Friday, January 20, 2012

Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

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.

Thirteen Reasons Whyby Jay Asher has sat on my shelf almost since about the time it came out in hardback. I had heard such amazing things, so I couldn't resist. But I only now got around to reading it. I was inspired to read it since the author was going to be coming to my state for a signing. I hate going to signings when I haven't read anything by the author. I like being able to say "I loved your book!" So I read it earlier this week, and oh my goddess... It was amazing!

It starts with Clay Jensen receiving a box of tapes from Hannah Baker, a girl who had recently committed suicide. "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." The first tape isn't so bad, but they continue to get worse as Hannah has to deal with more and more crap from fellow students. This book touches on bullying, rumors, sexual harassment, partying, drinking, rape, and more.

This story is told through two points of view. Hannah through the tape recordings and Clay as he's listening to them. I liked Clay instantly. He seemed so sweet and caring; it was hard to believe he was going to be on the tapes. Hannah, on the other hand, while I felt like I should like her, I had some trouble in the beginning. Her voice originally came off as too cocky and self-assured to be someone who just swallowed a bottle of pills. And then after a while, I started to recognize her tone as a way I've spoken before. It's anger and hurt and so many other things rolled together, that it comes off as snarky and sarcastic. That voice comes out when I'm talking about something very painful, something someone did to me that hurt but this person acts like it's nothing.

I'm going to put a warning here. Not a spoiler warning, but a "this is going to be personal" warning. While much of my experiences and Hannah's were different in the details, there is much that was the same. People talked about me in high school. I wasn't popular. I wasn't in the in-crowd. But rumors flew around so much you'd have thought I was. I found out people I didn't even know were saying negative things about me. Between that and the bullying, I mostly just tried to disappear. But I know how Hannah felt. Hating herself. Hating life. Wanting it all to end. I had to read this book a chapter at a time. I had to distance myself from her because I knew the kind of pain she was dealing with.

And because of that, this book sits firmly on my list of "Books Everyone Should Read." One of my favorite quotes from the book is as follows: "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." A lot of the stuff Hannah had to deal with was small. So small it would be insignificant by itself. But things build. And this book really shows how hurting someone, no matter how small, can impact a person in incredible ways.

Thirteen Reasons Why is depressing. It's about suicide, so how can it not be? It's amazingly well-written. And it's full of so many powerful lines, that I'd love to quote about twenty more. I look forward to reading more by Jay Asher.

I always take my dust jackets off when I read hardbacks. I get that the point of a dust jacket is to protect the book. But I take it off so I don't wrinkle or tear the dust jacket while I'm reading. And, every once in a while, I find a surprise under it. Sometimes it's an image or quote on the actual book or the dust jacket has an image on the underside. In Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah sends out a set of tapes. Thirteen stories on seven tapes. And a map along with it. The map is starred and marked up... just like the underside of the dust jacket. I enjoy finding these little gems. It gives a little added something to the reader, in my opinion. You can see the map in the image above.


Kim said...

Thirteen Reasons is one of my favorite books of all time. The story is absolutely incredible and it still blows my mind that it was Jay's debut. I'm really glad you liked it too. Great review!


Sandy said...

This was one of my favourite books and I agree it is definitely a book everyone should read and I completely understand why it is so popular.

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