Thursday, May 23, 2013

Armchair Audies Category Report: Teen Fiction

I love listening to YA books. It works well with my desire to listen while on the job, generally - being more plot-driven than writerly - so as long as it's not too full of vampires and self-indulgently tragic teens, I like it. So I was delighted to sign up to opine about the Audies Teens category for the Armchair Audies.

Here are the nominees - as I said with my post about the Literary Fiction category, the 'read' link below includes a sound sample so you can judge my judging. 

Christopher Paolini
Read by Gerard Doyle (Listening Library)
Read the review

John Green
Read by Kate Rudd (Brilliance Audio)
Read the review

Alethea Kontis
Read by Katherine Kellgren (Brilliance Audio)
Read the review

Libba Bray
Read by January LaVoy (Listening Library)
Read the review

Terry Pratchett
Read by Stephen Briggs (Harper Audio)
Read the review

I have thoughts. :)

Inheritance is in last place for me. It's not Gerard Doyle's fault - I've enjoyed his narration of the Eragon series, he's great with tension and emotion and all the funny names involved. But this book didn't need to be 31 hours long. It didn't need to be 21 hours long. The convoluted wrapping up of the series just didn't flow nicely for me, so I was too often bored or frustrated while listening. So blame Christopher Paolini - or his editor - and enjoy anything else Doyle narrates.

The next three are all yummy texts, so it's harder to rank them. I'll put Diviners at the bottom of the bunch, despite my major fondness for Libba Bray, whose Beauty Queens I (correctly) pegged as the Narration by Author Audie winner last year. January LaVoy's narration is sweet and she handled the tension really well, but there is something a little too plummy about her voice that keeps me at a distance. I felt that this book - which takes place in the world of flappers and mysterious happenings in 1920s New York - should have had a narrator whose voice was younger and a little rawer. It's rare that I think a book would be better in print (as opposed to just as good, or better), but I wish I'd read this one instead of listening. 

Dodger, as I've said, is a grand character in a not-quite-grand-enough book. I loved listening to it, because Stephen Briggs was as sharp and bright and clever as the character he was telling us about, but Terry Pratchett's novel wasn't quite the gem I'd wished it to be. 

A gem in truth: Alethea Kontis's Enchanted. It is a treasure of a book, and Katherine Kellgren is pure magic as a narrator of YA books. (Of others, too - I follow her from genre to genre, but rarely in non-YA is she called upon to growl or howl or croak.) Her characters, be they human or fairy or frog, are charming and true and as I posted when I first listened to this book, I was caught up from beginning to end of the entire tale. Though I think Kellgren should automatically win every award, and I consider this as exemplary as it gets, I suspect the winner this year will be:

John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, narrated by Kate Rudd. There's a reason everyone you know has read this, even if they don't have teens in their lives pushing it on them. It's sweet and sad and smart and so very superb. I'll repeat: an amazing listen, but difficult, especially if you're not into bawling with headphones on. Rudd has an excellent teen voice, sarcastic and unsure and headlong and scared as the plot demands (and this plot demands a lot, emotionally, from the reader.) All thumbs up.

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