Explore AudioFile’s 2019 Best YA Audiobooks by Emily Connelly
AudioFile’s 2019 Best Young Adult Audiobooks represent a compelling mix of listening for teens. This year’s list includes adventure, romance, and young adults facing challenges and discovering who they are meant to be. Listening to a story read by professional narrators — or by the authors themselves — adds a whole new dimension to reading that appeals to many, and increasingly to younger listeners. Listening can amplify the emotions and intensity of a story and can draw in reluctant readers or help busy readers find new time to enjoy a good book. I’m delighted to tell you more about why these 6 audiobooks earned their spot on AudioFile’s list.
Yetide Badaki’s narration of AKATA WARRIOR shows her incredible range as an actor and makes Nnedi Okorafor’s Africanjujuist tale all the livelier and more entertaining. Sunny is an Igbo and American albino girl who listeners first met in AKATA WITCH. In this sequel, Sunny and her Leopard People friends are faced with the small task of saving humanity. Badaki can shift smoothly between Sunny’s bright American accent and the varied Nigerian and American accents of her friends and teachers, and her voice becomes especially intimidating during dramatic encounters with giant spiders, lake monsters, and a supreme being. Curious listeners can learn more about her audiobooks in AudioFile’s interview with the author. Listeners looking to dig into a story full of magical adventures will love this audiobook.
Jumping into another sequel to a much-loved audiobook, Euan Morton’s narration of WAYWARD SON puts him and Rainbow Rowell on our Best Audiobooks list. Morton brings exceptional narration skills to this adventurous magical road trip through America. At the end of CARRY ON, Simon Snow seems to have it all — he’s defeated the bad guy, and he and his vampire roommate Baz are finally dating. Rowell gives us a glimpse into what comes next for Simon, who is feeling down after losing his magic, which left him with leathery wings and a tail. Morton’s excellent at capturing Baz’s posh accent, the snappy repartee of best friend Penelope, and Simon’s dejected and depressed tones. Readers who love Rainbow Rowell will adore listening to the sequel. Those new to the series should be advised to start with CARRY ON, also spellbindingly narrated by Morton.
THE SECRET COMMONWEALTH continues the story of Lyra Silvertongue, whom listeners first met in Philip Pullman’s beloved HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy. While those audiobooks were dramatic full-cast productions, this sequel and the prequel, LA BELLE SAUVAGE, are narrated by actor Michael Sheen. He throws himself wholeheartedly into bringing the story to life, and listeners will be rapt. When we meet Lyra again, she’s a 20-year-old student in Oxford, and we discover that she and her daemon Pantalaimon are at odds — to the point of barely speaking to one another. This conflict is a catalyst for a whole series of events that connect Lyra to an ever-expanding cast of characters and international intrigue. Sheen’s rich and propulsive narration will keep listeners on the edge of their seats. Those who are drawn to the HBO adaptation of HIS DARK MATERIALS will be thrilled to find that Lyra’s adventures continue.
The first half of our list features fantastic stories of adventures, peril, and intrigue — the next three audiobooks will appeal to listeners looking for contemporary, realistic stories of first love, family, and high school and what comes after. Frank Li is a nerdy high school senior, and tension between him and his Korean immigrant parents play a major role in the drama of FRANKLY IN LOVE. Narrator Raymond J. Lee fully inhabits Frank’s funny and endearing nature. Frank’s suddenly discovered the cute girl in his AP class also has eyes for him, and while working on a class project, they kiss! He’s ecstatic, but simultaneously worried — she’s white, and his parents would never approve. The solution? A fake dating scheme with one of his Korean American friends who also has a secret boyfriend. This listen has the perfect mix of humor and heart, highlighting intergenerational and cross-cultural challenges and the head-over-heels tumble into first love.
THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT SWEETIE is another romantic comedy and is especially perfect for Bollywood film lovers. Ashish Patel is a handsome high school basketball star who has just been dumped by his college girlfriend. Listeners first met Ashish as the overconfident younger brother of Rishi, the star of WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI. Vikas Adam narrates as Ashish, and listeners get a sense of his bravado fading into self-questioning that has him ready to accept his parents’ offer of arranged dates. They choose Sweetie, a teen who struggles with her mother’s constant needling about her weight but who also knows she is a powerful athlete and talented singer. Narrator Soneela Nankani voices Sweetie with the perfect mix of insecurity and confidence. The dual narrators help highlight their growing relationship and keep the focus on Ashish and Sweetie’s tenderness, vulnerability, and self-discovery. Listen to Adam talk about working with Nankani to bring this story to life on today’s episode of Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine.
Hearing Elizabeth Acevedo’s narration is our favorite way to enjoy her astounding debut, THE POET X, and her narration of WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH is another captivating listen. Acevedo’s narration emphasizes the rhythm and emotion in her prose. Emoni is a young single mom and high school senior who dreams of one day commanding her own kitchen. Acevedo highlights her tender relationship with her daughter Emma, her admiration for her Puerto Rican abuela, and the difficulty of balancing school with time with her daughter. Listeners can hear her growing confidence as she works her magic in the kitchen — Emoni’s a skilled cook, and her emotions are an essential part of what makes her food so good. This heartwarming story is a great listen for anyone following their dreams. For those looking to learn more about how Acevedo approaches her writing and narrating, check out our interview with the author.
As an Assistant Editor at AudioFile, library school student, and librarian sub, Emily spends a lot of time surrounded by good literature. She enjoys managing AudioFile’s blog and podcast and discovering new audiobooks to love.