Featured Titles, Guest Post, Video JB Adkins on narrating Wendelin Van Draanen’s THE SECRET LIFE OF LINCOLN JONES: “It’s been difficult for me to shake the character…”

Listening Library is thrilled to welcome narrator JB Adkins to the blog as he shares why he loved diving into THE SECRET LIFE OF LINCOLN JONES by Wendelin Van Draanen. In this fresh and funny story about a boy learning to become the brave hero of his own life, we meet Lincoln Jones who is always working on the latest story he’s got going in his notebook. Those stories are his refuge. A place where the hero always prevails and the bad guy goes to jail. Real life is messy and complicated, so Lincoln sticks to fiction and keeps to himself. Which works fine until a nosy girl at his new school starts prying into his private business. She wants to know what he’s writing, where he disappears to after school, and why he never talks to anybody…

Lucky for listeners, JB Adkins talks to us about the sometimes seemingly-secret life of an audiobook narrator and how he felt behind the mic:

I’m more than honored to have the opportunity to share my experience involving narrating THE SECRET LIFE OF LINCOLN JONES by the iconic Wendelin Van Draanen. It’s been difficult for me to shake the character (Lincoln in particular), probably more than anyone from any other audiobook, due to the fact that Lincoln hit so close to home. As a kid raised by a single mother in the early part of my life, always feeling like the odd duck in class with his head in the clouds, I definitely felt that Lincoln and I were kindred spirits, save the southern accent and a few other idiosyncrasies. I thoroughly enjoyed Lincoln’s authenticity to himself and his courage despite his upbringing. Lincoln could have chosen to sulk and indulge in his negative feelings toward his mother, Maribelle, for exposing him to a toxic living situation the way that she did, but instead he chose to honor and support his mother without harboring any feelings of ill will or contempt.
JB Adkins in the studio.

JB Adkins in the studio.

As an 11-year old boy, that’s certainly no easy feat and I believe that Lincoln would have had every right to be angry and blame his plight on Maribelle. Instead, Lincoln channeled his possible anger and insecurities toward creativity and remained inspired by his situation as opposed to being victimized by it.

Above all, that was THE takeaway from the story for me and is part of the reason that I gained such an incredible respect for Mrs. Van Draanen. Her ability to understand this principle and craft it in such a surreal, yet easily-digestible way, really influenced me to approach situations in my own life similarly to the way Lincoln did. There’s an old adage that says something along the lines of, “Life is 1% what happens to you and 99% the way you react to what happens to you.” Lincoln epitomizes this statement in such a pragmatic way, without even being conscious of it.

LISTEN TO A CLIP:

Lincoln’s growth throughout the story also touched me as I witnessed firsthand his maturity in the area of relationships, with him gradually obtaining more confidence in himself, and garnering a healthier respect for his mother’s work with the Oldies (senior citizens with dementia living in an assisted living home). If you’ll notice, Lincoln’s voice and tone grows more certain as the story progresses. The lovely Mrs. Linda Korn (hands down, the GREATEST director I’ve ever had the honor of working with) was instrumental in guiding Lincoln’s voice through the ebb and flow that we experience in the amount of time that listeners have the privilege of spending with him. Because Lincoln’s story was so traumatic and emotional in some respects, I often struggled with distinguishing these pinnacle moments from the rest. Mrs. Korn taught me the importance of pacing, and coached me through understanding and articulating the essences of the various characters throughout the audiobook, from Kandi Kane to Mrs. Graves. Overall, this middle grade novel was the most fun, educational, and tear-filled that I’ve yet to encounter as a narrator with Listening Library. Truly blessed to be a part of this transformative work of art!

—JB Adkins

THE SECRET LIFE OF LINCOLN JONES arrives on October 25th.

Early Praise for THE SECRET LIFE OF LINCOLN JONES:
“A story with a perfect balance of mirth and poignancy.”—School Library Journal

“Van Draanen’s engaging story is characterized by clever writing, a palpable affection for her characters, and a deep understanding of what’s important about life.”—Kirkus Reviews

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