Children's/Teen Reviews
*Julie Berry. Lovely War.
Read by Jayne Entwistle, Allan Corduner, Dion Graham, Fiona Hardingham, John Lee, Nathaniel Parker, and Steve West with A Historical Note Read by the Author. Music by Benjamin Salisbury. Includes original music. 11 CDs. 13 hrs.
Listening Library. 2019. 978-1-9848-3926-1
Ages 12 -17

This phenomenal book about young love is told by the Greek God Aphrodite, with help from Apollo, Ares, Hades and Hephaestus during World War 1. The story follows two sets of young lovers as they grapple with growing up and falling in love during a war and in a time of great discrimination. James and Hazel meet at a dance for soldiers days before he must report for basic training. Aubrey and Collette meet in France, both extremely talented musicians who have endured great hardships. It's such a unique, sweeping story that it's very hard to do it any justice without spoiling the magic of the story's unexpected twists and turns. Told in alternating voices by a hugely talented cast of seven voice actors, the characters come alive with their narration. Don't be fooled by it's YA status, it's the perfect book for teens and adults alike.

Aphrodite is a beautifully narrated character, both in writing and by the voice actor Jayne Entwistle. She conveys all of Aphrodite's many emotions-from outrage to playfulness as she works to defend her honor and her purpose of bringing love to mortals. John Lee voices Hades and perfectly projects the serious characteristics of Hades-his voice is measured and controlled throughout the novel. Don Graham voices Apollo and his winsome narration showcases the playful nature of Apollo. He also narrates Aubrey and his love of ragtime music as well as his frustration over the racial tensions he hoped he had left behind when he became a soldier. Nathaniel Parker's voice work for Ares was powerful and commanding, the gravelly gruffness perfectly balanced with a hint of arrogance clearly matched the tone one would expect from the god of war. Steve West and Fiona Hardingham read the letters of James and Hazel, and the sweet earnestness of those letters shines through their narration. Listening to their letters being read, it's very easy to picture them as young adults experiencing love for the first time. Lastly, Allan Corduner reads throughout the book in the dated chapters. His excellent pacing keeps the story moving, as well as humanizes the gods in the story.

Julie Berry is the author of numerous young adult, middle grade and childrens books. She has won awards for her work, notably The Passions of Dolssa and All The Truth That's in Me. She lives in California with her family.

Reviewed by Stacey Charbonneau
*Jennifer Dugan. Hot Dog Girl.
Read by Brittany Pressley.
6 CDs. 7.5 hrs.
Listening Library. 2019. 978-0-593-10447-7. Ages 12-17

Though the season has just begun, Lou is already worried that she won't have the summer she is hoping for. She and her best friend, Seeley, are working at Magic Castle Playland again, and Lou is going to spend her second summer in a row dressed as a hot dog. Her unrequited crush, Nick, has a girlfriend, and she is trying to set Seeley up on a date with another girl who works at the park. Lou isn't dating either boys or girls at the moment, but she's sure she can change that. The worst news of all is that Magic Castle is going to close at the end of the summer. Lou decides she knows just what to do to remedy all of these situations. However, despite her best intentions and scheming, everything ultimately comes crashing down in this heartwarming and funny debut novel.

Brittany Pressley is an accomplished narrator, voiceover actress. Her work is featured in commercials, animated series, and dozens of audiobooks in various genres. Pressley's fully-voiced performance enhances this entertaining tale of Lou's misadventures in romance and friendship. Recommended for listeners who enjoy romantic comedies.

Reviewed by Olivia Durant

C. A. Fletcher. A Boy and His Dog at The End of the World. A Novel.
Read by the author. 9 CD. 11 hrs.
Blackstone Audio. 2019. 978-1-5491-7986-0.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is a tale about loyalty and love in a post-apocalyptic world. When Griz's pup Jess is stollen by a mysterious traveler, the teenager sets out on a quest to bring her home. The journey takes Griz and Jip, another terrier, from their safe Scottish island to the mainland, where what little that is left of humanity is still fighting for survival.

Author C.A. Fletcher turns narrator in his suspense-filled novel. Far too often that is a warning to stay away, as good authors typically aren't gifted oral storytellers, but in this case Fletcher handles the challenge comfortably. Most of the story is narrated as if reading from a diary, which likely makes the narration task a tad bit easier. It is clear the author/narrator understands the weight of each character's situation, including the red-headed robber who stole Jess and the French woman who is on her own quest to find her daughters' killer. Fletcher's pacing is also spot-on and adds to the angst frequently felt by Griz. The only oddity to the narration is the age and gender of the narrator, considering the youthfulness of the protagonist and the heavily female cast of characters.

Fletcher is an accomplished author who has written under the name Charlie Fletcher. He is also an experienced screenwriter. This is his third audiobook narration project.

Reviewed by Lisa Arnold
John Grisham. Theodore Boone. The Accomplice.
Read by Richard Thomas.
4CDs. 5 hrs.
Listening Library 2019. 978-0-593-10324-1. Ages 8-12.

John Grisham's youthful hero Theodore Boone exhibits the importance of standing up for your friends and the adage innocent until proven guilty in The Accomplice. When Theodore's good friend Woody Lambert is charged with armed robbery, Theodore steps in to help. The 13 year old puts his knowledge of the law to work as he fights to prove Woody's innocence in a legal world that doesn't always play fair.

Narrator Richard Thomas's deep, masculine voice was an unusual choice for The Accomplice, considering the protagonist is a thirteen-year-old boy. The vocals changed very little, if at all, regardless of the character being presented. A judge, an attorney, a distraught mom, a classroom teacher, an eighteen-year-old con man, and even a gaggle of eighth graders sounded alike. Listeners will have to pay close attention to each character's attribution to know for certain who is speaking. Thomas's pacing and enunciation were spot on, however, which allows for younger ears to easily understand and follow much of the story.

Thomas is an experienced audiobook narrator who has read for a variety of authors, including Gary Paulsen, Olive Ann Burns, and Danielle Steel. He has also written a handful of novels and short story collections.

Reviewed by Lisa Arnold

S. E. Grove. The Waning Age.
Read by Kyla Garcia, Julio Sanchez, and Arthur Morey.
8 CDs. 10 hrs.
Listening Library. 2019. 978-1-9848-3832-2. Ages 10-14.

In a San Francisco that heavily resembles today's world, children "wane," or lose their emotions, around the age of 10 or a little later. They spend much of their adolescence in an educational system that instills society's rules, in case they don't feel enough to understand that hurting others is wrong. Natalia Peña has been taking care of her younger brother, Cal, since their mother's death a year ago. Cal has reached the age of waning, but he still feels everything just as deeply. His lateness to change brings unwanted attention from a pharmaceutical company that produces synthetic emotions to mimic what teens and adults have lost. When he is kidnapped for scientific study, Natalia embarks on a rescue mission full of danger, combat, and reclaimed emotions. The novel raises many interesting discussion points about the nature of emotions, how much of a role they play in society, and the experience of being human.

Kyla Garcia is a stage and screen actress who also writes and produces her own work. Her extensive portfolio includes dozens of audiobook credits. As the narrator of Natalia's chapters, she is responsible for the bulk of the story, which she performs in an excellent fully-voiced reading. She deftly works with the emotions (or lack thereof) expressed in the text to cue her reading of a particular character. Julio Sanchez is newer to recording audiobooks. While his performance is praiseworthy, this reviewer feels that his voice wasn't the best fit to perform Cal's sections. When paired with Kyla Garcia's chapters, his deep tone makes him sound much older than 10 years old, and it's a stark contrast. Arthur Morey, who reads the part of Dr. Glout, has narrated over 300 audiobooks, in addition to his writing, teaching, and singing. His discussions with Calvino during testing are particularly engaging. Recommend this to readers who enjoy dystopian novels.

Reviewed by Olivia Durant
*Victoria Jamieson. Roller Girl.
Performed by Almarie Guerra with a full cast.
2 CDs. 2 hrs.
Listening Library. 2015. 978-1-9848-8235-6. Ages 9-12.

This highly entertaining, rambunctiously relevant audiobook is sure to be a winner among young girls. Originally published in 2015 as a graphic novel, Roller Girl is transformed in this audiobook into a fully dramatized version of this Newbery Honor Award Winner title. With a cast of 28 talented narrators and background sounds which characterize the roller derby venue with whistles, cheers, music, and action, Roller Girl captures the excitement and enthusiasm of both the players and the audience in a new sport which is growing in popularity. In addition to giving an accurate picture of the sport and how it is played, this audiobook focuses on some of the social and emotional problems afflicting the early teen years – the growing apart of old friends when new activities lead them in different directions (roller derby vs ballet), interest in boys, relationships with parents, supporting others when they succeed, consequences of not telling the truth, among others. Twelve-year-old Astrid really can't skate when she shows up for the first day of roller-derby camp, but she doesn't quit. Over the weeks, she falls a lot, practices relentlessly, and perseveres with the encouragement and inspiration of her roller derby heroine, Rainbow Bite, whose rallying cry is "Tougher, stronger, fearless!!" See how Astrid, whose chooses "Asteroid" for her roller-derby name, overcomes her own demons and learns the value of truth and friendship. Victoria Jamieson's great story provides a new role model for young girls and a wonderful story for kids of all ages.

Reviewed by Susan Allison
Robin LaFevers. Courting Darkness.
Read by Angela Goethals & Suzy Jackson.
15 CDs. 17.5 hrs.
Recorded Books. 2019 978-1-5019-4218-1. Ages 14+

Although Courting Darkness is part of a separate historical fantasy duology, it involves some of the same settings and many of the same characters as LaFevers' "His Fair Assassin Trilogy" (Grave Mercy, Dark Triumph, and Mortal Heart). The trilogy describes the adventures of Sybella who is an initiate of the Convent of Saint Mortain, the Normandy god of Death in LaFevers' medieval French world. This second series continues to follow Sybella's adventures and adds the story of Genevieve who is another initiate of the Convent. Since I did not read or listen to the trilogy, I was a little lost at first, but it doesn't take long to figure out who Sybella and Genevieve are and what they learned at the Convent of Saint Mortain. The narrative switches back and forth between the activities of these two young but powerfully deadly women. The Convent had placed them undercover in different court settings without solid instructions except to be on the lookout for one another and to aid one another as needed. Throughout the narrative, they draw geographically closer together and finally end up in the palace of the French Monarch. They are both young and vulnerable and they each mature measurably as they learn about themselves. There are a few semi-graphic sexual scenes which may make this tale inappropriate for younger listeners. Angela Goethals and Suzy Jackson take turns reading the chapters dedicated to either Sybella (read by Goethals) or Genevieve (read by Jackson). They each provide excellent semi-voiced readings which capture the uncertainties and the strengths of each of the young protagonists and the people with whom they interact.

Reviewed by Hugh M. Flick, Jr.
*Diane Magras. The Hunt for the Mad Wolf's Daughter.
Read by Joshua Manning.
Includes Bonus Pdf with Glossary.
5 CDs. 6 hrs.
Listening Library. 2019. 978-1-9848-3861-2 Ages 12 -17

As the prequel The Mad Wolf's Daughter ends, Drest, daughter of the powerful Robin-Hood-style Scottish renegade, Mad Wolf, has not only freed her father and five brothers from Faintree Castle where they were under a death sentence but also rescued and protected her best friend, Emerick, the real Lord Faintree, from enemies who seek his life. In this new sequel, Sir Oswyn, Emerick's uncle, realizes that his takeover of Emerick's kingdom is at risk of failing because Drest has freed them. He puts a price on her head called "wolf's head," offering a large reward to anyone who can to kill her. He then announces throughout the land that she has captured Emerick and killed him, pretending to be his nephew's avenger. When a castle knight named Fergal terrorizes the village where the refugees are hiding and tries to seize Drest to collect the reward, Drest with Emerick and her friend, Tig, take refuge on Phearsham Ridge. As soon as they realize that this place is also unsafe, Drest's father urges them to go on the run. Drest, however, prefers to confront the enemy at Faintree Castle. Action shifts continually, leaving the listener in suspense, unsure who is a traitor to be feared and who can be trusted. Drest's brothers, as in the first volume, are able by mental telepathy to offer her advice and observations as she pursues her prey. A series of harrowing adventures reaches a climax when Drest is forced to face Sir Oswyn on a precipice overhanging a gorge with a raging river and waterfall below. The Mad Wolf is forced to realize that his daughter will no longer accept his control, that she will now make her own decisions, face conflicts head-on, and be guided by her own moral code. Her higher vision of justice and compassion are then demonstrated when Fergal violates his oath of fealty incurring the death penalty. Drest decides to pardon him, recognizing that his background and lack of proper training caused him to fail as a knight. Set in 13thcentury Scotland, The Hunt for the Mad Wolf's Daughter, a suspenseful and exciting quest tale, mixing real and supernatural elements, is sure to capture the interest of middle schoolers, older students and adults alike.

Reviewed by Susan Allison
*Padma Venkatraman. The Bridge Home.
Read by the author.
4 CDs. 4.4 hrs.
Listening Library. 2019. 978-1-9848-4509-2. Ages 10-14.

The Bridge Home, a moving audiobook, takes place in Chennai, India, where two girls, eleven-year-old Viji and her older sister by one year, Rukku, who is mentally challenged in some way, run away from their physically abusive father and timid mother. With little money which quickly gets spent, the girls must find a place in the city to live, and hopefully, to work. They end up living under a crumbling bridge with two orphaned, homeless boys, Arul and his younger brother, Muthi, who are both resourceful and caring, sharing what they have. The boys introduce the girls to the hard work of collecting glass and metal scraps while scavenging through the town dump. Threats confront the girls in the person of the lecherous dump manager, as well as the weather and disease. What recourse do they have when both Rukku and Muthi fall ill and require a doctor's care and medicine they can't afford? They struggle as a family through these obstacles, as well as the relentless daily search for food. What kind of future awaits them?

Award-winning author Padma Venkatraman, who is also the skilled narrator of this audiobook, conveys the details of life conditions shared by many of the world's children, not just those in the slums of India. These four children are persevering, compassionate, honest, and brave as they confront and survive in their world. Venkatraman has created an excellent story for elementary and middle school children, one which will bring them face to face with children whose lives are very different from their own.

Reviewed by Susan Allison