Author: Jenara Nerenberg –
Publisher: HarperAudio –
Genre: Psychology, Sociology –
Overall rating: 2/5 –
Writing: 3/5 –
Duration: 6:37 (short) –
Narrator: Tegan Ashton Cohan –
Narrator/performance: 1/5 –
Impressions: 1/5 –
Performance errors: 1/5 –
Complexity/reading level: 2/5 –
The full title of the book is: “Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed For You”. It was published in 2020. The audiobook was an awful experience, although in itself also an interesting anecdote. I rate it as a failed production. It must be admitted, however, that my view is an isolated one, as most ratings for the book are rather high. The subject is also a much needed one.
The book is clearly addressed to neurodivergent people, especially to women. It describes experiences of individuals with autism, high sensitivity and ADHD, among others. It tells a story of women who get emotionally overwhelmed and often need environments with lower levels of stimulation. The narrator, however, feels that such a book should be delivered on a rollercoaster of manufactured, intense emotions. It would be an adequate satire if it was not simply painful to listen to. Tegan Ashton Cohan sounds not only as if she had no idea what she was reading about. The book is full of moments when she struggles to convince the listener that she really, really cares and that she really, really understands this terrible situation, this utterly horrible experience of being neurodivergent (it is often not that bad, really). She sounds alarmed and overly intense throughout the book. Any quotes from interviews are delivered with exaggerated emotions. There is this way at jumping at emotions, without any warning. Quotes from interviews are highly stylized and there is no clear reason for it. Sometimes there are three or four different, intense emotions in one sentence. It sounds as if the narrator was quietly making fun of the audience. She made too much effort to sound genuine. If she learned anything about neurodivergent minds (I don’t know, maybe read “Divergent Mind” by Jenara Nerenberg?) she would know that this style of narration is hard to take in for anyone who is sensitive to voice cues. For me, this book was a complete mess in terms of content and an utter confusion in terms of the message. Perhaps the narrator worked hard to learn this style; maybe she had used the style for years in similar productions. It certainly takes time and effort to learn how to produce so many emotions. To a highly sensitive listener, such effects are a barrier and may even be considered offensive.
The writing was not much better. The structure of the book is not clear. There is simply no order to it. Certain elements are nothing short of nonsense (why would you describe very rare examples of echolocation in humans while discussing common divergences like ADHD? Why would you discuss it in conclusions, of all things?). The content of the book is a heap of examples, confusingly delivered (the quotes are made in first-person narration), while the narrator adds heaps upon heaps of intense, inauthentic emotions. The book was a waste of time. Its best features are its length (short) and the cover.
This is a very good audiobook cover. It is very clear, it fits the book’s main subject and hints at its target. It actually complements the book in some aspects. The coloring suggests that the artist read the part of the book where color patters are discussed (the book tells that autistic clients react well to violet and magenta). Impressive, professional work.