I can find a book to love in any genre -- a beautifully written classic, an interesting mystery or sci-fi, a trashy romance. Bring it!
STORY (historical) - First of all, I totally disagree with the categorization of this book as "Teens Ages 11-13" The main characters in the story are teens, but there are mature themes which make it more appropriate for adults. The main character, "Jacky," is a young orphan girl who must survive on the streets of London until a dear friend is killed, she takes his clothing and sets off in search of a better life disguised as a boy. Her life as a street urchin is pretty dark and depressing. Jacky gets a job as a ship's mate aboard a seagoing vessel, which is where the adventures begin, but there are still some scenes with sexual undertones which I wouldn't consider appropriate for 11-year-olds.
I also think the title is a bit misleading. Jacky gets the nickname "Bloody Jack" because she happens to kill an unworthy individual in self-defense and another in a battle with pirates, but the story is actually a touching coming-of-age story that is mixed with lots of fun and adventure. It's a light, easy listen once Jacky becomes a ship's "boy." The ending is good, but definitely leaves the door open for the rest of the series.
PERFORMANCE - Amazing! Katherine Kellgren is one of my favorite narrators. I was undecided about this series until I noticed she was the narrator. She gives every character a different voice and accent and they're all wonderful. There's even a toothless pirate, and you can literally "see" him when you hear her portrayal. (She also reads the Her Royal Spyness series.) You must hear her to believe how good she is.
OVERALL - (Actual rating 4.5 stars) This is Book 1 of the series, and you should listen to them in order. As I mentioned above, I would recommend this for high school age and above. Guys and gals would probably both enjoy the adventures of Jacky and her crew.
STORY (fiction) - First let me vent about Audible's rating system. This book is suggested for kids age 8-10. What are they thinking? The main characters are in high school and beyond. There's the vocabulary, with words like churlish, ablution, frenetic and taciturn coming to my mind. Then there's the F-word thrown in a couple times for emphasis. And of course, anyone who's seen the movie trailer might guess the subject matter isn't for children. So I'll get off that soapbox for a while, until Audible screws up the recommendation for another book!
Mia, the main character, is a high school senior with a cute rock star boyfriend named Adam. She plays the cello and hopes to attend Julliard in the fall. Until the accident. Her parents and younger brother are killed and Mia is unconscious with multiple life-threatening injuries. She has an out-of-body experience beginning at the accident scene. She describes the horrific crash as if it's happening in slow motion, she describes the bodies of her family as she finds them, and she describes her own body laying motionless on the ground. As she's moved to the helicopter and finally the hospital, she continues to describe her treatments and the reactions of her loved ones as they arrive.
The book basically alternates between Mia's out-of-body viewpoint and flashbacks of her life, kind of like her life is flashing before her eyes. She realizes that the choice between life and death is in her hands. It's her choice, just like the title of the book, "If I Stay." I won't tell you how the book ends, but be sure to have some Kleenex handy.
PERFORMANCE - Good job. Sometimes I could "feel" the smile in her voice, and her emotional performance during the more serious scenes was convincing as well.
OVERALL - For mature teenagers and adults only, due primarily to the subject matter. There's no sex, but there is an unusual scene where Mia and Adam play each other like instruments. The descriptions at the accident scene are a bit graphic (complete with brain matter on the road), but they don't last long. Some of the flashbacks were a little slow, but I enjoyed the book and plan to see the movie.
STORY - Almost everyone has seen the movies, read the books or heard of the Hunger Games series. This final book does not disappoint. The Capitol and President Snow are under attack and out for revenge, and Katniss has become the figurehead of the rebellion. The characters we've come to love must continue to band together and fight for what they believe in, as opposed to being in the arena. They aren't super-heros. They are young adults who are forced to grow up in lives they didn't chose for themselves, but they are smart, brave and resourceful.
The story has lots of action and violence, so there is loss and sadness. The conclusion doesn't tie everything up with a big, happy pink bow, but it's realistic, positive and very good. It's also hard to predict. With only 45 minutes left to listen, there are still major questions unanswered, so the story is suspenseful to the very end. I wanted things to turn out a little differently, but overall it's the perfect ending to a great series.
PERFORMANCE - Initially I didn't like the narrtor's voice, thinking it sounded too old for Katniss, but I've come to totally accept her and enjoyed her performance.
OVERALL - Recommended for just about everyone but, due to the violence, I wouldn't recommend for below about age 15. Great book, great series. Definitely listen to them in order, and definitely get them!