As the session title promised, the YALSA Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Committee was, indeed, amazing. Chaired by Sarah Hashimoto, manager of the Summit branch of the Jackson (Mich.) District Library, the members of this committee were incredibly welcoming and friendly. Each member spent a minute or two playing clips from audiobooks on a list that the group has curated all year. With the goal of paring down the list to a finalized version of the most amazing audiobooks by Sunday, each member defended his or her choice while the others either reaffirmed their existing votes or modified them.
Before this session, I had given little thought to the intricacies of the voices I hear when listening to audiobooks, but now my ears will prick up at the sound of the reader taking a breath. My appreciation for sound effects has grown, and my admiration for vocal imitation has spiked. For each clip, the members spent a few seconds analyzing the production quality, the reader’s voice and breath, and considered the potential audience. They were looking for audiobooks that would appeal to young adults ages 12 to 18. Their expectations were that content should remain true to or expand on the original work and that the recording should include sound effects, different voices, and be of professional quality.
After introductions and a review of the selection criteria, members began to play their selected clips. The first clip from Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman included an array of interesting sound effects. Then we moved to Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman, What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe, and Survival Guide to Bullying by Aija Mayrock, which sparked a debate over audible breath sounds in the recording which were considered a drawback by some but not all. Despite the audible breath sounds, Mayrock’s text was considered a good nonfiction title for the list. When discussing Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff, Cynthia Vanderbrink from the Toledo-Lucas County (Ohio) Public Library mentioned that she “didn’t connect with it.” The audio received a mixture of yes and no votes.
Killer Instinct by S. E. Green sparked a heated discussion among the members regarding whether the title should make the final list. But, the members quickly returned to their chipper disposition when discussing Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. “This is maybe even a top ten title for me,” said Hashimoto; several others agreed. Similarly, after listening to a clip from Half Wild by Sally Green, Hashimoto said, “We all know this is a slam dunk.” The group’s passion for picking stellar titles was palpable in the room.
The final list of the 2016 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults was released on January 10, and only the best of the best were included.