Author: Michael Thomas Ford
Narrator: Joe Caron
Released: January 12th 2010
Publisher: Audible Studios
Length: 5 hrs and 38 mins
Fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year's Day to find himself in the hospital. Make that the psychiatric ward. With the nut jobs. Clearly, this is all a huge mistake. Forget about the bandages on his wrists and the notes on his chart. Forget about his problems with his best friend, Allie, and her boyfriend, Burke. Jeff's perfectly fine, perfectly normal, not like the other kids in the hospital with him. Now they've got problems. But a funny thing happens as his 45-day sentence drags on: the crazies start to seem less crazy.Compelling, witty, and refreshingly real, Suicide Notes is a darkly humorous novel from award-winning author Michael Thomas Ford that examines that fuzzy line between "normal" and the rest of us.
After an attempted suicide, Jeff wakes up in a psychiatric ward where he is forced to spend the next 45 days. He doesn’t want to and he’s determined not to cooperate, but his stay isn’t optional and his parents refuse to take him home. Finding their son almost bloodless in a bathtub isn’t something they particularly want to relive, and if the psych ward is what it takes to keep him alive, that’s where he’ll stay for as long as it takes.
Jeff handles his situation with lots of denial wrapped in good humor. He absolutely refuses to acknowledge that he has a problem and he is determined not to talk about his reasons for cutting his wrists open. According to him, his parents and the doctor made a mistake and he shouldn’t be locked up with the crazies.
Jeff’s story is heartwarming and poignant, but it’s also simple and laugh-out-loud funny. This diary-like narrative is one of the most honest things I’ve ever read. There are no heroes, no villains, no Big Drama whatsoever. It’s just a story about a boy that could easily be your next door neighbor or your second cousin. It’s not unusual at all and that’s what makes it so special.
Jeff’s character was truly done brilliantly. He is easily relatable, even (or especially) when he’s being obnoxious to his doctors and his fellow patience. Avoidance is his way to handle everything, but every now and again, a real feeling shines trough, be it anger at his parents for daring to save his life, resentment towards his doctors and nurses and the complete and utter hopelessness he feels about his situation.
I want to make this very clear: Suicide Notes is a book that deals with serious issues, but it’s rarely a sad read and it’s never angsty. Jeff’s sarcastic voice determines the overall tone, which is more funny than anything else. Yet Ford still manages to bring his point across by making every one of Jeff’s jokes louder and more touching than any sorrowful moment could possibly be.
I’ve tried this in both formats and while I generally prefer audio, in this case I’d strongly recommend the printed word. Although he’s a good narrator, Joe Caron didn’t succeed in capturing Jeff’s unique voice and most of Jeff’s sarcastic remarks somehow fell flat in the narrator’s interpretation.
If I had my way (but really, I never do), every thirteen-year-old on the planet would have to read three books: Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff, Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz and Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford. These three books promote understanding and tolerance in such a quiet, unobtrusive way, and even though we’re seeing more and more diversity, these are the three that always stay with me.