Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Amazing Book Alert: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

ThirteenReasonsWhy.jpgSo I just finished Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, and I'm feeling very contemplative.  And - not gonna lie- kind of depressed.

If you're like me and you live for those happy endings, this is not the book for you.  I kept hoping Clay's mention of Hannah not having a funeral meant that we'd find she hadn't really gone through with her suicide in the end.  Except she did.  Here is the book synopsis:

Clay Jensen, somewhat shy, California high school student, returns home from school one day to find a box sitting on his doorstep. Upon opening it, he discovers that it is a shoebox containing seven cassette tapes recorded by the late Hannah Baker, his classmate and emotional crush who recently committed suicide. The tapes were initially mailed to one classmate with instructions to pass them from one student to another, in the style of a chain letter. On the tapes, Hannah explains to thirteen people how they played a role in her death, by giving thirteen reasons to explain why she took her life. Curiosity and fear of exposure keep the people on the list listening to the tapes, and Hannah has given a second set of tapes to another character who will leak the tapes if they are not passed on. Through the audio narrative Hannah reveals her pain, and her slide into depression that ultimately leads to her suicide.

To me, the main point of this book is to illustrate that everything, even something that may seem insignificant, leaves a lasting mark on person's life.  Most of the thirteen people who receive Hannah's tapes, Clay included, have no idea why they're on them.  Granted, some of them probably could have figured it out more easily than others, but the vast majority are clueless that their actions had left someone so scarred. 

As Hannah puts it, No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people.  Oftentimes, we have no clue.  Yet we push it just the same.
I couldn't necessarily identify with all of Hannah's "reasons" - having an undeserved bad reputation, being groped and taken advantage of by an obnoxious senior, and feeling responsible for a car accident that claimed the life of a classmate, to name a few - but I could identify with her torment.

High school is brutal.  I still remember the names of the boys in my Biology class who used to draw hideous sketches of me labeled with cruel nicknames, when I had done absolutely nothing to them.  I remember innocently talking to a group of friends in the hall while someone I didn't even know walked by and shouted "Losers" at us.

Those guys probably thought they were hilarious.  They probably got a rise out of belittling people who didn't defend themselves.  But I have to wonder - was it worth it?  What did they really get out of it?  How much fun can it possibly be to make someone question their self worth, or did they not even realize that was what they were doing?

In Hannah's words, when you mess with one part of a person's life, you're not messing with just that part.  Unfortunately, you can't be precise and selective.  When you mess with one part of a person's life, you're messing with their entire life.  And it must be true, because even after all these years, I have zero desire to ever attend one of my high school reunions.  I'm more than happy to leave that part of my life behind, though not in the manner Hannah chose.

It was difficult for me to accept Hannah's choice.  I got that she felt betrayed and violated, that her safe havens were breeched, and the people she trusted let her down.  But by the time someone came along who had no intention of letting her down - Clay - she was so wary of the next thing to "pop out of the woodwork and get her" that she went looking for them.  She completely sabotaged herself.  As Clay put it, she killed herself and blamed everyone else. 

Things didn't have to end the way they did for Hannah, and I hope anyone who's reading this book because they're in a dark place in life realizes it.  I hope anyone who's called someone a loser for sheer entertainment realizes the effect it could have.  If so- bravo, Jay Asher.

My only complaint about this book, aside from the lack of happy ending, is that it gets a little confusing when Clay's thoughts interrupt Hannah's dialogue.  Her speech is in italics, his is not, but it's easy to not notice the difference when you're engrossed.  A few times I had to go back and re-read passages that tripped me up.  On the whole, though, it's a really beautiful read.  If you can handle the heavier subject matter, definitely add this one to your list.


  1. ick. This is not a book I would pick out of a line up. It sounds like an okay read but I like my stories about as deep and somber as a kiddie pool. I think for me, middle school was a lot more brutal. Highschool I felt like there was a real change in maturity level and less embarrasing stuff happened but maybe I just got lucky.

  2. Good review. It's not something I'll read but good review.

  3. I love this book. I've read it several times and bought it for my niece.

  4. Interesting review and food for thought for the younger set. Half the time we're not even conscious of the effect our words have on other people.

  5. I'm really glad you wrote this review, because I've been hearing all about this book and KNOWING I don't want to read it. I live for the happy ending.

    You are incredible - ARC contest? I'm going. xoxo

  6. I am thinking I need to get this book and force a group of teens to read it... my daughter has a group of girls doing these things to here--thankfully she talks to me, but I feel like throttling these little b*tches.