Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Release Date: October 18, 2007
Genre: Teen, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
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.
Thirteen Reasons Why is a really mesmerizing book. I curled up with it one evening, expecting to read part of it and then go to sleep. Instead, I stayed up late into the night, determined to discover what happened to Hannah. Asher is really a master at building suspense. It’s a quiet suspense, not heart-pounding, but he propels the story forward in a masterful way. Anyone who picks up this book should expect to want to read it in one sitting.
The book is definitely heartbreaking. It exposes how poorly teenagers really can and do treat one another. There are consequences to being mean, even if you can’t see it right away. Like Clay, I was secretly hoping that there was some sort of mistake, that Hannah wasn’t really dead and that she was doing the whole thing to teach some sort of cruel lesson. I wanted her to be alive, I wanted her to see that the world isn’t a horrible place and that there are kind people in it. I had a degree of emotional investment in Thirteen Reasons Why; it captured me and still hasn’t let me go, even after finishing the novel.
The characters are extremely well written. Each is well-rounded and has their own place within the story. Asher must have taken some time in mapping out the direction of the plot because it is very tightly woven and intricate. Through Hannah’s words, it is easy to see how each person affected her and why. The narration is also very effective – Hannah’s thoughts in italics, Clay’s in normal script. Though it was a bit confusing at the beginning, I got used to it quickly. It was very interesting to see one person’s thoughts and another person’s immediate reactions.
The one problem I had with the book? The entire premise. I don’t like the idea of someone telling someone else “you are the reason I killed myself.” Yes people can be cruel; we’ve all experienced it at one time or another. And I’m not saying that these actions don’t matter and I’m not saying Hannah is completely wrong. I’m just saying I’m uncomfortable with the whole idea of it.
Still, Thirteen Reasons Why is a thoughtful and well-written novel that I would recommend to adults and teens alike. Anyone who reads it will find something to think about, something to ponder. I know I’m still thinking about it days later.