Saturday, February 13, 2016

Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why

Jay Asher

Oct. 18, 2007


eBook Purchased via Amazon

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GR's Summary:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list. 

Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.


My Thoughts:

I have had the book, Thirteen Reasons Why, on my TBR for quite some time.  I clearly remember that there was a lot of positive hype surrounding this book after it was first published.  I will be attending the Ontario Teen Book Festival soon, and Jay Asher is one of the guest authors attending, so I wanted to familiarize myself with his books.  This gave me the perfect excuse to read a book that I have been longing to read for years.

Thirteen Reasons Why tells us the story behind Hannah Baker's choice to commit suicide.  Her death impacted many, especially Clay Jensen, the guy who had a huge crush on her.  A surprise delivery arrives for Clay, and he is in turmoil when he discovers that the box contains cassette tapes recorded by Hannah herself, explaining the thirteen reasons (which include thirteen people) why she decided to kill herself.  Clay is to listen to the tapes, and then pass them on to the next person on the list.  If at any time, someone on the list does not pass them on, there is a second set of tapes that will be revealed to everyone.

This story had a very unique format. We get Hannah's story told through cassette, and simultaneously, Clay's narrative is interwoven with hers.  Clay goes through many afflictive emotions as he listens to Hannah's tapes.  He feels guilt that he didn't give Hannah the help she needed, as well as anger and frustration towards the people and events that lead to her suicide.  I felt Clay's emotions right alongside him.  I could understand the way that he analyzed ever action and bit of dialogue between himself and Hannah, thinking of what he should have done differently.

Hannah as a character gave me mixed emotions.  At first it seemed that some of her reasons for committing suicide were trivial, and didn't make sense.  However, as the story went on, the author did an excellent job of showing readers how every event connected, had bigger consequences than could have been first predicted, and "snowballed." Hannah felt like she didn't have control over her life, and as each person she counted a friend betrayed her trust, she felt like she didn't have anyone to talk to, or even anyone that genuinely cared about her.

Thirteen Reasons Why sent a clear and powerful message.  Mr. Asher did an excellent job of creating an authentic female teenage voice.  He gave readers a lot to think about.  Information on the signs of a person being suicidal, such as a drastic change in appearance, giving away their belongings, etc. was invaluable.  He made me contemplate the fact that as human beings we have a huge impact on others, and sometimes we don't even realize it.  I felt like he was sending a message directly to readers.  We need to be aware of how our actions effect others, be on the lookout for suicidal behavior, and not give up on someone when they give us the brush off, because we might just be the one to save their lives.

My Rating:

I give, Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher, 4 Mysterious Cassette Tapes, Destructive Rumors, Anguish, Turmoil, You Can Make a Change Filled Stars! I am looking forward to reading more by Jay Asher, and recommend this book to parents of teenagers, teachers, school counselors, and high school students, to bring much needed awareness, prevention, and change to the current escalation of teenage bullying and suicide.

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About Jay Asher:
Except for six months in Wyoming, I've lived my entire life in California. It was during those six months in Sheridan, Wyoming that I came up with the idea for Thirteen Reasons Why. I've worked at an independent bookstore, a chain bookstore, an outlet bookstore, and two public libraries. Before those jobs, I worked at a shoe store, a trophy shop, and an airline. My very first writing award earned me a free fruit smoothie every day for a year. I've won a lot of awards since then, but that one tasted the best!

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