Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Review - Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

Author: Jay Asher
Released: October 2007
Publisher:  Razorbill
Pages: 288
Rating: 4/5
Purchase: Amazon

Jay Asher's brilliant first novel is a moving, highly original story that focuses on a set of audiotapes made by a girl before she committed suicide, and which explain to 13 people the reasons why she decided to end her life. Told in a highly effective duel narrative -- alternating between the girl s voice and the thoughts of a boy who is listening -- this honest, poignant story reveals how other people's actions shape, and by extension can ruin, an individual's faith in people. Intensely powerful and painfully real, Thirteen Reasons Why reveals how brutal high school can be, the consequences of spreading rumors, and the lasting effects of suicide on those left behind.

When I first heard of this book, the idea of reading about suicide didn't appeal to me. Who wants to read something as depressing as that?!  But I have read so many things about it lately that I wanted to know what all the hype was about.

There are two main characters in this book, Hannah Baker & Clay (I can't remember if he has a last name). Hannah committed suicide & left a set of tapes behind detailing the thirteen reasons why she took her life. Clay is the one listening to the tapes & by so doing, allows the reader to listen in as well. The book is laid out with each chapter being assigned the side of an audio tape (13 sides total, or as Clay points out, a Hannah-Baker's dozen). I liked this because it added structure to the book that might otherwise have jumped around between stories without much transition. When I started reading the book, I struggled with the back-and-forth narration of Hannah on the tapes & Clay's inner monologue. I found it distracting & lost track of what was going on in the story. This also made it hard for me to connect to the seriousness of the situation. But as the story continued, & I adjusted to the style, I was able to relate to the characters more & more & understand the deep emotions they were feeling.

The problems Hannah deals with start out seemingly trivial - who hasn't dealt with rumors being spread about them, or been treated unkindly? But as Hannah's story continues with each progressing reason, we are able to see the snowball effect of others' actions towards her & how it leads to her growing instability & ultimate downfall.

With so many teen suicides being reported in the news lately, I really appreciated the insight this book offered into the reasons someone may go down that path. This book reminded me in some ways of Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall in the sense of relating how individual behavior can affect others in ways we don't realize, either for good or bad.

I was glad the author, by allowing us to see things from Clay's perspective, did not condone Hannah's actions, even if he did sympathize with her. This story was heartbreaking, & I kept hoping there would be a miracle at the end, kind of a "Just Kidding!" moment where everything turned out okay, but of course, that wasn't possible. This story . . . Hannah's story, is a cautionary tale in ways, helping the reader know that the things they do or say carry consequences. It reminds us that we can take the time to think of others & treat them well, even if it's going out of our comfort zone to do so. It's a reminder that we don't really understand someone as well as we might think, especially if what we know about them is based on rumors. It's a tragic story that didn't have to end the way that it did, not just because how others treated Hannah, but also because she did not open up fully until she left the tapes - she could have been helped if she would have let someone in.

I enjoyed this book, even if it was a difficult subject matter to read about & would recommend it.


"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." ~ Jay Asher, Thirteen Reason Why


Briana said...

I agree, this one was a little depressing. It was one of the first darker novels I read, but I really liked it. Loved your review! :)

Anonymous said...

Great review, can't wait to read it later this year.

Amber Skye said...

I started this one in the bookstore one time, but I never finished it. I still plan to, though. So many people have great things to say about it. I'm glad that you enjoyed it :)

S said...

I've been wanting to read this for awhile but it just seems so sad =/ someday I shall get in the mood I suppose