About mini reviews:
Maybe you’re not an audio book person, or maybe you are. I provide mini reviews of audio books and give a recommendation on the format. Was this book improved by a voice actor? Would a physical copy have been better? Perhaps they complement each other? Read on. . .
In True Story by Kate Reed Petty, a high school girl who goes to private school attends The Party to End All Parties, hosted by the local public high school’s lacrosse team. She — Alice — drinks too much and passes out. Nick, a lacrosse player who thinks he’s just trying to be a good guy, drives the drunk girl and his teammate Max to the girl’s house where they leave her on her porch.
Later, at a 24-hour breakfast place, the guys tell a story in which they kinda-sorta-maybe sexually assaulted Alice. The only female at the table is Hailey, a girl Nick has a crush on. She’s disgusted by what the team says about Alice. But what really happened? Are Nick and Max making up stories to impress “the guys,” or did they do something?
True Story has an interesting format. Movie scripts written by Hailey and Alice in middle school back when they were friends have their own sections. Nick has his own chapters in adulthood when he’s failed at most things and is now an alcoholic. We catch up with Alice, a woman who is being held captive by an abusive boyfriend who adds small doses of poison to her food and drink. We follow Alice’s approximately twenty attempts to write a letter to get into college (filled with her tutor’s comments, Alice’s edits, and the rewritten attempts).
While there were interesting scenes, much of the book is a hazy, dreamy stupor — is Nick hallucinating because he’s drunk? do drunks hallucinate? is Alice being poisoned or is she over-worked? — making it hard to track metaphors, or reality. While the stories of Nick, Hailey, and Alice never fully converge, we do learn an important fact from Alice at the end that spoiled the book for me. And the crux of the story (apparently), the sexual assault that kinda-sorta-maybe-we’re-not-sure-if-it-happened that happened? Isn’t really the crux other than for Hailey, who believes Alice must tell her story, even if Alice doesn’t want to, even if Alice was blacked out and doesn’t know her own story.
The audiobook narrators (Kristen Sieh, Alexander Candese, and Cassandra Campbell) all read well, with Candese’s work especially emphasizing the careless, toxic nature of teen boys who are raised to take and take and consider only themselves.
In Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, the novel opens in a theater. The main actor, Arthur, exhibits signs of a heart attack, so EMT-in-training Jeevan jumps on stage and attempts CPR. Arthur dies. An eight-year-old girl in the play, Kristen, is shaken up. After Jeevan leaves, his friend who works in a hospital emergency room warns Jeevan to get out of the city. Some sort of highly-contagious, deadly flu is filling up the ER. Cut to a bar where folks are talking about the play. The section ends with a line about the bartender being the only one who will still be alive in three weeks.
I was all set for a pandemic novel, maybe a classy riff on the zombie tale of survival, but St. John Mandel cuts to twenty years into the future. Kristen is a young woman in a travelling symphony. Sort of like Mad Max with instruments?? Some people perform Shakespeare, too. Arts in the apocalypse is an interesting concept, but it seems that St. John Mandel ditches the idea and cuts back to pre-pandemic when Arthur (the dead actor) was a young man trying to make it on the big screen. He marries Miranda, who is working on a comic book project called Station Eleven. He cheats on Miranda with a model named Elizabeth and gets married to Elizabeth. On and on about Arthur and his girlfriends. Where is Jeevan??
I chose to DNF Station Eleven at 50% because I couldn’t tell where it was going on what kind of book my mind needed to be ready for. It wasn’t the breakdown of society in a plague. It wasn’t the survival of the fittest in the apocalypse. It wasn’t a love story. It wasn’t a story about the importance of performing arts. It wasn’t, it wasn’t, it wasn’t. I felt like I was wandering around with the characters, although technically the travelling symphony always had a destination.
Kristen Potter does a fantastic job reading different genders, accents, and ages. There was nothing about her performance that contributed to my DNFing the novel.