I am reviewing way out of order here, which actually isn’t all THAT unusual, but this one couldn’t wait. I have to say something about it, now. I also feel like I’m the last book blogger in the WORLD to have read this book, but I’m going to review it anyway.
Friday night, I was whining on Twitter about the fact that I have pretty much been in a reading slump for the past…oh, two weeks now. I mentioned that I had picked up a stack of Young Adult books from the library and @myfriendamy asked what I had. Thirteen Reasons Why was among the pile and tweets started flying in which all boiled down to one thing; drop everything and read that book.
So, I did. And I couldn’t put it down. From page one until the very end, Jay Asher grabs you by the heart and refuses to let go until the very last page.
Clay Jensen comes home from school to find a package on his porch. It is addressed to him. Curious, he carries it inside and opens it. Inside are cassette tapes, seven of them, recorded by Hannah Baker. Hannah Baker, the girl who committed suicide two weeks ago and was Clay’s secret crush.
He goes into his the garage and pops the first tape in the only tape player in the house. Hannah’s voice floats out to him, twisting his heart and says there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Thirteen people. And Clay is one of them. Clay doesn’t understand why he’s on the list. He never did anything to Hannah. They worked together at the movie theater. And he stays up all night, listening to all thirteen reasons, to find out why Hannah did what she did.
“I hope you’re ready, because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.”
Clay spends the night listening to Hannah’s story, her life, as she saw it. She has connected the dots, the people, the rumors, the lies, the horrible misguided path, to her decision to end her life. He must listen, and then pass the tapes on to the next person, or a secret someone will release the tapes into the world and these thirteen not be able to hide from them then. He must listen, and finally get to know the girl he has liked for many months now. Listen and get to know her and feel her loss all over again. Listen and learn how even the smallest things, can mean so much to someone is so much emotional trouble.
“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything.”
It’s no secret that kids can be mean, especially to those they don’t understand. And the things these thirteen do to Hannah, aren’t that unusual. What’s unusual, and what should be taken notice of, is how Hannah reacts to these things. Jay Asher did an amazing job, not only getting into the male point of view with Clay, but the female point of view with Hannah. Even without the textual clue of italizing Hannah’s words, I would have been able to tell the different between the two, which is the mark of a fine writer. As the narrative moves forward, both Clay and Hannah’s pain becomes palatable and almost overwhelming, which for this situation felt true and honest. I’m sure most girls would say they’ve been through things like what Hannah went through. I know I did. I like what Amy at My Friend Amy had to say about reading Hannah’s story:
Hannah’s story slowly unfolds and it isn’t pretty. Some of the things are hard to read and will be harder for the reader who has experience with them. And this poor girl certainly does get slammed. Yet at the same time that I grieved for Hannah, I grieved for every troubled teenager featured on the tape who would feel responsible for Hannah.
The book is, quite simply, riveting. It’s impossible to put down. And I think this would be a great book to read with your teen, if only to be able to communicate about these important issues with them. That was my only problem with this book; it appears that there is no responsible adult in this town who could have helped save Hannah. I mean seriously, where were her parents? Also, even though you know what happens to Hannah in the end, it does end on a hopeful note. Oh, how I wish I had a book group I could discuss this with. It would be a great one for a book group.
Thirteen Reasons Why
By Jay Asher
Category: Young Adult
Published by Razor Bill, part of Penguin
Format: Hardback, 288 pages
On Sale: October, 2007
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Personal copy obtained through my local library.
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