Thursday, October 21, 2010

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers 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

First a BIG THANK YOU!  to Amber at Down the Rabbit Hole for this book.  I won a contest at her blog and in second place, I won this book and  Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison that I am currently reading.  You should also visit her site because she has a list of all the current giveaways going on and it's so easy to click from the list to the site and go right back to her site.  Plus she has great giveaways! So thanks Amber!

13 Reasons Why is labeled suspenseful realistic fiction by it's author.  It's gotten numerous awards including Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers.  I first read about this book at Fluidity of Time  back in August.  I knew I wanted to read it, but I put it on the back burner.  It's kind of a heavy topic.  But as the months have gone by, my interest has grown.  I doubted that a man would understand a teenage girl enough to empathize with her and whatever problems he gave her to express her feelings  in a way that was realistic.I think men don't tend to get feelings, certainly not the up and down feelings of a lonely teenage girl trying to fit in with an undeserved reputation.  But I was wrong.  Maybe Jay Asher has emotions that he's not afraid to get in touch with because he wrote about Hannah's feelings perfectly.  It wasn't overly emotional and in the end she took the blame for taking her life, but Mr. Asher is meticulous in pointing out where things started going wrong, how it made Hannah feel and then it took on what Hannah called, "the snowball affect."

Hannah was new to town and she kissed a boy.  And that was it.  And from then on her life was irrevocably changed.  The boy said they did more.  The rumors became more true than the truth and her life was effected by that one little lie.  And then another lie on top of it.  And more things happened and because it was easier to believe the lies than the truth she lost friends and Clay, the boy telling the story is too scared to ask her out because she's more experienced than him.  But he's not sure that's true, because there are only rumors. 

Clay comes home from school and finds this box leaning against the door addressed to him, no return address.  He opens it up and finds cassette tapes inside numbered and lettered.  Clay isn't even sure he has anything to listen to a cassette tape on until he remembers his father's tape player on his workbench in the garage.  He starts listening to Hannah's voice and rejects the idea that he should have received these tapes.  It's a prank.  Someone else should have gotten them until she says something that makes him certain he's on the list.  The rules are simple.  Listen and pass them on.  Clay agonizingly listens to them and talks to her in his head.  He finds out things he didn't know.  Things he would have done to help her.  He swipes a Walkman from his friend's car so he can wander the streets and listen to the tapes.  He goes through a whole range of emotions.  It's truly heartbreaking to see him go through these tapes alone waiting to find out why he is on them and then when he is on them, it's even more heartbreaking.  But he listens to the end.  And it gets so much worse.  At one point he has to vomit, his emotions are so unbearable.  The next morning, he sends the tapes on to the next person, having not slept all night.  Then he heads to school.  He feels awful for sending the tapes, but he sends them anyway.  At school though, there is a girl, a girl he used to have a crush on.  And she's completely withdrawn and changed from the way she used to be.  He sees her in the hallway, does he get involved or does he go to class, he's already late.  The teacher has seen him.  You have to read the book to find out what happens.

 This novel was flawless in the emotions of the characters.  Hannah started out happy and you could see the hope and you heard her voice through the tapes and you felt Clay's emotions and those of some other characters that interacted with him during his wanderings and each one felt real and genuine for that character.  I thought Clay was strong even though he was vulnerable, showing his emotions, crying, reliving her moments on the tapes.  And you could see Hannah slowly going into depression on the tapes, almost as if she had started recording them when she was happy and then progressively her mood deteriorated.  Everyone let her down.  The final let down, was the worst.  She said the words and he still let her go.  The last person to get those tapes will be  the most devastated, but we never see that.  But once you read it, you'll understand why.  In the end, there is barely a mention of how she died, the focus is more on her state of  mind.

I think there should be several copies of this on every middle and senior high school book shelf in English classes as well as the libraries.  It brings up a very difficult subject, and addresses it in a non preachy, non depressing way.  The message basically says, "I would have helped you if you'd only asked for it, or if I had only known."  Our young adults and middle graders need to know that there are people that are ready to help them.  Mr. Asher puts the numbers of help lines in the book.  He also answers some questions about format and how he came up with the idea for the book in the back.  He almost lost a friend to suicide when he was younger.  It also mentions some of the warning signs of what to look for when you think someone is going to commit suicide.  I do not think this novel will spur anyone on to commit suicide.  I think it will nudge them to seek help.

There is a rape scene in it, but it is not graphic.  And another rape scene with a few more details.  So maybe for 8th graders and up.  I don't remember bad language.


  1. This was such a great book... I was honestly surprised at how good it was. It helped me realize that YA is not drivel, puppy love sort of books. Great review!

  2. Hi Heather!

    Thanks for stopping by the Over 40 Bloggers I added your blog to the list!!

    Thanks for joining the party!

    Hope you get lots of followers from it! Including me!! Please follow me back if you haven’t done so already!!

    Be sure to come by for the Follow Friday 40 and Over Blog Hop!

    Have a great day!!

  3. Thanks so much for the shout out! What you said was so sweet.

    I'm really glad you enjoyed this novel. After I finished the last page, I just sat on my bed and thought about what I just read. This book is truly magical and tragic. The entire way through, I was praying that it was all some cruel joke and Hannah would come popping around the corner and laugh even though I knew it wouldn't happen. Asher is a master at bringing Hannah vivaciousness out for the reader to see. I agree that he is also amazing with character emotions. He reached deep and far and it shows in his prose.

    We actually read this novel in my YA lit class (I'd read it before I took the class) and I thought everyone was going to love it. There was actually a split down the middle. Some loved it, some hated it. Those that disliked it said that they felt it blamed Clay and the others for not trying to help Hannah more and might cause survivors of suicide victims to feel unnecessary guilt over something they can't change.

    I felt it was just an amazing novel showing us how each little thing is connected.

    Anyway, great review!

  4. I totally agree with you on copies of the book being made available at schools and libraries. It definitely makes us more sensitive to the people around us.

    I found the rape scene really disturbing, even though it wasn't graphic. By that point, Hannah and her state of mind had just gotten to me, and I had to close the book for a bit after that.

    I loved Asher's way of writing, and how he brought out Hannah's emotions so beautifully, not giving excuses for the way she was.

    Great review, Heather! :)


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