Audio books aren’t my thing. For me, the act of reading has to involve my eye moving over a page of some sort. I don’t count audio books as reading and I’m a bit of a snob about it. For me, reading is the one thing in my life that I do by itself. When I’m reading, I ‘m not watching television, or washing the dishes or cleaning, it is just me and the book, on the couch, relaxing (or on the train, or waiting for an appointment, etc.) Smoking used to provide that time for me in my life, the do-nothing time, but I’ve sacrificed that vice for my health. I sill miss the not-doing time. There is no way I’m going to take time away from do-nothing reading time and replace it with do-something audio book time.
I don’t think I’ve ever voluntarily started an audio book, but this one came recommended by An Embarrassment of Riches, which is a blog written by our librarians. Because of the like in the post, I was under the impression (misguided, as it turned out) that the book only came in Audio book form. Plus, it was the dreaded spring pledge drive and I had cooking to do. One can only listen to so many hours of reasons why you should support OBP (and you should, don’t get me wrong. And I do.) So away we went into audio book land.
So Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, is probably a really good audio book. The premise is that a teenager finds a package addressed to him containing seven audio cassette tapes. When he plays the first one (in the garage because the old stereo in the shop area is the only one with a tape player) he hears the voice of Hannah Baker, the girl who committed suicide two weeks prior. She explains that there are thirteen reasons why she ended her life, and each one is a person. Each side of a tape discusses one of the thirteen people and every person who received the package must listen to all of the tapes and then send them to the next person on the list. If they do not do this, then the tapes will be released in a very public way.
So wow, good premise. And good reading by the two actors who played Clay and Hannah. Maybe a little too good. They perfectly captured the adolescent angst of both teenagers, with Debra Wiseman particularly hitting the mark of Hannah. Aaaaaand that was the problem. Hannah Baker drove me crazy. By person/reason four all I could think was “Seriously? You ended your life because of this? There better be something really good later on, because this isn’t cutting it.” I think if I had been reading the book, the voice I supplied for Hannah would not have been as grating. Debra hit her mark, alright, but the sarcasm/angst/anger level she hit was hard to listen to for six hours, even if it did feel authentic.
One of my fellow workers actually read this book recently, no foolin‘, because her 12 year old daughter read it and told her mother she must read it, it was such a good book. The fellow worker correctly summed it up as, “entirely unfulfilling for adults because there is no adult translation of those very strong adolescent feelings. They are just very present.” And that was what drove me crazy. Still, I kept listening, at first to see what number the main character was, and later because I couldn’t stop. There is something fascinating about listening to a voice from beyond the grave, especially if that voice is explaining why she is now beyond the grave.
In book form, I probably would have consumed this in a day. In audio book form it took me about a week, which gave me more time to think about different parts of the story. When it was all over, I still wished I had read the book.