1:30 pm EDT, March 29, 2018

‘Folded Notes from High School’ review: A star-studded audiobook ripe with cringe-worthy nostalgia

Folded Notes from High School by Matt Boren gives readers of a new generation an inside look at the halls of high school before cell phones.

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About ‘Folded Notes From High School’

The folded notes collected for this book represent correspondence surrounding one Tara Maureen Murphy, senior at South High c. 1991-1992.

So begins the audiobook narration of Folded Notes from High School by Matt Boren. Told through a series of notes written, carefully folded, and discretely unfolded in the halls of South High, the voices capture the drama of senior year of high school. With graduation looming, escaping the confines of the bubble of life in your hometown tests friendships, relationships, and perceptions of both.

Told through the overarching narrative of the final musical of Tara Murphy’s tenure at South High, characters old and new weave their stories with hers.

The cast for Folded Notes includes — Christina Applegate, as the Narrator, Taylor Spreitler, as Tara, Ramy Youssef, as Matt, Ryan Newman, as Stef, Selma Blair, as Stacey, Katie Lowes, as Pammy, Rebecca Budig, as Tricia, Meredith Salenger, as Kath, Vicki Davis, as Deena, Adam Shapiro, as Pete, and author Matt Boren, as Christopher.

‘Folded Notes from High School’ audiobook review

Folded Notes Cover

“Kids don’t know how to communicate anymore,” is a common phrase thrown around about my generation, and those now born into the text message age. It’s as if the invention of the cell phone replaces the casual conversations at lockers in the high school halls. But if you’re looking to meet up somewhere between classes and don’t pass a friend until hours later, a quick text can solve that problem.

It’s not replacing the way classmates communicate – it is merely advancing it. But something is lost with evolution. For speed and efficiency, the art of carefully crafting the perfect note is gone. Truncated messages get across the same message that a front and back piece of loose leaf tried to relay.

Folded Notes from High School captures the almost cringe-worthy nostalgia that once dominated the elementary and high schools halls. Personally, I grew up on the cusp of the texting evolution. Freshman year, phone in hand, T-89 keyboard at my fingertips, my friends and I still resorted back to the folded routine. You got caught way less than trying to hide your clicking under a desk.

As the characters step in and out of Folded Notes, the story attempts to capture the voices of a multitude of note passers. It missteps largely on the male-dominated scenes, opting for caricatures of the older jock-star boyfriend.

But while the voice at times seems too broad, would a high school senior guy really put that much effort into crafting a note when now that same message could be conveyed in a “K” response? No wonder the truncated language of today opens us up to so much interpretation of a single letter.

The highlight of Folded Notes comes from the fall out of a friendship. The story of two friends, one of whom likely relies more on the security of being locked in a friendship that guarantees not only that you are on the receiving end of a daily note, but that you are a somehow a part of something bigger by association.

It also tackles what happens when the bubble of high school is suddenly popped. What does the world outside of the notes have to offer? What are people, the ones you write about with such certainty in the notes, like off the page? The most powerful communications exist between Tara and her friend Stef, whose summer away brought her back with a fresh perspective. As she grows, and Tara regresses, Folded Notes examines the strain most friendships face in final days of school.

Elsewhere, there are other painful moments riddled with second hand embarrassment. In particular, the nicknames. (Why did we do this?)

But that is what Folded Notes continues to do throughout the entire novel. It captures, and puts on display, the worst bits of nostalgia. The moments where you reflect on the question “why?” Was that role really the defining moment of my life? Why did I need to talk about that teacher like that? And, also, why did I choose to write in this code that I can no longer decrypt?

Scrolling through Facebook memories today, is almost like finding an old folded note. An all caps “THIS JUST MADE MY DAY SO MUCH BETTER,” written in response to a moment where something you did, made someone’s day. But in 2018, as you look back on that post from eight years ago, that good dead escapes you. It was a note meant for you and the person who writing it. However, it does something that you dreaded when you passed something physical in the hall — it became public.

Notes were tucked away in lockers, under textbooks, stuffed in pockets, bags, and folders. If accidentally taken, someone would have to decrypt the secret language within. Much like the aforementioned Facebook post. What did that person do to make someone’s day better? And it begs the question, why not me?

Folded Notes captures all the insecurities that come along with the note passing – “Why am I not on the receiving end?” – and the pressures too – “Am I writing too much?” “Do I sound too needy?”

Folded Notes not only tells a classic high school story, but it does so in a way that makes you feel the situations. Deeply resonate, I urge readers outside of the recommended age group to pick up a copy and relive those moments you’ve spent years learning to forget.

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