Thursday, May 14, 2015

Audiobook Review: Suicide Notes

Suicide NotesAuthor: Michael Thomas Ford
Narrator: Joe Caron
Released: January 12th 2010
Publisher: Audible Studios
Length: 5 hrs and 38 mins
Buy: Audible

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.


  1. I've heard about this book's quirky way to telling a what was an otherwise a serious issue. I can appreciate the humour in books with arches like suicide.

  2. Thanks for the awesome review. I really want to check this one out now.

  3. It does sound good, and get that feeling it must have

  4. I haven't read a lot of books about suicide, well like not at all but the issue sounds well treated here and I confess that it's an interesting topic too even if it's not an easy one...

  5. That's really interesting how this book tackles with some really hard issues with humor. I think I would like this book just for that. I'm usually not a fan of suicide books because they book me sad for weeks, but this might be a book that I'm willing to check out.
    Lovely review, Maja!

  6. So, this is one I should suggest to my librarians that they get? I like that it isn't sad, that there's humor to discuss a difficult subject. Poor little Jeff! I hope he got the help he needed!

  7. Diary entries can be so tricky but it sounds like this was handled so well! Wonderful review. Maja. I love that there was some humor mixed in to help keep things light.

  8. Well, clearly this is one book I must add to my TBR pile for sure! I've read two books about suicide this year but none deal with the aftermath of an attempt from the POV of the person trying to end it all.
    Great review and recommendation as always Maja!

  9. I'm glad to hear that this book isn't overly sad, despite the tough issues that the author deals with. I definitely need a character whose funny and sarcastic more in my reads. You've also reminded me that I need to get to the copy you sent me soon! Lovely review Maja!

  10. Noted! I added all three books on GR and will start my son on the first one this summer :) It's interesting. Sometimes a story about something awful, told in the least expected way makes the greatest impact. The Fault in Our Stars, for example. And this one. I can't wait to read it!

    1. I have all three as well, just waiting for my kid to catch up. She's 8, so perhaps still a bit too young, but soon. I'd start with Gone Gone Gone. Such a marvelous, gentle story.

  11. I know I have a copy of this somewhere begging to be read. Now I am going to dig it out ASAP. I am glad it is funny and sarcastic as well as important

  12. I would never had suspected this book to be humorous. I've read lots of heavy hitting books dealing with suicide, but I haven't encountered one that uses humor. I may have to check this one out and perhaps put it on my book club list for my students.


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