When the ghost of Jacob Grimm speaks, you’d better listen. It’s a pleasure to listen to the audiobook versions of Far Far Away and the following other books for older readers.
Tom McNeal’s novel Far Far Away begins as the lonely ghost of Jacob Grimm arrives in Never Better and meets young Jeremy Johnson Johnson, the only one in town who can hear him. Amongst the townspeople hides a malevolent “Finder of Occasions” — a serial kidnapper and murderer of young people. Jacob becomes Jeremy’s mentor, friend, and surrogate father — but can he protect Jeremy and his friends from the Finder of Occasions? Narrator W. Morgan Sheppard does the book justice, setting just the right tone with his Old-World inflections and using his deep, mesmerizing voice to draw listeners ever further into this remarkable book. (Listening Library, 14–17 years)
In Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, two high school misfits begin an unlikely friendship, forged on the school bus in 1980s Omaha, that turns into love. Rebecca Lowman keeps Eleanor’s voice steady and devoid of emotion without sounding robotic; she is portraying a girl trying to be tough because that’s how she survives. But as Eleanor begins to care for Park, we hear a hint of emotion creep into her voice. Sunil Malhotra’s portrayal of Park feels so real that the listener steps inside the teenage boy’s thoughts. Together, the two narrators expertly convey the tender trepidation of first love. (Listening Library, 14–17 years)
Fifteen-year-old Aristotle Mendoza is something of a loner until he meets openhearted, self-assured Dante Quintana in the summer of 1987; despite their very different personalities and backgrounds, Ari and Dante become friends. When Dante is beaten up for kissing a boy, Ari realizes that his own feelings for Dante extend beyond friendship. Narrator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s understated performance — with its leisurely pacing, spot-on inflections, and distinctive character voices — brings readers intimately into the world of Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. (Recorded Books, 14–17 years)
Narrator Kirby Heyborne gives a compelling performance of A. S. King’s novel of magical realism, Everybody Sees the Ants. Fifteen-year-old Lucky Linderman is anything but lucky. His workaholic father is emotionally distant, damaged by the absence of his own dad, MIA in the Vietnam War. Heyborne captures seven-year-old Lucky’s disbelief when his dreams (or are they?) about POW Granddad Harry first begin, as well as the older boy’s growing desperation to rescue his grandfather. The ants — the hilarious miniature Greek chorus that observes and comments on Lucky’s life — get a well-timed comic delivery from the narrator, whose resume includes improv comedy. (Listening Library, 14–17 years)
From the January 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.