The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave by Rick YanceyThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Narrator: Brandon Espinoza, Phoebe Strole
Published by Penguin Audio on 5/7/13
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Goodreads
two-stars

 

Story: C-
Narration: B

Quick Review:

I’ve seen enough reviews of this one to know that I’m definitely the odd woman out in my experience with this book but it failed to engage me for multiple reasons. The narration was fine but didn’t elevate the story enough to overcome my plot, character, and stylistic complaints. It’s not a bad book but I just found it so-so.

Publisher’s Blurb:

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

My Thoughts:

Have you ever read a book and, when you break it down into its component parts, it’s obvious that you should have really enjoyed it but when you consider your overall experience with it, it was just sorta OK? That was my experience with The 5th Wave. I started out appreciating that the post-apocalyptic atmosphere was generated by an alien invasion rather than a man-made crisis but the shine wore off that aspect pretty quickly. The aliens are, for all intents and purposes, absent in the story. Oh, they’re hovering in a spaceship above planet earth. They’ve definitely caused damage to Earth and killed billions of humans. They’ve obviously made incursions onto the planet as  well. My discontent is that there’s no backstory to the aliens which means there’s no depth to their motivation for the invasion and although we meet some aliens, they seem so completely human in their thought processes and actions that I could have easily been reading a regular ol’ dime-a-dozen post-apocalyptic novel.

I liked the concept of waves of destruction intended to decimate the earth’s population in phases rather than having a gun-toting alien force land and commence wholesale slaughter. I liked the way the author configured each wave as a different kind of attack. There wasn’t a lot of detail on how it was accomplished or scientific background to it but that was understandable since the description of the waves was primarily coming from a teenager who had experienced the terrible aftermath of each attack. The story of the progression of the attacks was also rolled out gradually and it worked well as an accompaniment to the story as we learned more about Cassie.

The book is presented from the points-of-view of four characters although two of them get the most page time. The part we see from Cassie’s little brother’s perspective was, with the exception of one scene, completely pointless in my opinion. The POV switches didn’t transition with any kind of noticeable logic and when we moved from a point of drama to an alternate perspective that was in a development phase, any energy built in the storyline was killed. The fact of the matter is, I actually wasn’t involved enough to be truly disappointed at the POV switch.

Part of my lack of involvement was because I wasn’t truly invested in these characters. I came away from the novel with pretty flat character précis:

Cassie: crushed on Ben in High School but Ben never noticed her. She had to flee the aliens with her father and brother but she was separated from them. She’s being hunted by a sniper. She gets shot and then she meets Evan and the girl who started off seeming competent became pointlessly stubborn and willing to put up with this strange guy who keeps standing outside her room/bathroom/any-room-she’s-in breathing heavily. (OK, maybe he wasn’t breathing heavily but he did come across as a creepy stalker.)

Evan: farmboy who lost his family. He rescues Cassie and proceeds to act all creepy stalker. He goes out every night hunting, never comes back with food, and insta-bonds with Cassie, refusing to let her do anything by herself.

Zombie: I can hear you saying it… “wait, wait, who’s Zombie? He wasn’t mentioned in the Publisher’s blurb!” I know, right? I was a little surprised when he showed up too, let alone discovering I was going to spend so much time with him. He’s probably the most interesting of the characters but his part in the story is to act as the third side in some zero-on-the-chemistry-meter love triangle and to act as grist for the story-line mill about the boot camp that’s set up in a military installation where young survivors are broken down and then rebuilt into a fighting force that’s sent out to kill anyone identified as an Other. I found the details and the build-up of the bootcamp scenes no different from most of the “we’re in the army now” movies I’ve watched that cover the topic. (Oh, as for the name “Zombie,” everyone had nicknames in the bootcamp so expect to read about Nugget, Poundcake, Oompa, Flintstone, Teacup, Tank, etc.)

Sammy: cute little boy who gets separated from his sister and his stuffed bear and lives with the hope she’ll come for him.

I took issue with a few plot items that didn’t strike me as logical, one of which was (mild spoiler):

View Spoiler »

My last complaint has to do with the writing. In addition to repetitious descriptions peppered throughout, there were a lot of short sentences; in fact, the average words per sentence count was 9.6. Sometimes that’s an effective way to build tension or create a sense of rapid forward momentum but not so much in this book. For example of the truncated nature of many sections of the book:

Nobody listened. He wasn’t the boss of us anymore. The People in Charge had arrived.

And then, just as unexpectedly as it had come, the helicopter made one last turn and thundered out of sight. The sound of its rotors faded. A heavy silence flooded in after it. We were confused, stunned, frightened. They must have seen us. Why didn’t they land?

We waited for the helicopter to come back. All morning we waited. People packed up their things.

 ***

They prowl in groups. They die in clumps. Clumps of smashups. Clumps of stalls. They glimmer in the distance like jewels. And suddenly the clumps stop. The road is empty for miles.

 ***

I looked up at Corporal Branch. “Isn’t that right?”

“That’s right.”

“He looks like Darth Vader,” Sammy whispered. “Sounds like him, too.”

“Right, and remember what happens? He turns into a good guy at the end.”

“Only after he blows up a whole planet and kills a lot of people.”

I couldn’t help it—I laughed. God, he was smart. Sometimes I thought he was smarter than me and Dad combined.

“You’re going to come later, Cassie?”

“You bet I am.”

“Promise?”

I promised. Whatever happened. No. Matter. What.

That was all he needed to hear. He pushed the teddy bear into my chest.

“Sam?”

“For when you’re scared. But don’t leave him.” He held up a tiny finger to emphasize his point. “Don’t forget.”

He stuck out his hand to the corporal. “Lead on, Vader!” Gloved hand engulfed pudgy hand. The first step was almost too high for his little legs.

Sammy was the last to board. The door closed. Dad tried to put his arm around me. I stepped away. The engine revved. The air brakes hissed.

When they weren’t short, they were often well-populated with commas which (as they absolutely should) the audiobook narrators gave their full attention. Unfortunately, this made even many of the longer sentences sound somewhat choppy.

I like the concept of the story and the idea of how it progressed but the writing style didn’t suit me and there was a bit too much information telegraphed in advance of events that gave them less impact that I would have liked. The ending was a little too quick and tidy and left me unsatisfied. I don’t consider this a bad book, just not a good book for me.

The Narration:

I’m resistant to giving an in-depth review of my experience with the narration because I’m finding it almost impossible not to conflate my issues with the text with complaints about the narration. My primary issue with the narration was the choppy nature of it but I think it’s safe to wholly ascribe that to the narrators’ diligence in chewing the syntax and giving full weight to the author’s intent (and punctuation) rather than a failure in the performance.

Both narrators have pleasant voices and provide the listener with distinct character voices. Phoebe Strole was especially good at infusing Cassie’s more sardonic lines with the perfect amount of humor and I snorted aloud more than once. Brandon Espinoza handled the voices of the various bootcamp recruits well. He gave them age-appropriate voices while also ably voicing the testosterone-fueled tension that erupted between them while maintaining a sense of the vulnerability present in their voices as their world seemed to crash around them.

two-stars

Good for You by Tammara Webber

Good for You by Tammara WebberGood for You by Tammara Webber
Narrator: Kate Rudd, Todd Haberkorn
Series: Between the Lines #3
Published by Brilliance Audio on 12/3/12
Genres: Romance
four-stars

Story: B
Narration: A-

Quick Review:

This was a highly enjoyable romance with protagonists who step outside some commonly seen themes to develop into complex characters with depth. The dual narration works extremely well and enhances this first person contemporary YA/NA quite nicely.

Goodreads Summary:

“Reid Alexander’s life is an open book. His Hollywood celebrity means that everything he does plays out in the public eye. Every relationship, every error in judgment is analyzed by strangers. His latest mistake totaled his car, destroyed a house, and landed him in the hospital. Now his PR team is working overtime to salvage his image. One thing is clear – this is one predicament he won’t escape without paying for it.

Dori Cantrell is a genuine humanitarian – the outward opposite of everything Reid is about. When his DUI plea bargain lands him under community service supervision, she proves unimpressed with his status and indifferent to his proximity, and he soon wants nothing more than to knock her off her pedestal and prove she’s human.

Counting the days until his month of service is over, Dori struggles to ignore his wicked magnetic pull while shocking him with her ability to see past his celebrity and challenge him to see his own wasted potential. But Dori has secrets of her own, safely locked away until one night turns her entire world upside down. Suddenly their only hope for connection and redemption hinges on one choice: Whether or not to have faith in each other.”

My Thoughts:

What starts out as some often seen (and often simplified) themes in romance novels – a good girl (preacher’s kid), a bad boy (and a movie star to boot), and sparks flying as the two butt heads when forced by circumstances to interact – reveals itself to be more than the initial setup might suggest. I haven’t read the first two books in this series (and by the way, this one worked very well as a stand-alone) so I didn’t have any preconceptions about the character of Reid but I hear he was a bit of a jerk in the earlier books. While he was definitely a spoiled and self-centered movie star to kick off the book, he wasn’t unbearable and as the story progresses not only does his personality begin to change in response to his experiences but his actions are understandable given his history. His shift in personality and his desire to be better than he was seemed reasonable to me and I enjoyed his transformation.

Dori was the protagonist who benefited the most from the in-depth characterization she was drawn with. She judged Reid pretty harshly (understandably so) to start with but found herself drawn to him anyway. I reached a point in the story where everything could have wrapped up nicely into a romantic resolution but with more than half the book left, Dori started coming into focus and carried much of the rest of the story for me. She could easily have been a goody-two-shoes but she had some real (and realistic) struggles with her faith that were backed up by an unexpected history that broke my heart. Her present wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows either.

The struggle between Dori and Reid to establish a relationship was lengthy and it was interrupted part-way through as they pushed each other away and as life pulled them in separate directions. Usually this interruption of “together time” in the middle of a romance would make the book seem drawn out but it worked particularly well for me here because each of them needed to see what life without the other felt like. Dori in particular had to figure out what need Reid met (besides the obvious – nudge-nudge-wink-wink) in her life.

I often find literary characters who evince a religious faith to be written in a manner inconsistent with my experience with religion in real life. They seem to hit an extreme end on the spectrum: either overzealous and so preachy as to be irritating or a former believer whose faith has been crushed by tragedy and now they reject religion entirely. Dori’s religion was a real-world version and she questions it as life throws curve balls her way. It was also a part of who she was and for once, I didn’t get a sense of authorial intent behind the inclusion of faith – that was simply who this character needed to be.

I really enjoyed this audiobook. I listened to it in a couple long sessions over a two day period and it captured my interest completely and had terrific narration.

The Narration:

Although it isn’t my intent to take away from the author’s ability to make a story containing common romance elements something fresh and engaging because the characters are written as complex and interesting people, the fact that the narrators delivered such contemporary and natural voices for the characters absolutely enhanced my enjoyment of this book. Alternating short chapters that switch first person perspective between the protagonists is an ideal situation for a dual narration casting. The selection of narrators who can swing age-appropriate voices in addition to being very skilled in their craft was a major score. If I have one complaint (and I do) it’s that Dori’s voice, which is described as “lyrical”, is given the slightest hint of an Hispanic accent when read by Todd Haberkorn but not when read by Kate Rudd. While either delivery is fine, it’s the disconnect between the two that I had to get used to.

This was my first listen to one of Todd Haberkorn’s narrations but I won’t hesitate to pick up another with his name on it. He was convincing as a young and spoiled movie star while still managing to not make him so much of a jerk (vocally) that I tuned him out in self-defense. He delivered the emotional gamut the story and character called for and nailed distinctive voices for each character. His delivery was very natural sounding which sucked me right in and I heard Reid as a person rather than a character.

This was my second listen to Kate Rudd’s work (and she’s two for two at making me cry, thank-you-very-much) and she was the perfect pairing to put up against Mr. Haberkorn. Her youthful inflections matched Dori’s age and she was pitch-perfect at the lines that delivered the biggest emotional punch. She also brought a very natural sound to the character as well as providing distinct voices for each of the supporting cast. Her delivery was very effective at providing me with a sense of immediacy as events unfolded.

four-stars

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth WeinCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Narrator: Lucy Gaskell, Morven Christie
Published by Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd. on 6/6/12
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
four-half-stars

Story: B+
Narration: A-/B+

Quick Review:

This was a very good book with clever plot building and strong writing. The way the story is constructed slowly ratchets the tension tighter and tighter until it snaps with a convulsive shock. The point of view is divided between two characters who are equally interesting and two audiobook narrators who bring their respective characters to vibrant life.

The Plot:

In the normal course of things, Maddie and Queenie would never have even met, let alone become friends. In World War II era Britain, however, things are far from normal. With so many men off fighting in the war the shortage of manpower at home opens doors for women in the workplace. Maddie had just obtained her civilian pilot’s license when the war started and after working as a radio operator, she was able to join the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) and help ferry planes across Britain. As a well educated young woman fluent in German and French, Queenie ends up working as a Special Operations Flight Officer. When a plane carrying the two young women crashes in occupied France, one is captured by the Gestapo and one makes it to safety. The story is split into not-quite-half as each gets a chance to tell part of the story, starting with Queenie telling us Maddie’s story as her own situation is slowly revealed.

My Thoughts:

I’m struggling to figure out how to talk about this book because there was one big issue that bothered me and had my inner critic jumping up and down trying to point it out. My inner reader, however, whipped out some Ninja moves and cold-cocked my inner critic who went down for the count so my inner critic is going have her say and then I’m sending her to her room so I can talk about how very good this audiobook was. My main issue with the story was that the major plot conceit – that these two women would have the time and ability to write such detailed accounts with what seemed to me to be an unrealistic degree of omniscience – was difficult for me to buy into. Fortunately, that thought was rapidly drowned out by the story itself which captivated me.

This is one of those audiobooks that I keep wanting to talk about in ways that aren’t necessarily about the text of the story, which unfolds in such an interesting way that I’d hate to spoil any part of it. I want to be able to convince you that this was a really good audiobook by telling you I finished it in one day and spent hours at a time listening because I just couldn’t make myself take out my earphones. That I would just nod and smile when someone spoke to me, pretending I could actually hear a word they said as I walked away. That I stayed up hours past my normal bed time (hey, it was a work night!) and, yes, the book made me cry. Have I convinced you? Let me try another tack.

The story structure is interesting, not just because it is written as what are essentially diary entries but also because we start out with Queenie, held prisoner by the Gestapo, telling Maddie’s story. When she reaches the point in the story where they meet and she’s talking about herself, it’s almost always in the third person. While this initially struck me as odd, that sense of distance made me uneasy about what Queenie wasn’t telling the reader about her current situation. As she details Maddie’s time transporting planes, the various airports she flies into, and the military officers and civilians fighting the war from British soil, we get a well-developed sense of both the time-period and the friendship growing between these two complex characters.

Interspersed with Queenie’s recounting of Maddie’s history are slowly revealed bits and pieces of the treatment Queenie is receiving under the direction of Hauptsturmführer von Linden, a character who begins to take on an unexpected depth. When the narrative switches over to Maddie’s diary the transition is smooth and my normal reluctance to switch character view point never materialized. Maddie’s story starts with the plane crash and details more current events. She finds safety with French resistance members and while she waits for a rescue flight back to England that is a long time in coming, she learns of Queenie’s capture. I was anxious for these two characters’ stories to merge again and as events started to gain momentum and everything began to unravel and the truth at the heart of the story was revealed, I was riveted.

The Narration:

The narration was very good. Morven Christie provided Queenie’s part of the story and I initially thought she was underplaying the emotion but as the story progressed it became clear how very well that delivery matched Queenie’s personality. At the point at which that seeming composure faltered, I was also forcibly reminded why audiobooks are such an effective method of transporting the listener into the story: less than a second of a shaky indrawn breath just prior to a single short sentence being spoken and my anxiety over where the story was going was tripled. In addition to using her native Scottish accent for Queenie, Ms. Christie seemed to effortlessly flow between English, German (accent and actual German), French (accent and actual French), and American – including actually singing parts of two different songs, one in German and one a Robert Burns song. The character voices were excellent, the impression of moment-to-moment scene discovery was fully realized and, after my initial opinion of the emotional content was revised, I was wrecked by the delivery of dramatic scenes.

Lucy Gaskell takes over as Maddie at a bit over half-way through. In some respects, this was the weaker of the two narrations – French and German accents weren’t believable in dialogue and sometimes Maddie sounded happier than I thought she should given what was going on – but much like the story completely overwhelmed my objection to the narrative-via-diary plot conceit, the character and personality of Maddie were so very vivid in Ms. Gaskell’s voice that I was never less than convinced she was Maddie. In addition, the range of emotions Maddie goes through were very effectively delivered. Overall, I was very pleased with the dual narration.

four-half-stars

Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire SáenzLast Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Narrator: MacLeod Andrews
Published by Brilliance Audio on 2/23/11
Genres: Literary Fiction, Young Adult

Story: B
Narration: B

Quick Review:

A sad but ultimately hopeful book that evoked my sympathy (if not my empathy) and left me feeling a bit like an uninvited observer into someone else’s pain. The story is well-written and the narration is, objectively, very accomplished but I found myself vacillating between experiencing the story as it unfolded and being told a story. The drama is well-paced and despite some repetitive themes I found myself intrigued by the dynamics between characters.

The Plot:

Zach Gonzalez is an eighteen year-old boy from El Paso, TX who finds himself in rehab without any memory of how he got there. Some basic facts of his life are clear: his mother is a clinically depressed agoraphobic; his older brother, a drug user, beats Zach on a regular basis; his father is an alcoholic and Zach himself has taken to using alcohol and drugs as a way of coping with events in his life. Zach is intelligent, artistic, caring, and utterly unwilling to accept (or believe in) any helping hand offered him.

As Zach sits through group and individual therapy sessions and interacts with the people who are in rehab with him – most notably his therapist Adam and his much older roommate Rafael – he focuses his attention outward with surprising empathy for his fellow rehabbers rather than finding the courage to move past the block that prevents him from acknowledging how he ended up in rehab. Eventually the barrier he’s been propping up collapses and he’s forced to face his past.

My Thoughts:

Have you ever read a book and felt like you were overhearing a conversation you shouldn’t be listening to? This was that book for me. I would argue that because the Sáenz is also a poet there is an added air of intimacy to the writing. That isn’t meant to imply that authors whose sole medium is prose are incapable of writing stories that touch the reader on a deep level, just that I find poetry is an inherently intimate method of communication and that habit often carries over to a poet’s writing of prose. When combined with the also intimate medium of having a voice quietly speaking in your ear, this book made me a bit uncomfortable – not in the subject matter but just as an nosy observer of a life that crashed and burned and a young man who is trying to pick up the pieces.

The key word, though, is observer. I skimmed the border between observation and emotional engagement, dipping into either state at seemingly random moments so while I found Zach to be a sympathetic character, I never completely lost myself in this audiobook. Zach wavers between emotional reactions to his memories and dissociating from the world around him and perhaps that dissociation was part of my problem. There were certainly moments that rang with emotion but they were fewer than I expected.

Zach displayed a surprising amount of empathy for the people in his life, especially those who were in rehab with him. I struggled to reconcile my perception of the drug-abuser who smashed windshields with a bat as an expression of his pain with the young and tender Zach who displayed an overabundant (and maybe unhealthy) level of care for others as he went through rehab. I don’t know if I’ve absorbed too much of the media’s portrayal of men and boys as stoic and not in touch with their emotions or what but Zach’s frequent internal dialogue about his love for various people in rehab and the emotional touchy/feely that occurs between Adam, Zach and Rafael felt somewhat skeevy to me.

Zach frequently talks about what seems to be a major theme in the book – words. From the start we see Zach’s version of destiny:

“I have it in my head that when we’re born, God writes things down on our hearts. See, on some people’s hearts he writes happy and on some people’s hearts he writes sad and on some people’s hearts he writes crazy and on some people’s hearts he writes genius and on some people’s hearts he writes angry and on some people’s hearts he writes winner and on some people’s hearts he writes loser.”

For Zach, words are both fate and salvation. Although he rejects the hand reaching out to him when his teacher, Mr. Garcia, praises his written work in school, he holds on to that memory like it was keeping him afloat. Zach and his friends would pick words as if they were a secret password and scream them out at the end of each week. It’s through his reading of Rafael’s journal that he finds solace as well as a new addiction and it’s only when he can face his past and talk about it that he will be free from it. While the themes of words didn’t get repetitious for me as a listener, Zach’s reliance on repetitive word use in thought and speech (as true to life as it may be) was annoying. His favorite phrases (such as “tore/tears me up”, “stunned me out” and “wigged me out”) came up over and over and wore on me.

The Narration:

On the whole, I like the narration by MacLeod Andrews. His performance displayed an understanding of the author’s intent and he gave fully-formed and distinctive performances for every single character. I never needed text indicators to get a complete sense of the emotions in dialogue as they were very clear without being blatant. I really liked the way he lightly brushed several characters’ voices with just hints of an accent to portray the ethnicity or cultural aspect of their personality without allowing it to stereotype the character. My struggle with the narration came in that I often felt like Zach was reflecting on a past experience rather than allowing me to become absorbed in watching his recovery as it happened. This feeling of one-remove was an intermittent problem for me but not a deal-breaker in my enjoyment of the audiobook.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Narrator: Kate Rudd
Published by Brilliance Audio on 1/10/12
Genres: Literary Fiction, Young Adult

Story: B+
Narration: A

Publisher’s summary:

“Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.”

My Thoughts:

Sometimes life collapses around your ears and it can happen with cancer, it can happen like it’s described in the book, and it can – to use the analogy Hazel does – go off like a hand grenade and send shrapnel flying into the hearts of those you least want to cause pain. With that, though, there can still be beauty and humor and love and I think that’s what makes this book more than a cancer story or a tear-jerker (and boy was it ever) or a YA book. It encompasses the full measure of messiness that life can be in a story told with grace and humor and not a few tears.

Hazel’s and Augustus’ battles with cancer are obviously the focal point but we don’t just get a self-absorbed or micro-perspective. The struggle their parents go through and the guilt Hazel feels over that are also part of the story. Facing an uncertain future and rejecting love because of that, the process of falling in love anyway, how the world looks at cancer patients and sees the disease more than the person… there are a lot of strands to this story. The thread of humor that runs throughout this book balances out the tragic moments and while I wasn’t completely sold on the storyline regarding the author Peter Van Houten (although I understand how it tied up in the end) and I might have experienced a momentary sense of disbelief at the level of erudition and whip-like humor that flowed through Hazel and Gus’ dialogue, it was still very amusing to listen to and not a stumbling block to my enjoyment of this audiobook.

I wish I had more to say about the book itself in terms of storyline or writing or the character development or any number of things but this book spoke to me on an emotional level far more that an intellectual one so although the writing was smart and the dialogue clever, I flounder in describing it because it’s the wrenching emotional impact of the story that burns brightest in my mind. That’s also why I feel compelled to write a review of it, even though mine will hardly be the most eloquent recommendation – this book just moved me that much. It was a very good book about a serious subject with enough humor to balance it out and I highly recommend it.

The Narration:

I have to ask myself: why have I never listened to a Kate Rudd narration before now? Excuse me for one moment… *pulls out newly acquired fan-girl soapbox* To put it simply, her narration of this audiobook was my idea of perfection. I’m tempted to tell you that the only person I heard narrating in this book was Hazel and leave it at that but that wouldn’t do justice to the skill that let me forget about the narrator and hear only Hazel’s very authentic voice. Ms. Rudd has an extremely natural sounding delivery and when voicing Hazel and Augustus she hit the humorous lines that alternated between wacky and deadpan perfectly. Hazel runs the gamut of emotions in this book and each minute I listened I heard a pure perspective of her point of view based on the inflections, emphasis, and a myriad of subtle vocal cues that were employed. The struggle to breathe that Hazel sometimes battled with would start out gradual and become more apparent without ever overwhelming the narrative or dialogue and I found myself tensing at the quiet onset of each of those scenes. The moments of grief or anger or exhaustion were never overdone and the emotional wallop that lives in the text of this story was allowed to resonate with the listener without overwrought narration getting in the way. The character voices were nicely distinct and Gus’ voice brought him to vibrant life with his goofy humor, bravado and burning desire to be a hero and live a life that leaves a mark. The dialogue was crisp and flowed organically and, in contrast to a common grumble of mine with YA audiobooks, the inspired casting meant the teenage characters sounded young but not childish and the adult voices didn’t sound artificially aged in order to contrast. In short, the voices just sounded natural. This was an excellent narration. *puts fan-girl soapbox away.*