My intentions were to spend a part of Saturday to start this book, perhaps reading the first few chapters, just to get the ball rolling.
By Saturday evening, I was putting the book down, done pouring through the thirteen stories a dead teenager leaves behind in order to explain the reason she committed suicide.
Thirteen Reasons Why is a tremendously addictive Young Adult novel, written by Jay Asher.
The premise is that a girl kills herself, and leaves behind a set of tapes, explaining all of the reasons that she decided to end her life. When the first person is done with the tapes, they are expected to send them along to the next person on the list, so that they can all hear about the part that they played in her life, and her death.
In a way, it is the ultimate revenge for someone who has taken their own life. In another, it is a commentary on how the way we behave, and treat others, can have such a profound effect on the lives of those around us.
The central character of the novel is Clay, a good guy, who receives the tapes on his doorstep one day. He is horrified and haunted by what Hannah has done, considering that he always has a crush on her. Asher creates a great suspense story here, as we, like Clay, are left wondering and dreadfully anticipating his portion of her story: what he did wrong that contributed to the demise of Hannah.
The stories told by Hannah are chilling. Her voice on the recorder, leaving nothing unturned. She exposes the people at her school for being the bad people that they are, and there are thirteen people on the list that are going to hear these stories, as they pass along the tapes. She talks about good people who aren’t actually that good, and bad people who are actually worse than they appear. She goes after everyone, as she takes us through her downward spiral towards her fateful decision to take her own life. It can be painful at times, and one can only imagine what the people hearing the tapes were going through, hearing about their issues in that manner.
What Hannah does to the people she has left behind is cruel punishment for them, essentially blaming them for her being dead. But on the other side, shouldn’t people be aware of how their actions affect others? Or is this something that she has done in order to ruin the lives of others, as they have ruined hers? Is it fighting fire with fire? These are the types of questions that can be discussed at the completion of the novel.
Everything culminates with Hannah making one last attempt to be saved, unfairly going to a teacher, and expecting more than she gets in return, therefore adding him to the list. It is disturbing, and in my opinion, places the blame on someone other than herself for doing what she did.
This novel is truly addictive, and is a very strong read. There is suspense throughout, and it is pretty well written. At times, the dual narrative between Hannah’s tapes and Clay’s thoughts while listening to the tapes can be confusing, or too quick, but once the novel settles in, the reader will get used to it.
There are a lot of unanswered questions with this novel, and endless possible debates about the ethics of what Hannah had done. At the end of the day, however, Asher has created a great, page-turning novel about a very touchy and damaging subject: teen suicide.
In the YA genre, Thirteen Reasons Why is a very good book. In my opinion, it is better than similar books, like Speak, but not quite as strong as something like The Tragedy Paper (despite a very similar story) or Looking for Alaska. If anything, you will be getting a highly entertaining (I know that is the wrong word based on the subject matter) read, that will absolutely fly by. You will be craving to know the rest of Hannah’s story, as does Clay, in the novel.
*Doing a little research on the interwebs, I see that Thirteen Reasons Why is currently being made in to a film, starring Selena Gomez. Not surprising. It could be a very gritty film, if the producers are willing to do it that way. It could end up as serious cheese, as well.