Three young adult novels published this fall have received attention from adults – and each has a fabulously narrated audio.
Five years after John Green published his popular “The Fault in Our Stars,” he’s been inspired by his own battles with mental illness to pen “Turtles All the Way Down” (book from Dutton, audio from Listening Library). Kate Rudd dramatizes the quick intelligence and high anxiety of high school heroine Aza Holmes who has an incapacitating fear of being infected by deadly bacteria. There is a mystery in this book, but the greater conundrum is how Aza copes with her obsessions. Rudd offers poignant pictures of Aza’s struggles through vivid portrayals of other characters. She colors Aza’s mother with restrained worry and fierce protectiveness and gives a steady, calming voice to Davis, Aza’s old friend and potential boyfriend. She paints Aza’s oldest friend, Daisy, with animated concerned and, at times, frustration. Rudd expresses most strongly Aza’s sarcastic inner voice which is so developed it becomes a character. Rudd’s convincing portrayal makes clear how Aza is hindered in loving, thinking and living without fear. The book’s initial print run was 1.5 million.
It’s with a mix of sadness and savoring that a fan of Jonathan Stroud’s “Lockwood & Co.” approaches the fifth and last of the series, “The Empty Grave” (book from Disney-Hyperion, audio from Listening Library). The audio book – like the previous four – is exquisitely narrated by Emily Bevin. It is set in an alternate London where only teens perceive rambunctious ghosts. Lucy Carlyle is the first-person narrator and the most specter-sensitive member of Lockwood & Co. The book begins with the usual suspense as the Lockwood crew discovers that the coffin of famed psychic Marissa Fittes is empty. Bevins’ reading combines wit and spine-tingling tension. Throughout, there is the customary comic relief, and portrayals of minor characters are consistently satisfying. This series will be adapted for television by a London-based team behind Hollywood films like “Baby Driver.”
Since publication 22 years ago, Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy has sold 22 million copies. Pullman begins his new “Book of Dust” trilogy with “La Belle Sauvage” (book from Knopf, audio from Listening Library). The author calls it an “equel” as “it doesn’t stand before or after ‘His Dark Materials,’ but beside it.” Lyra, heroine of the first series, is a baby, cared for by hero Malcolm Polstead, an 11-year-old boy. Malcolm is more of a thinker than his peers, has the courage to act nobly in his morally-challenging world, and finds peace in his small boat La Belle Sauvage. Michael Sheen narrates, shifting easily among the large cast of characters of caring nuns, erudite scholars and menacing villains. He recreates this magical world and its characters, while stressing the richness of Pullman’s elegant writing. Sheen speeds the pacing in the many dynamic, dramatic moments, further accenting the thrill and sense of life-threatening adventure.