Audiobook Review: Maya’s Notebook

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: Maya’s NotebookMaya's Notebook by Isabel Allende
Narrator: Maria Cabezas
Length: 14 hrs, 40 mins
Published by Harper Audio on April 23, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher

Neglected by her parents, 19-year-old Maya Nidal has grown up in Berkeley with her grandparents. Her grandmother Nini is a force of nature, a woman whose formidable strength helped her build a new life after emigrating from Chile in 1973. Popo, Maya's grandfather, is a gentle man whose solid, comforting presence helps calm the turbulence of Maya's adolescence.

When Popo dies of cancer, Maya goes completely off the rails, turning to drugs, alcohol, and petty crime in a downward spiral that eventually bottoms out in Las Vegas. Lost in a dangerous underworld, she is caught in the cross­hairs of warring forces. Her one chance for survival is Nini, who helps her escape to a remote island off the coast of Chile. Here Maya tries to make sense of the past, unravels mysterious truths about life and about her family, and embarks on her greatest adventure: The journey into her own soul.

Wow, so this was my first experience with Isabel Allende and it was not what I was expecting at all. I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, just that it wasn’t this. Also, just fyi, let’s just put a big ol’ trigger warning all over this book for pretty much every trigger ever.

Why Did I Read This Book?
I’d run out of audiobooks for review and selecting them on my own takes forever, and this showed up in a newsletter. I’ve been curious about Allende for a while, thus why I own several of her books (*side-eyes*), and this seemed as good a place to start as any. Plus, I’ve discovered that I generally love books about dark subject matter and this did sure sound dark.

What’s the Story Here?
Nineteen year old Maya Nidal has been sent by her grandma to a small Chilean island to escape some tragic past and possibly pursuers. The story follows two timelines, Maya’s past and her present, until the past catches up to where the book started. What unravels is a tale of how Maya made pretty much every wrong decision it was possible to make. Seriously, she does drugs, is an alcoholic, gets raped (this isn’t a decision, but getting into a truck with a sketchy trucker after escaping from rehab may not have been the wisest course), joins the underworld and sells drugs so she can earn drugs, pisses off people in the underworld, and then, living on the street, prostitutes herself to obtain money for drugs. The point of the book is that the Chilean island, the name of which I don’t know how to spell because audio, opens her up and lets her live again.

What Did I Think Was Missing?
Maya’s emotional arc didn’t really work for me. We’re spared most of her struggle of recovery from addiction. There’s some mention of it, but not enough. Recovering from addictions to crack and alcohol is a painful process and she doesn’t seem to suffer all that much. In Chile, people regularly drink in front of her and it seems hardly to tempt her, though she does know better than to drink anything herself. From what I’ve heard, most alcoholics can’t handle that. Seeing that she will be dealing with those unhealthy urges forever would have been a more powerful statement, I think. She just seemed to get over it all way too easily.

How are the Characters?
Mostly, they’re all terrible people. The rest, like Maya, her grandmother, and Manuel, who Maya stays with in Chile, are on the border between likable and unlikable. I will say that Allende does give them all distinct personalities and they do feel like real people, so points for characterization. However, they’re just not people I particularly want to get to know. This was sort of like listening to a radio drama of some super dark soap opera or something. On the one hand, you can’t stop listening because you want to know what happens next, but it was also melodramatic like whoa.

And the Romance?
Lol, okay, so this part I did like. Maya’s this girl who’s been through pretty much everything life has to offer. She’s seen and done a lot. Anyway, this guy, Daniel, comes to the island and she sees him and hearts pop out of her eyes like in an anime. The moment she sees him she’s like “this is the man I’m going to marry,” because her feelings on seeing him reminded of the story of how her grandma met her beloved grandpa. She instaloves all over Daniel, which would be irritating, except that it totally pans out like most actual teen instalove would: a big, huge, awkward dumping. After it happens, Maya’s all “this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me,” and I was all “trololol.” This was basically the comic relief of the piece.

How was the Narration?
Maria Cabezas definitely makes a convincing Maya. She reads with just the slightest accent, like her time in Chile has rubbed off on her. Her voice conveys both Maya’s gruffness and youth, and she was just really well-suited to the character. I’m glad I tried this on audio, because I would have DNFed the print really quickly.

Sum It Up with a GIF:

15 responses to “Audiobook Review: Maya’s Notebook”

  1. Amy says:

    Though it’s not the typical type of book I would read, I almost decided to get the audio. I’m glad that I didn’t now though, I don’t think it would have been for me. I’m glad that you were able to get through it, but it’s too bad that you didn’t enjoy it all that much.

    • Christina says:

      I can’t say that I disliked it, but, yeah, I wasn’t a huge fan, thus the 2.5. I just am not sure what I was supposed to get from this book. Thus the confused and freaked out face. Hahaha.

  2. LOL Steve Urkel.


    So. I have this to read, but in print, still looking forward to it though because sometimes I like reading about bad decisions. Sometimes.

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, that cracked me up more than the rest of the shocked faces. Bahaha.

      It’s hard to say if I would have liked it more. Rarely can I tell with audiobooks, so *shrug* You will get bad decisions like whoa, I promise.

  3. Holy crow this sounds like it deals with a lot. It’s too bad that the author didn’t capture the struggles of recovery better because what you described is pretty damn unrealistic. I know what you mean about the characters, it’s ok to see that you aren’t supposed to like them but there still has to be something for you to grasp onto that you want to keep reading about them. Too bad this one wasn’t better. Great review!

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, really. It was a bit overwhelming. I mean, she may have skipped some of the struggle stuff because the book was dark enough, but I would think that avoiding drugs would be the hardest thing for her.

  4. Renae M. says:

    No pickle penis! That’s a win! (Though it was totally the translator’s fault, it turns out.) Also, the romance sounds good. I’m thinking, though, that this author and I aren’t going to do well together, so I’m shelving any dreams of being an Allende fan.

    • Christina says:

      Oh, really? I have that book as well, so I’ll try really hard not to hold the pickle penis against her. That’s just rude, after all. *snorts* No, I’m not mature. Your point?

      I’ve got several of her books. House of Spirits will probably be my next one. I think it’s supposed to be her best.

  5. Ellis says:

    “She instaloves all over Daniel, which would be irritating, except that it totally pans out like most actual teen instalove would: a big, huge, awkward dumping. After it happens, Maya’s all “this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me,” and I was all “trololol.” This was basically the comic relief of the piece.”

    Ha, that’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. My mother is a huge Allende fan, and for some reason I think of myself as one too, even though I’ve only read one adult book by her (The House of Spirits) and her “Jaguar and Eagle” trilogy for children/young adults. “Jaguar and Eagle” was as big a part of my childhood as the Harry Potter series, but where “The House of Spirits” is super strong in its characters, the trilogy is much more adventure-driven with a lot of magical realism influences and I’m planning on rereading it to see if it still holds the same magic as it did for me then.

  6. Amanda says:

    That’s too bad that your first experience with Allende wasn’t very satisfying. After reading your review, I’m actually not sure whether I would have enjoyed this book myself, but I have read a number of Allende’s other works and have enjoyed those. If you do feel like giving her a chance again (which I hope you will), The House of the Spirits is one of her more famous works, and it’s a chronicle of one family’s history and employs certain tactics that are pretty unique to Hispanic authors, such as magical realism. I do want to read more Allende, but this sounds like it’s a book that I can skip.

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, I mean it wasn’t terrible, but I expected something else. More literary maybe? I don’t really know. I will be reading her more, since I own several of her novels. *shrugs*

  7. I only watched movie ‘The House of the Spirits’ based on book by Isabel Allende and I wanted to read some of her books ever since. The movie was mix of magical realism and family drama and I loved it. Still I can see some similarities in Maya’s Notebook: rape, tough life, wrong decisions, love gone wrong… I will try some of her older works just in case when I try to read her works just in case.

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