emotional tension, expertly pitching his voice and measuring his pace to draw the listener close or to signal danger. His impeccable enunciation helps listeners feel completely at home in the ancient world. A.S. Winner of AudioFIle Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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To reveal almost anything about the way events in CODE NAME VERITY unfold would spoil the book’s many twists and turns and revelations. It all begins with Maddie, a young pilot, and Queenie, who are both part of the British war effort during WWII. The audiobook is its own revelation—narrators Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell bring Queenie and Maddie to vibrant life, and listeners will fall in love with them from the start. Gaskell and especially Christie perform (and even sing in) a variety of English and Scottish accents as well as flawless French and German. More than that, they so fully inhabit the characters that the most harrowing moments, so intimate and immediate on audio, are nearly unbearable. It's an extraordinary book, made even more extraordinary by their truly spellbinding narration. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, SYNC 2014 © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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In Oliver’s dystopian world, America has become a society in which some Americans consider love a disease to be cured. Lena and Hana recount their separate adventures in the battle for control of Portland, Maine. Hana’s loveless pairing with Fred and Lena’s breakup with Alex test the girls’ emotional fortitude. Narrator Sarah Drew captures the characters’ encounters with a world gone horribly awry. Her thrumming pace accentuates the story’s heartbreaking conflict and at certain points seethes with desperation. Drew’s memorable characters compel one’s full attention as they move relentlessly to their individual destinies. The production ends with comments from Drew on narrating this production. Her reading makes a powerful impact. C.A. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Two narrators tell the nuanced story of an unlikely first love. The actors excel at differentiating the multiple shifting viewpoints within each chapter of the story. More importantly, they give full voice to the inner feelings and outer expressions of Eleanor and Park and the interplay that depicts their tender relationship. Sunil Malhotra’s neutral conversational tones portray the stability and comfort Park gives Eleanor, a young woman who is tormented by her mercurial stepfather. Malhotra shows Park’s internal swings from self-deprecation at his awkwardness to the heightened emotions of his extreme feelings. Rebecca Lowman portrays the defiant, witty comments that belie Eleanor’s fears. In particular, Lowman expresses Eleanor’s longing for a safe haven and her determined resilience. The poignant story ends on an emotional crescendo. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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There's a magical quality to Katherine Kellgren's voice that works well with this aptly named novel. She has both a softness and an edge in her tone that perfectly capture the strong-willed yet romantic Sunday Woodcutter, the powerful seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. For Grumble, the talking frog soon-to-be prince who wins Sunday’s heart, Kellgren speaks with a comical hoarseness. The personalities of Sunday's siblings shine through as well—from Wednesday's quiet solitude to Saturday's brashness. She handles the various members of the court, from the evil king down to the brutish cook, with ease. Kellgren weaves a spell over the listener that's almost as powerful as the ones woven by the fairy godmothers in this charming story. M.D. 2013 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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January LaVoy's voice talent comes roaring through in this fast-paced crime drama set in 1920s New York City. When Evie O'Neill leaves her small town for the bright lights of the big city, she unwittingly finds herself at the center of a gruesome murder investigation. LaVoy manages to bring not only the characters but the decade itself to life. Immigrant voices drip with Irish, Polish, and Russian accents, flappers exude sass with their sultry rasps, and the gravelly tones of preachers and musicians reverberate throughout Harlem. Her portrayal of the murderer is so macabre that it's best to listen with the lights on. This first novel from a trilogy answers enough questions to satisfy while asking enough to leave listeners clamoring for the next installment. M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2013 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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"Do you believe in magic?" Answer that after you've listened to the first title in Stiefvater's new Raven Boys series. Narrator Will Patton takes you into a world of psychic powers, legends of the Welsh King Glendower, and the ley lines (mystical energy fields) that transect a sleepy Virginia town. Patton inhabits young Blue Sargent, who is raised in a family of psychics but whose own power amplifies what others see or sense. Blue is justly wary of the boys from the elite private academy, known as the Raven Boys. Listeners, like Blue, are fascinated and snared by the quest for Glendower led by Raven Boy Gansey. Patton is masterful with the suspense and the mysticism and seductively plays the emotional line of real and imagined events. Don't miss this compelling listen, and pray that Will Patton has already signed on for the other titles of the series. R.F.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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