August2017 Booklist 87 www.booklistonline.com
gerous, friends. Newbern nails the universal
world-weariness of an undercover cop and the
feelings of others in this emotional drama.
As bomb-making ingredients are found and
the clock ticks closer to the Oklahoma City
bombing anniversary, Newbern’s voice takes
on a distinct edge, revealing the rising risks
and fear as walls break down, truths are revealed, and things may blow out of control. A
surefire winner. —Whitney Scott
Our Short History.
By Lauren Grodstein. Read by Karen
2017. 10.5hr. HighBridge, CD, $39.99 (9781681684437).
Karen Neulander is dying. A single mother
in her forties, she has stage- 4 ovarian cancer.
Knowing she won’t see six-year-old Jacob grow
up, she writes down everything she won’t be
able to answer for him when he’s older. Narrator White has more than 250 audiobooks
to her credit, and she delivers Karen’s intense first-person narration in full force. As a
campaign manager, she’s tough as nails. And
when Jacob wants to meet his father, Karen’s
maternal ferocity comes out and trumps her
cancer-fighting fatigue. Karen is not a perfect
mother, and her willingness to immortalize
her failings is just one of the heartbreaking
things about her “short history” with her son.
White lets the character be defensive, proud,
and terrified. This dying woman isn’t a saint,
and White is gracious and talented enough
not to try to make her more likable. Like this
book’s main character, the narration is raw
and real and unforgettable. —Karen Keefe
By Min Jin Lee. Read by Allison Hiroto.
2017. 18.5hr. Hachette, CD, $35 (9781478967439).
A dense, stunning historical-fiction saga,
Pachinko relays a fascinating perspective on
a Korean family living in Osaka, Japan, in
the first half of the twentieth century. Young
Sunja was born into poverty, but her fortunes
change after she moves to Osaka when she
marries. Her marriage was one of necessity:
she refused to become the mistress of her
wealthy lover and instead accepted a proposal
from a humble minister. The novel chronicles
the fortunes and misfortunes of Sunja, her
sons, and her grandsons in an epic style that
seduces the listener into caring deeply for the
characters. Hiroto has a cultured, clear voice,
but that she uses the same inflections for
different characters occasionally causes confusion for listeners. However, Hiroto’s careful,
deliberate pacing and wonderful storytelling
keep listeners thoroughly enthralled in this
tale of beauty and tragedy. Highly recommended for readers of historical fiction and
family sagas. —Joy Matteson
Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A
Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home.
By Amy Dickinson. Read by the author.
2017. 9hr. Hachette, CD, $30 (9781478912514).
Syndicated advice-columnist Dickinson’s
“work of memory” is read by the author,
whose voice is familiar to fans of NPR’s Wait
Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me! Dickinson moved
from Chicago to her tiny hometown in upstate New York in 2007. After talking about
her childhood and failed first marriage, she
concentrates on more recent events, including her marriage to a former classmate and the
blending of their families. Dickinson admits
she is “smart on paper” but not always wise
about dealing with her own issues, including
tending to her elderly mother and the subsequent grief following her mother’s death. Her
down-on-his-luck father, who abandoned
the family when Dickinson was young, returns into her life as well. Dickinson’s voice
is best described as sweet. Occasionally, she
uses childish tones to reflect younger people,
but mostly she reads in a steady, calm manner. “Ask Amy” readers will enjoy listening to
the columnist open up about her personal life.
Superfandom: How Our Obsessions Are
Changing What We Buy and Who We
By Zoe Fraade-Blanar and Aaron M.
Glazer. Read by Josh Bloomberg.
2017. 8.5hr. HighBridge, CD, $34.99 (9781681684772).
Fans of pop culture will get sucked into this
examination of fan-driven brands, events,
and economy. The chapter on Disneyland’s
biker-type social clubs is fascinating. Bloom-
berg gives a predominantly straight reading
of the text. His voice is warm, youthful, and
knowingly—but not arrogantly—hip, a very
good match for the trendy material. In print,
it would be easy for a cynical reader to scoff
at fans riled over a slight difference in proof of
Makers’ Mark or the “sport” of professional
wrestling. In audio, Bloomberg applies the
proper amount of respect the text and the
subject deserve. His voice sounds playful in
the right places, though never condescend-
ing, and properly concerned for fans who
feel legitimately wronged and companies that
are bewildered by fan reactions. This is not
a fancy production, but it is a quality one.
—Kaite Mediatore Stover
Bronze and Sunflower.
By Cao Wenxuan. Read by Emily Woo
2017. 8hr. Brilliance, CD, $16.99 (9781536661798).
In Mao’s Cultural Revolution of the 1970s,
city dwellers have been sent to live in a Cadre
School across the river from a poor village.
Here lonesome 7-year-old Sunflower, daughter of a talented urban artist, is suddenly
orphaned and adopted by 11-year-old Bronze’s
hardworking peasant family. Although Bronze
is mute, he and Sunflower develop a warm
relationship, and Zeller’s heartfelt depiction
of their closeness, and tearful resignation of
their eventual separation, is memorable. Her
quiet voice incorporates suspense and joy as
she unfolds significant events (a plague of locusts, famine, a devastating flood) as well as
happy moments (going to school, seeing a
circus, spending time with loving family and
grandmother Nainai). Zeller reads selected
Mandarin words and phrases with convincing
cadence, offering children an insight into another culture and the values of family, respect,
and kindness. A worthwhile read-aloud,
comparable to the Little House Books and
Birchbark House series. —Lolly Gepson
The House of the Scorpion.
By Nancy Farmer. Read by Raul Esparza.
2003. 10.5hrs. Simon & Schuster Audio, CD, $39.99 (9780743572460). Gr. 7–10.
A society dependent on opioids. An impenetrable border be-
tween the U.S. and Mexico. A vast chasm between the working
class and the wealthy. Farmer’s 2002 National
Book Award–winning sci-fi classic transcends
genre boundaries to offer striking insights
into current-day political and sociological issues. Esparza’s perfor-
mance captures Farmer’s rich characterizations through cultural
nuances that accurately reflect regional accents, from authentically
sung Mexican folk songs to the burr of a Scottish brogue. Esparza,
known for Tony-nominated Broadway performances and his role on
Law & Order: SVU, expertly conveys the coming-of-age of young
clone Matteo “Matt” Alacrán, from childhood fears and tween sarcasm to teenage tenacity, as well as the aged arrogance of drug-lord El Patrón as Matt learns the chilling reality
of his existence. Subtle shifts into softer tones for Celia, Matt’s protector, and young
idealist Maria create strong female protagonists, while Esparza reveals both tender affection and steely resolve with emotion. Every character that Matt encounters in his quest to
dismantle the corrupt reign of El Patrón is fully realized through distinguishable idiosyn-crasies that inform the listener and explicate motivation and action. Superlative narration
serves to broaden the appeal of this timeless YA novel, both for thoughtful tweens as well
as adults seeking a compelling dystopian masterpiece. —Mary Burkey
YA Audio Classics Highlighting recordings from 50 years of YA novels.