Unbreakable introduces us to Jessica Harper and Gabe Garcia, young people who have known each other most of their lives. After her mother’s death, Jessica’s father moved with his young daughter to a small town in California. He threw himself into his career, leaving Jessica in the care of the family across the street. From the time she was four, Jessica has considered the Garcias her family. We meet Jessica just before her high school graduation. She’s content with her life, excited to start college and hopefully a career in broadcast journalism. She tries hard not to think of the feelings she harbors for Gabe Garcia. He’s a football player for a university in Arizona. They once shared a kiss, and Jessica has been wanting more ever since.
Gabe’s life is a bit chaotic. He’s just finished his junior year of college, but he’s decided not to go back to school in the fall. Instead, he wants to stay in California and become a firefighter like his older brother. Jessica’s father is the chief of the fire department, and Gabe is hoping his connections, as well as his dedication, will be enough to get him what he wants. Of course, he also wants Jessica, but he’s pretty sure she only thinks of him as a brother.
Unbreakable was an odd book in terms of pacing. The first third is filled with nothing but Jessica and Gabe declaring their undying love for one another. They talk, admit to their feelings, and end up in bed together the next night. After that, both are sure this is the one and only relationship they’ll ever have. It got tedious after a while, and I was anxious for things to get moving. Luckily, the story does become more complicated, calling all of the previous declarations into question. The reason for this is sad, but it added substance to what would have otherwise been a pretty boring read.
I’m quite familiar with narrator Amy Landon, having listened to many of her narrations and enjoyed them all quite a bit. Unbreakable seemed difficult for her, though. Her main problem was depicting Gabe. She deepens her voice way too much when speaking for him. This makes him sound like a goofy cartoon character instead of the focused, sexy man Ms. Shea intended. This was especially strange since Ms. Landon’s portrayal of other male characters was quite believable. Most of the time, Ms. Landon gave Jessica and her friend Eva distinct voices, but there were times when I had trouble telling them apart. Other female characters were easily differentiated by varying pitches and accents.
I was very impressed by the performance of narrator Zach Villa. Not only was his depiction of Gabe spot on, but his portrayals of other characters were solid. He is able to make women sound feminine without having it come across as fake, and his range of accents went a long way toward making each character unique.
If you’re bothered by discussion of sexual assault, Unbreakable probably isn’t the book for you. In this listener’s opinion, the author and narrators did a wonderful job with this incredibly sensitive topic. Ms. Shea wrote quite convincingly about its aftereffects, and both narrators captured the emotions well.
Unbreakable wasn’t quite what I was expecting when I requested it for review. Still, it kept me engaged enough to want to find out how things turn out for Gabe, Jessica, and their friends. I’m not sure I’m invested enough to pick up the sequel though.
Breakdown of Grade – Narration: Amy Landon – C-, Zach Villa – A. Book Content: B-
Unabridged. Length – 9 hours 3 minutes