I'm an audiobook addict and blog about books at The Reading Date. My favorite genres are YA, New Adult, Fiction & Memoirs.
Emily Murdoch’s debut novel and is heartfelt, harrowing, and lovely all at once. This is a tough issue book about abuse and survival that is hard to hear/read at times but very powerful and uplifting too. Tai Sammons’ performance makes the story feel even more realistic.
If You Find Me is the story of 15-year-old Carey and her 5-year-old sister Jenessa. They live in the woods in a camper with their unstable mother who frequently leaves them alone to find drugs. Carey is more like a mother than a sister to Jenessa and they only have each other to rely on. One day, Carey’s father and a social worker suddenly appear to rescue them from the woods. Now they must adjust to life in the real world, including school, technology, what to wear, and how to act. But the woods still haunt them in various ways, and secrets can’t be kept forever.
The descriptive writing would sometimes distract me with its elegance and I’d get lost in the story. Even though the subject matter is disturbing, Murdoch adds lighter moments like a new friend, or a cute dog, to brighten the mood. But at the same time there are certain recollections of Carey’s that hurt like a kick in the gut. The reader learns about Carey’s backstory through flashbacks that hint at the mystery behind Jenessa losing her voice.
Carey has an artistic spirit and a unique way of thinking and expressing herself. She is such a mature character, that it was easy to relate to her from one mother to another, even though she’s still a teen. The sisterly bond is strong understandably, and I rooted for them both to get some well-deserved peace and happiness. My heart soared with each small victory on their journey, and ached for the pain that lingered.
Tai Sammons’ reads the audiobook, and this is my first experience with her narration. Her dialect is spot on and she conveys Carey’s emotional state of being well. The book is set in Tennessee and Sammons’ gives the book an authentic feel with her Southern accent. Sammons’ gets to use her talents on different types of voices like the mean girl, authority figures, and a child’s voice for Jenessa. I’d listen to this narrator again- she delivers a strong, nuanced performance that made me feel all the emotions. Though the book is powerful on its own, the audiobook made me connect even more with the story.
If You Find Me is a great choice for realistic contemporary readers, and one you won’t want to put down.
The Impossible Knife of Memory is about PTSD and how it effects the sufferer and those around them. Laurie Halse Anderson is never one to shy away from tough subject matters, and tackles PTSD with honesty and emotion. This issue is realistic and topical, and this edgy story is sure to resonate with many readers.
Hayley and her father Andy have never put down roots – Andy is a truck driver who home-schooled Hayley on the road. But now Andy thinks it’s time to settle in to his hometown so Hayley can attend high school. Andy is a war veteran with severe PTSD from his time serving in Iraq. Hayley grew up without a mom and has had to in many ways be the parent to her dad. He has daily struggles, and his flashback triggers bring on alcohol and drug abuse, and Hayley has to stay on top of him to take care of his basic needs.
Considering that Hayley has far more adult responsibilities than her peers, it’s hard for her to relate to the carefree students (she calls them zombies) at school. She doesn’t have the luxury of planning for college like the other students – who will look after her dad?
We get a glimpse of Andy’s state of mind through brief chapters in his POV. It’s clear he is in a troubled state of mind, but he chooses to self-medicate to cope rather than accept the medical and counseling help he needs.
Hayley has two non-zombie friends, her neighbor Gracie, and Finn, a nice guy at school who sees through to the real Hayley. Finn surprises Hayley by having demons of his own, and that helps to strengthen their bond.
Another complicated relationship is with Hayley’s sort-of stepmother Trish, who broke Hayley’s heart by walking out on the family. Now that she’s back in the picture, can Hayley forgive her and accept her help?
Andy and Hayley have a lot of healing to do and I wanted them to get the support they needed. Hayley is smart and funny and could have a bright future but she is in this holding pattern. She loves her dad dearly but doesn’t know how to help him at this point. Can she dare to hope for something more for her future- could she walk away?
Julia Whelan performs the nine-hour audiobook, with Luke Daniels performing Andy’s chapters. I’ve listened to Julia Whelan many times, and she’s good at inhabiting her characters. She performs Laurie Halse Andersons’ lyrical words with care and helps the story shine. And Luke Daniels illustrates Andy’s tortured state of mind with his delivery. This is a powerful story made more so by the riveting audio performance.
Laurie Halse Anderson has still got it, and her latest heavy-hitter doesn’t disappoint. Strong voice, character development, and story – you’re missing out if you’re not reading her books.
Gayle Forman’s latest book Just One Day explores how your life can change seemingly overnight. A story with mystery, adventure and romance, Just One Day follows Allyson as she gets lost and found again in Paris.
The story begins with Allyson’s trip to Europe one summer before college. She’s always been a girl who follows the rules and doesn’t veer from her chosen path. But in Europe she starts to get a little more adventurous, and her edgy new haircut allows her to try on a new persona.
Allyson meets Dutch actor Willem and makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to abandon her existing travel plans and go with him by train to spend the day in Paris. Willem doesn’t even know Allyson’s real name, and calls her Lulu for her Louise Brooks haircut. Willem is quite mysterious himself and Allyson is constantly second-guessing her decision to go off with him. When she wakes up the next morning to find Willem missing, it sets into motion a new path for Allyson.
Willem seemed like a shady character to me, but I could see how Allyson could be so charmed by him. The sights and sounds of Paris were the perfect romantic backdrop for their adventure, and Allyson enjoys feeling like the leading lady in the movie (or Shakespeare play) for the first time. Part of the appeal is that the reader doesn’t really know if they can trust Willem and it’s easy to get swept up in the romance and mystery of it all with Allyson.
Many of the themes found in Just One Day lend themselves well to the New Adult niche, especially with regards to finding yourself. Allyson is just starting college and living away from home for the first time. The aftershocks of her day in Paris with Willem impact her schoolwork and social life completely. Allyson also has to deal with a new relationship with her parents, especially her mother who is used to being in charge of her life. Even her friend alliances and school focus shifts. But can Allyson move forward with her life if she doesn’t resolve her past with Willem? Or is Willem not the point at all in Allyson’s self-development?
Just One Day has Forman’s trademark dramatic intensity but didn’t make me cry like If I Stay. The book is gorgeously written and made me feel all of Allyson’s changing moods. The nature of the book makes it a good fit to read in one day if you have the time, and especially because you’ll want to see it through to the end. But the weightiness of it all made me want to take little breaks to really digest the story.
I listened to the audiobook of Just One Day, read by Kathleen McInerney, a new-to-me narrator. McInerney got into the character well, and sounded like a young, naïve college student to me. She does get the opportunity to try a variety of accents and age ranges in her reading and makes the most of the audio format. McInerney does the heavy lifting with the pronunciations and foreign words to make things a little easier for the reader. The story does lend itself to audio, but overall I liked both the reading and listening experiences equally (I read the book first). Listening doesn’t make the torturous ending any easier though!
And about that ending, Just One Day is Allyson’s story, and in the sequel Just One Year we get to hear Willem’s side of things. If you enjoy Gayle Forman’s books, or reading about self-discovery or foreign travel, treat yourself to Just One Day.