Fill those earbuds with great adventure books, from a WWII spy thriller to sci-fi dystopias. These four audiobooks will keep teens on the edge of their seats.
Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity was among the best of last year’s young adult fiction, and this audio version does it justice. Here is the intimate story of two young women — unlikely best friends — in WWII: one is a British spy in a Nazi prison; the other is a pilot. One has a chance; the other is doomed. But which is which? Wein’s intricately plotted thriller receives a fine audio treatment, one that heightens the book’s considerable emotion and suspense. The contrast between the refined aristocratic accents of one of the women and the working-class accents of the other, through the use of two different narrators, Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell, helps listeners follow the book’s intricate (but ultimately oh-so-rewarding) plot. (Bolinda Audio/Brilliance Audio, 14–17 years)
In another thriller, Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate’s futuristic sci-fi Eve & Adam, two genetically modified teens come together to fight the growing amorality of the biotech firm their parents founded years ago. Chapters alternate between the perspectives of Evening, daughter of the powerful and feared mogul Terra Spiker, and Solo, an orphan living at Spiker Biotech. Narrators Jenna Lamia and Holter Graham respectively read these parts, with Graham also taking on the role of Adam, Eve’s “perfect man,” whom she creates believing that her genetic engineering is only a computer simulation. The narrators handle all the intrigue, action, and philosophical issues raised as the teens take on the evil scientists and reshape a love triangle into a square. (Macmillan Audio, 14–17 years)
Sarah Drew excels in her narration of Pandemonium, the second book in Lauren Oliver’s dystopian trilogy, set in a society where love is a (surgically) preventable disease and those infected are exiled, imprisoned, or worse. Pandemonium opens where the first book, Delirium, left off, in the days immediately following Lena’s escape into the Wilds; the narrative then shifts back and forth between this early period and a present-day that sees her joining the Resistance in New York. Spoken chapter headers differentiate each shift in time and help immensely with listeners’ comprehension. Lena’s narrative crackles with passion and urgency, perfectly befitting a protagonist who realizes early on that if she wants to be a lover, she’ll have to be a fighter, too. (Listening Library, 14–17 years)
Garth Nix’s sci-fi coming-of-age adventure A Confusion of Princes balances highly inventive world-building with a true understanding of the adolescent male mindset. Khemri, raised as a Prince of the Empire, has a rude awakening when he realizes that in order to become Emperor he must enter a brutal and perilous contest with a host of other equally overconfident and entitled Princes. Then he realizes that if he wins the contest, he must sacrifice his humanity. Narrator Michael Goldstrom imbues Khemri with just the right combination of hubris, heart, and naiveté as he survives the treacherous attacks of other Princes, fights off pirates, engages in space battles, falls in love, and ultimately outwits the Empire. Cinematic, action-packed, and quite profound, A Confusion of Princes is a movie waiting to happen, but until then, this well-produced audio version will keep listeners engaged until the final, surprising twist. (Listening Library, 14–17 years)
From the May 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.