Audiobooks are my greatest indulgence and my secret salvation.
There’s something so compelling about a well-read book. We all loved being read to as children, and it’s a shame that we fade that aspect of oral language out of our language arts programs in schools. Studies say that kids from Grade 3 – 8 list it as the thing they miss most as they go up in grades; as a teacher, it was my students’ favourite time of the day and I firmly believe that I engaged more kids in reading because I chose to read aloud to them. To be read to allows you the freedom to give your mind over to the story, to not worry how many pages remain in the chapter, and to connect with the characters without reservation.
I live outside of the city. Quite a ways out of the city, to be honest – a good ninety-minute drive. Despite this fact, I choose to drive into the city to see friends and to attend bookish events on a fairly frequent basis. As you can imagine, driving to and from events seriously cuts into my reading time, so I started listening to audiobooks when I moved here about a year and a half ago. I eased myself into it at first – Tina Fey reading her memoir, Bossypants, and then some Jonathan Tropper. After becoming comfortable with the format, I decided to extend my reach, and joined Audible … where I promptly purchased and glommed the entire Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher (awesome decision, by the way – I highly recommend them as James Marsters is the narrator of all but one!!).
All my audiobooks were great, but I wanted to stretch myself by exploring more YA titles. I was worried – could they stand up to hours of narration? Would I find them too ….juvenile? My lovely Penguin rep (*waves at Bonnie*) graciously gave me The Probability of Miracles on CD for my journeys. I followed it up by listening to The Fault in our Stars by John Green. People, don’t follow up a tear-inducing story of a teen falling in love before dying of cancer with another book about teens falling in love before dying of cancer. Consider this my PSA.
I fell down the rabbit hole. J’accuse, Bonnie, and double j’accuse, Marie Lu.
This was first experience with a double narration (listen, I know that sounds wrong, but there’s no other way to put it), and I can honestly say that I don’t think I want to listen to a dual perspective book without two narrators again. I don’t know how to explain how well the suspense and angst of YA literature translates into audio form – if I was to try to explain it, I’d have to compare it to listening in on the those uber-intense phone conversations we all had in our teen years.
When you add in two fantastic narrators such as Mariel Stern and Stephen Kaplan, the experience is intensified. They were the perfect fit; I felt that they actually were June and Day, and that they had the emotional resonance to transform the audiobook from a basic narration to a personal recount of their own stories. As the series progressed, you could feel the anguish and the anger that arose from situations (hush, now, you know I don’t do spoilers), and I found myself sitting in the car outside of my destination, just to hear one more scene. As for the stories themselves, well, they are filled with enough action, intrigue and adventure to keep things moving, but the significant character development means that you are intensely invested in what happens to the two main characters. Be warned, though – Lu loves to break your heart! I may not have cried while driving, but I definitely shouted some choice words at the end of books 1 and 2.
There’s also an added benefit in this case of having the same pair of narrators throughout the whole series. I think this is a huge plus; as I mentioned, I power-listened to the entire Harry Dresden series. While James Marsters was fantastic, his absence for one of the stories (he was busy narrating Melissa Marr’s Carnival of Souls) was glaring, no matter how great a job John Glover did with the story (and he did). Keeping Kaplan and Stern allowed you to see (hear?) the growth that June and Day developed over the trilogy, and you really felt as if you were hearing from old friends by the end.
I think that’s the trick to a great YA audiobook, actually. As with reading any book, you have to connect to the characters in order to care what happens to them. I found that I was desperate to find out what happened next – as much as I would with my favourite mystery writers, but that the story had more intensity to it than most adult fiction. Perhaps it’s that memory connection that we all have for YA literature, perhaps it’s the great writing, and perhaps it’s that genuine thrill of not knowing what will happen next. For some, that’s not a good thing, but for me, it’s an essential part of listening to a book.
If you haven’t read a YA series before, perhaps you need an audiobook introduction. I’d highly recommend the Legend-Prodigy-Champion trilogy as your starting point. Strong storytelling, a suspenseful plot and smart, realistic characters will engage your interest and keep you listening long after you’ve reached your destination. Download your copy today – I promise you won’t ever look back.
Marie Lu’s trilogy is available in paper, e-book and audio versions, and is published by Penguin Canada/Penguin Audio. You may purchase audiobooks on CD, download from Audible.com or borrow audiobooks from your local public library.