Sunday, April 5, 2009

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

Summary: 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. -- Razorbill


I was so excited when my on-line book club selected THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher
as its first ever pick. I have heard so many wonderful things about this book, and I was looking for a reason to read it. Let me warn you though: this book is incredible and once you pick it up you won't be able to put it down. I was so caught up in this story that I actually went to my bedroom and shut the door so I read the last 50 pages without any interruptions. (I know...bad mom!)

After I finished this book, I was deeply touched and desperately wanted to talk about it with someone (thank goodness for Twitter.) It really would make the perfect book club discussion book (for adults and/or teenagers.) There are just so many issues in THIRTEEN REASONS WHY that would not only be interesting to talk about, but actually need to be talked about. Unfortunately, I'm going to miss our meeting this month -- our first one. My daughter's friend (and fellow mother-daughter book club member) is performing in our high school production of Les Miserables as young Cosette. I can't wait to hear what everyone else thought about it!

THIRTEEN REASONS WHY deals with a very serious (and intense) topic -- teen suicide. The story is incredible -- Clay finds a mysterious package which is filled with seven tapes. The tapes were made by Hannah in the days prior to her suicide, and she spells out the "13 reasons why" she felt she had to take her own life. Needless to say, after listening to the tapes, Clay's life will never be the same and he'll never see things the way he did before.

I absolutely adored Clay, and I thought he was a wonderful character. He was such a nice, sensitive guy; and while he had his own share of teenage insecurities, he was able to keep things in perspective. My heart definitely went out to him as he listened to the tapes and wondered why he was one of the reasons for Hannah's suicide. I found it so difficult to imagine the kind of pain he felt, and I was desperately hoping that he wouldn't blame himself for not doing more to help Hannah.

Not only did I think the plot of this book was extremely smart, but I also really appreciated how the author decided to tell the story. The book went back and forth between Hannah's voice on the tape and Clay's first person narrative in the present. I can't express how well Mr. Asher created both of these characters and their voices -- they were so incredibly real to me. I was so impressed with how he could effectively use both characters' voices to tell the story. As a reader, I loved getting both Hannah's and Clay's insight into the story.

I'm not going to sugarcoat this -- THIRTEEN REASONS WHY was at times very difficult for me to read. I didn't love high school when I was there and I could really sympathize with Hannah and her insecurities. While most kids deal with these issues all the time during their teenage years, Hannah couldn't; and I found it so sad that no one (including her parents) really knew or understood the pain she was in. It's a little scary to think about dealing with my two children during these tough teenage times (at least I have a few years to get prepared), but I hope we are instilling in them the confidence they need to deal with the normal (but painful) situations.

I highly recommend THIRTEEN REASONS WHY especially if you have teenagers in your life. It is a powerful book that discusses many important issues. I would love to see how it affects kids who are actually in high school dealing with the same problems that Hannah faced. I sincerely hope this book might just make kids think before saying or doing something that others might find embarrassing or painful. Or maybe even help kids extend themselves to someone who appears to be lonely. If this book could have that effect on even a few people, what an amazing difference it could make in someone's life.

12 comments:

Meghan said...

I completely agree, it was so painful at times but I couldn't put it down. You're right in that it does need to be discussed. I think it pinpoints many difficulties that most of us experience in high school and it's an important book that should be read. I don't know if it can help, but it's certainly worth a try.

bermudaonion said...

I knew you'd have a fantastic and insightful review of this book. I think this would be a great book for parents and teens to read together.

Beth F said...

Super review. It was painful at times. Although I don't think everything is the fault of the parents, I really kept wondering where they were and why they were so oblivious to their daughter's pain.

Jenn said...

Great review. I've requested it from the library...I'm number 13 on the list. I'm sorry you are going to miss your book club's first meeting, but you have an great excuse!

the epic rat said...

Thanks for posting the review! I had walked by this at the bookstore, and the cover is pretty eye-catching in its simplicity. I hope you have the chance to discuss this in your book club!

S. Krishna said...

GREAT review. I think you've captured everything about this book that I wanted to say but couldn't. It's an incredibly thought provoking novel, though it is painful.

The Book Resort said...

This sounds sooo good!!!

Amy said...

I really wish you had been there today, Julie! I think we could have used your voice in the discussion! I loved Clay, too, and also found the book hard to put down.

Ti said...

Sounds like a very powerful and intense novel.

Erika Lynn said...

I have read so many great reviews and I really want to read it. thanks for another great review!

Lauren said...

That sounds really interesting. I'll have to recommend it to my book club.

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said...

I loved this book, and have been recommending it to everyone. It is such an important topic and hopefully this book will get some more people talking.