cover image ABARAT


, , read by Richard Ferrone. . HarperAudio, $39.95 (, unabridged, eight cassettes, 12 hours, $39.95 ISBN p) ISBN 978-0-06-051075-6

Barker's (The Thief of Always) fantasy for teen readers features some truly bizarre characters and often crackles with creepy and curious imagery. Unfortunately, the material is not served particularly well by Ferrone's sometimes forced-sounding cadence and a reading voice possessing hints of both rumble and rasp. Teenager Candy Quackenbush has had it with her oppressive life in Chickentown, Minn. She'd like nothing more than to leave her smelly (literally) chicken industry surroundings, as well as her alcoholic father and downtrodden mother, for good. She gets her wish when following a mysterious compulsion to go to the outskirts of town. Soon Candy meets up with an eight-headed creature named John Mischief, who ushers her into the magical otherworld of the Islands of the Abarat. Candy wends her way through some breathless escapes and frightening encounters in the strange Abarat archipelago. The numerous fantastic characters and plot strands may overwhelm some listeners, but those who stick with it will enjoy discovering such a vividly imagined place—the supposed background for the three additional Abarat books Barker has planned. Simultaneous release with HarperCollins/Cotler hardcover. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)