Monday, August 15, 2011

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Book Jacket

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch.  Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons she decided to end her life.  Clay is one of them.  If he listens, he'll find out why.

Clay spends the night cirsscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide.  He becomes a first-hand witness to Hannah's pain, and learns the truth about himself--a truth he never wanted to face.


I want to force anyone and everyone to read Thirteen Reasons Why.  It is an emotional reminder that the smallest insults or actions can have a huge impact on a person.  How are we to know what someone else's life is like?  Maybe something we consider "no big deal" is the straw that will break their back. 

Too often, books about teen suicides veer into overemotionalism.  While sad, I usually close them and think, "Thank goodness I never treat anyone that way" or "No one was ever like that at my high school."  But Thirteen Reasons Why never strays into scenarios that are too dramatic, making it a book that is relatable to just about everyone.  Because yes, the "Hot or Not" lists circulated my high school.  And rumors flew around, mostly without stopping to consider whether they were true or not. 

Even if you were saintly enough to never pass on a single rumor, this book still has something to say to you.  It's not enough to simply avoid antagonizing people.  We must also pursue those who are hurting, not taking the easy way out by avoiding them or accepting their half-hearted assurances. 

Amazingly, for a book that is dually narrated by a dead girl and the boy who had a crush on her, it ends on a surprisingly hopeful note.  With its fantastic set up, important message, and inspirational ending, I have no choice but to give Thirteen Reasons Why:

Five out of five cassette tapes.

Release Date:  October 2007
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL ASH

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Thirteen Reasons Why:

A Blog About Nothing
Dustin Disco

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