Who says little kids are the only ones who like being read to? The expertly performed audio versions of these books for older readers capture the stories’ affecting dramas and strongly felt emotions.
In Patrick Ness’s haunting tale of pain and redemption, A Monster Calls, thirteen-year-old Conor O’Malley faces the death of his mother from cancer. Reader Jason Isaacs effortlessly shifts from Conor, his peers, and the adults in his life to the sonorous Monster, whose midnight visits compel Conor to confront his feelings. An author interview plus a bonus disc featuring illustrations from the book and accompanying audio excerpts are included. (12 years and up)
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt follows Doug Swieteck (from The Wednesday Wars) and his family to boring old Marysville, New York, in 1968. With the help of some new friends, Doug’s rough-and-tumble life begins to turn around after he discovers his artistic side, courtesy of a collection of John Audubon bird prints. In this 2012 Odyssey Award honor book, narrator Lincoln Hoppe effectively channels Doug’s ready-to-fight persona along with his more unguarded moments. (12 years and up)
Travis Roberts and Vida “Velveeta” Wojciehowski, two lonely eighth graders, gradually form a friendship in Pat Schmatz’s Bluefish. Luke Daniels performs the text, and his voicing of each character is admirably distinct. Reticent protagonist Travis speaks slowly and quietly; sassy Velveeta is intensely vulnerable. At the end of each chapter, Kate Rudd endearingly performs Velveeta’s letters. This audio edition ably interprets the protagonists’ quiet but profound evolution. (12 years and up)
Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races tells of the titular contest featuring man-eating fairy water horses. A girl has signed on to race for the first time, and she catches the attention of four-time winner Sean Kendrick. Chapters trade off between Kate “Puck” Connolly and Sean, with Steve West and Fiona Hardingham reading their respective first-person narratives. West employs a measured voice for the reserved Sean; Hardingham does a good job of conveying Puck’s fiery and introspective character. Listeners to this 2012 Odyssey Award honor book will be swept along for the entire ride. (13–16 years)