Staff Pick: Layoverland by Gabby Noone

Post by Erin O’Neill

TitleLayoverland
Author: Gabby Noone
Narrator: Sophie Amoss

When I first heard about Layoverland, I was told that it’s comparable to one of my favorite shows, The Good Place. For anyone who hasn’t watched the show, it follows a morally-unsound lady after her death and through her journey in the afterlife. She builds friendships with some memorable characters, gets herself in some cheeky trouble, and finds a little bit of romance. For me, The Good Place has it all. How could anything compare?

Let me tell you, Layoverland did not disappoint. It’s like a delicate nod to all of the things I loved about the show but with a different take on the afterlife. Though it may sound like a drama, the the story maintains light-hearted humor throughout. And just like The Good Place, the audiobook brings lots of light to a dark situation.

Beatrice Fox, a bitter, mean, and hilarious high school student, wakes up in an airplane with no idea where she’s going. One minute she was driving home, the next flying through the air. At the airport, Bea finds out she died in a car crash and was taken to… neutral ground, a.k.a Layoverland. She is told that she will, one day, be sent to Heaven but must earn her spot by proving she has a good heart. Because of Bea’s natural sarcasm and extreme pessimism, she’ll have to work extra hard to make it to Heaven. Her task: help 5000 people on their way to Heaven say goodbye to the life they lived on Earth.

Like a real airport, people are constantly coming and going through this story, which is quite impressive of Gabby Noone. Her characters were all lovable and had their own distinctive personality. I especially loved Bea’s mentor in her airport job, a perky beauty queen named Sadie, who died during a pageant in the 80s – very memorable. Noone’s writing reminded me of what I loved about The Good Place but her witty style made the story all new and exciting.

I was equally impressed with narrator Sophie Amoss, who nailed how I’d expected Bea to speak: with a young but very jaded voice. And even with so many characters, I could always distinguish who was talking by the sound of their voice. I would definitely listen to her narrate another audiobook in the future.

Overall, Layoverland was a lot of fun to listen to. It was sharp, funny, and at times even really sweet. Just like The Good Place, this book surprised me with a thought-provoking and enticing story of the afterlife, a story that I didn’t want to end.

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STAFF PICK: Ponti by Sharlene Teo

Post by Miranda Winters-Sayle

Title: Ponti
Author: Sharlene Teo
Narrator: Vera Chok

Capturing the profound affect relationships have on our futures, Ponti is cleverly told through three perspectives that reflect the past, present, and future. Sixteen-year-old Szu struggles to connect with her distant mother, Amisa, a once beautiful actress who claimed her 15 minutes of fame in a B-list horror movie. Szu befriends Circe, a sharp-tongued privileged girl equally lonely as her, and the two develop an intense friendship that will change their lives forever.

Set in Singapore, Amisa’s younger years are explored as she stars in Ponti!, a horror movie about a monster that masquerades as a beautiful young woman to lure in its victims. Amisa, who plays a ghost, must come to terms that the movie has neither kick started her career as an actress or brought her the fame and happiness she dreamed of.

In the future, we learn that Circe is helping produce a remake of the Ponti! trilogy, which causes her to confront her own guilt for abandoning Szu after she experiences a major loss.

I was surprised that Ponti is Sharlene Teo‘s debut novel. The imagery she uses made me feel as though I were in Singapore, and the characters were so well developed that I felt like I knew them personally. The teenage relationship between Szu and Circe were written so realistically — their bond, dialogue, and teenage angst were relatable and recognizable.

Vera Chok was a fantastic choice to narrate Ponti, as she was able to seamlessly portray young Szu just as effectively as middle-aged Circe. Her knowledge of Chinese and Malay allowed her to perform accents, which is vital for a novel like Ponti, which reflects a distinct culture and its surreal cities and people.

 

Ponti.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more and sample the audio.

 

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