Clay was excited when he got home from school to find a package waiting for him. He hurriedly ripped off the paper and opened the box to find several cassette tapes inside. Clay wondered who uses cassette tapes anymore as he hunted around the house to find something that would play them. Suddenly he remembered that his dad had an old boom box in the garage. He was thankful that his dad kept one around as he plopped the first tape inside and pressed play. But what Clay heard next was the last thing he ever expected, and it would forever change his life: it was the voice of Hannah Baker, his secret crush, and the girl from school who committed suicide just two weeks earlier. And she was telling him that if he was listening to this tape then he was one of the 13 reasons why she killed herself.
APA Reference of Book:
Asher, J. (2007). Thirteen reasons why. New York, NY: Razorbill.
This book took my breath away. I began reading it before bed, one of those “I’ll just read for a few minutes to unwind.” Big mistake. I was hooked from the first page. This book sucked me in and didn’t let me go long after I finished the last page.
Suicide is a pressing problem for an increasing number of youths every year. Through elementary school to high school I personally had one friend whose brother committed suicide and two friends who attempted to commit suicide. Unfortunately I do not think that my experiences are unique. We live in a world where elementary age children are committing suicide with an alarming frequency, and that makes Thirteen Reasons Why an incredibly relevant read for teens and adults alike.
While reading this book I found myself both empathizing with Hannah and also hating her for her selfishness. In many ways the characters seem very heartbreakingly real and complex. As Clay listens to the tapes and responds to the statements Hannah makes the reader gets alternating perspectives surrounding the same information. In this way Asher offers the readers multiple perspectives that allows them to form their own opinions about the characters and what they are saying. It lets the readers to see how the same event can have vastly different effects on different people. What some might see as a harmless prank may genuinely hurt another person. I love how Asher explores the realm of actions and reactions and shows how no one action is so precise as to not touch others.
“This uncommonly polished debut opens on a riveting scenario: 13 teenagers in a small town have each been designated to listen, in secret, to a box of audiotapes recorded by their classmate Hannah and mailed on the very day she commits suicide. “I’m about to tell you the story of my life,” she says. “More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.” Clay, the narrator, receives the tapes a few weeks after the suicide (each listener must send the box to the next, and Hannah has built in a plan to make sure her posthumous directions are followed), and his initial shock turns to horror as he hears the dead girl implicate his friends and acquaintances in various acts of callousness, cruelty or crime. Asher expertly paces the narrative, splicing Hannah’s tale with Clay’s mounting anxiety and fear. Just what has he done? Readers won’t be able to pull themselves away until that question gets answered—no matter that the premise is contrived and the plot details can be implausible. The author gets all the characters right, from the popular girl who wants to insure her status to the boy who rapes an unconscious girl at a party where the liquor flows too freely, and the veneer of authenticity suffices to hide the story’s flaws. Asher knows how to entertain an audience; this book will leave readers eager to see what he does next. Ages 13-up.”
(2007, October 8). [Review of the book Thirteen reasons why, by J. Asher]. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-59514-171-2.
Jay Asher has been known to do Skype sessions with classes and libraries to answer questions and talk about his books. This would be an excellent opportunity to have the young adults prepare questions for a virtual Q&A with the author. Additionally, this title could be used in conjunction with the Annual Yellow Ribbon Suicide Awareness/Prevention week.