November 2020
Children's/Teen Reviews
Adi Alsaid. We Didn't Ask For This.
Narrated by Maria Liatis
Digital download. 8 hrs 49 mins
Recorded Books. 2020.

Lock-in night at Central International School is epic. The students look forward to it all year. Marisa is excited, but for a different reason than most students. She and her friends lock themselves to the doors because Marisa is tired of seeing her precious reefs being destroyed and will not take it anymore. Peejay, Amira, Kenji, and Celeste all have different motivations for being there, but what they didn't account for was Marisa. Now they are scrambling to change course and recover the magic of lock-in night. They never expected Marisa's actions to change them, but they find themselves different and maybe the world with it.

Maria Liatis has narrated many popular YA books. She is one voice telling a story that is written from many people's perspectives. She does a great job showing the emotions of the characters, and listeners will identify with them. Liatis voices accents for the individual characters, but only when they are speaking, so it is sometimes difficult to know whose point of view is being shared.

Overall though, the story is performed well and you definitely will be crying for cleaner oceans at the end of the book. For fans of social justice books and stories told from multiple points of view.

Reviewed by Meghan Yost

*Lisa Graff. Far Away.
Read by Monika Felice Smith.
6 CDs. 7 hrs.
Listening Library. 2019

CJ lives with her Aunt Nic who is a medium. They travel constantly across the entire US with her Aunt making it possible for CJ to communicate with her dead mother. When CJ is 12, Aunt Nic decides it is time for her to go to boarding school to have a more normal life. CJ will no longer be able to have contact with her mother through Aunt Nic, which greatly pains her. This can't happen. CJ steals away with 16-year-old Jax to find the object that will tether her mother to earth, not allowing her to go Far Away.

Monika Felice Smith captures 12-year-old CJ, 16-year-old Jax, Aunt Nic and all other characters with ease and perfection. She becomes the characters. The listener is indeed lucky to hear this amazing woman narrate Far Away. Smith is also a professional choreographer and movement coach.

Lisa Graff has written ten middle grade novels, two picture books and an early chapter book. She also writes books for teens under the pen name Isla Neal.

Reviewed by Katrina Yurenka

Nancy B. Kennedy. Women Win The Vote. 19 for the 19th Amendment
Read by Amanda Dola.
3 CDs. 3 hrs.
Recorded Books. 2020. Ages 9+

This excellent audiobook celebrates the 100th anniversary of the August 18, 1920, ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote. Nancy Kennedy selects nineteen women whose persistent efforts over decades led to the passage of this socially and politically transformative legislation. Because the majority of suffragettes were white women, Kennedy does not hesitate to identify the underlying racist views which surfaced when many members rebelled against supporting the anti-slavery cause and securing the vote for African-American men. Some women were also supportive of the temperance movement. The brief biographies highlight well-known suffragettes like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Jeannette Rankin, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, and Julia Ward Howe. Others are less familiar – Anna Howard Shaw, the first woman Methodist preacher, and Alice Paul, who wrote the first Equal Rights Amendment, as well as Frances Willard, Lucy Burns, and Lucy Stone. In addition to the nineteen major figures, numerous additional supporters, both men and women, made specific contributions that allowed the movement to succeed. From the 1848 Seneca Falls, N.Y. conference until passage of the Amendment on August 18,1920, courageous, outspoken, militant women held marches, meetings, conferences, and boycotts to promote their cause. The perseverance, strength, and fortitude these women displayed when they were harassed, assaulted, and imprisoned, is a testimony to their vision and commitment. In its book form, each of the nineteen women has a four-page spread with color photographs, and an appendix includes an extensive list of works cited and a useful timeline. Kennedy's well-organized, easy-to-follow narrative summarizes the history of the movement integrating relevant and engaging portraits of the major figures. The friendly, conversational, measured voice of Amanda Dola holds the listener's attention as she describes the story of each suffragette heroine as she fought hard to secure the vote for women. This timely audiobook will supplement history units for older elementary and middle school students, both in school and for individual listening. Students, as well as some adults, will gain a comprehensive understanding of the importance of the suffragette movement in U.S. history.

Reviewed by Susan Allison

Alex Richards. Accidental.
Read by Laura Knight Keating.
9 CDs. 10.25 hrs.
Recorded Books. 2020. Ages 13+

Johanna has been raised by her grandparents since she was a toddler when her mother died in an automobile accident. Or so she thought until, at the age of 16, her father whom she has never known, shows up and tells her that what really happened was that Johanna, at the age of 2 ½, picked up a loaded gun her father had left unsecured in the house, shot and killed her mother. Jo is furious that her grandparents have kept this truth from her and pretty much stops speaking to them. They have been strict with her; Jo is treated pretty much as if she were another elderly friend rather than a teenage granddaughter. Her mother is not only never mentioned by the grandparents, there are no pictures anywhere of this only daughter. Why? Some more information as to how her life was being raised by her grandparents would have been welcome and helpful.

When kids at her school find out about Johanna's shooting her mother, they begin to treat her like a mass murderer who is going to shoot them all. The teachers, the guidance counselor and the principal all side with the students! Johanna decides to study gun violence as it applies to children, enlists her two girlfriends and her boyfriend, planning to paint a huge mural on the outside of the school building trying to draw attention to just how serious a tragedy gun violence is.

There is a lot going on here with the characters well realized by Laura Knight Keating's narration. This is not to say that all characters are fully developed or realized, the exception being Johanna,. Laura Knight Keating is not new to narrating audiobooks having more than sixty to her credit. She realistically becomes all the characters in this story depicting their anger, fear, happiness, sadness, and anxieties.

About herself author Alex Richards says: I've dabbled in photography, film, theater, television, and my husband and I have been known to make no-budget horror flicks in our spare time.

Reviewed by Katrina Yurenka
*Amanda Sellet. By The Book.
Narrated by Laura Knight Keating.
9 hrs 57 mins. Download.
Recorded Books. Ages. 12+

Mary Porter-Malcolm is the second to last child of 5, with literary professors for parents. It is no wonder that she devours classic literature, and she also takes life lessons from them. She is starting her sophomore year as a newcomer at the local public high school. After her only friend from her old school shuns her on the first day, Mary is determined to put herself out there more. A chance encounter has her making three new friends and to impress them she helps them navigate their romantic lives by the lessons she has learned from her classic books. This includes telling them to stay away from Alex Ritter, even if Mary herself can't seem to stop interacting with him. But, could real life prove to not be so black and white? This is for fans who love getting lost in a fun book with sharp wit.

Laura Knight Keating is an Audie award winning narrator and an actress. You may recognize her voice from Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've Loved Before series that she also narrated. Her extensive experience shows in her narration. You know exactly how the characters are feeling and it seems like you are right in the conversations. This listener loved this story and this narrator. Laura Knight Keating makes the story flow and reveals every character so beautifully. Highly recommended!

Reviewed by Meghan Yost
Natalie Standiford. The Secret Tree.
Read by Merissa Czyz.
3 CDs. 4.75 hrs.
Recorded Books. 2020. Ages 8+

Voodoo, spirits, curses, secrets, and even a "witch lady" fill the imaginations of 10-year-old roller derby enthusiast Minty and her neighborhood cohorts. Before heading into sixth grade, Minty and her new friend Raymond spend the summer solving mysteries and working through typical middle school problems. The story's unexpected ending will leave listeners satisfied.

Audiobook narrator Merissa Czyz has a clear, articulate voice that listeners will appreciate. Her youthful vocals are appropriate for the main characters in Natalie Standiford's coming of age story The Secret Tree. Czyz has good pacing, believable style, and an innocence to her performance, which fits the characters she is portraying. Her vocal variations, however, are weak; all of the characters sound too similar, regardless of their gender or age. Minty's doctor father and her BFF's younger sibling are vocally identical. Young listeners likely won't be bothered by this.

Reviewed by Lisa Arnold