Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Format: Paperback

"You can't stop the future."
"You can't rewind the past."
"The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play."


Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah's pain, and as he follows Hannah's recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.


Jay Asher's debut book, Thirteen Reasons Why, follows Clay as he listens to 7 tapes from Hannah Baker, who uses the tape to list thirteen reasons why she committed suicide.  Clay finds the tapes when he gets home from school.  He starts listening to them in his garage, but when his mom walks in and almost here's what he's listening to, he decides to spend the night walking around listening to all these tapes at different spots around town.  

I feel a little torn about how to review this book.  It was well written, technically, and deals with a very hard subject.  But there is no deeper exploration as to why Hannah committed suicide.  Hannah spends the tapes talking about the awful things people at her school do to her - and some of these things are truly awful.  But there is no discussion or search for WHY those things impacted Hannah so deeply.  Did she have depression or some other mental health issue that was compounded by the things that people did to her?  

Also, I was wondering why some of the things that happened were even on these tapes?  For example, when someone made a list that said Hannah had the best ass in the freshman class.  Sure - that's not the kindest thing to say about someone, and it's incredibly anti-feminist to judge someone just off her appearance, but it's not the worst thing that could happen.  Yet, Hannah says that list is THE reason all the other events happened in her life that caused her to commit suicide.  I mean, really?  Everything else that happened in her life that was bad was a result of some list claiming she had the best ass in the freshman class?  Come on!  

I also found myself wondering why Hannah didn't do anything when her friend Jessica was being raped.  Hannah and Clay make out, then Clay leaves.  Then Jessica and her boyfriend come into the room, Jessica passes out, and her boyfriend goes and stands outside the door.  Hannah hides in the closet, then watches as Hannah's boyfriend let's one of his friends into the room, where said friend proceeds to rape Jessica.  There must be a certain amount of fear that comes along with watching someone be raped, but you get over it and STOP THE RAPE!  For the love of god, I just can't understand why she wouldn't get over it and stop what was happening.  In my mind, that makes her just as culpable.

I think that Hannah should have avoided making the tapes and blaming everyone else, but I do think it's important that people talk about suicide.  I think the author could have approached it differently,  though.  People who are suicidal don't generally blame everyone around them.  There were definite warning signs, like Hannah giving away her bike to Tony, and THOSE WARNING SIGNS should have been the forefront of the story.

Overall, I'd rate the book 3 stars.  Read it, but with some skepticism. 


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