Sunday, February 6, 2011

Audiobook Rant

My work commute is very long: 50 minutes each way.  So I have become quite the expert on listening to audiobooks. 

I have come to understand that a narrator can make or break a book.  And there's nothing that breaks a book more than a middle grade novel being told in first person, with a MIDDLE-AGED audiobook narrator.  I mean, this is a total and complete fail on the part of the producers of the audiobook.

I just started listening to Ann M. Martin's A Corner of the Universe which is the story of Hattie Owens' and the summer she turns twelve, when her mentally disabled uncle shows up on their doorstep.  Hattie is the book's first-person narrator and therefore should have a young audiobook narrator, or at the very least an adult with a child-like voice.  Instead, the producers chose Judith Ivey, who not only has a very mature voice, but she sounds like a pack a day smoker.   

Audiobook producers, please, do readers a favor: choose age-appropriate narrators!  If A Corner of the Universe had been a novel told in third-person, then I would have no qualms about choosing Judith Ivey as a narrator. A third-person narrator is not inside the story and therefore does not need to sound like a particular character.  In fact, it's probably better that they don't since a third-person narrator tends to be a neutral voice.  But when you have someone telling a story who is twelve-years-old and the audio narrator sounds fifty, this undermines the authenticity of the story.  Not only that, but it turns your audience off since they ARE twelve-years-old and they want to hear someone who sounds like them if the person telling the story is their age. 

What audiobooks have you listened to where the producers got the narrator completely wrong?


  1. Love this post! And it's so true, audiobook narraotrs have to suit the role. I've listened to many audiobooks, and I agree that the narrator makes or breaks the experience. I haven't listened to many desperately wrong narrations, but I do have a few favourites:
    -Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta is narrated VERY well.
    -Twilight Saga is also quite good in terms of narration.
    -City of Bones (Mortal Instruments series)

    Books with multiple first person narrators tend to have a female and male narraotr, e.g. City of Fallen Angels will have 2 celebrity narrators.

    I'd love to hear some of your favourites?
    Tina @ Book Couture

  2. Yes yes, a million times yes! It really bugs me when the audiobook readers for a first-person children's or YA novel don't sound youthful.

    The readers for Van Draanen's Flipped come to mind. Way too adult-sounding.

    On the other hand, the reader for Shug, by Jenny Han, had a delightfully young voice.

    I also agree that a narrator of any age works for a third-person story. The audiobook of Ibbotson's The Dragonfly Pool is a British grandmotherly type, and it's the coziest, loveliest listen.