It’s Monday, and this week I will be reviewing Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I have not read any other books by him, but I think I just might after this read. After finishing it, I posted my initial reaction here. This is going to be my first (but not last) online book review. So, here we go.
RECOMMENDED FOR: Preteen and teenagers, definitely. Adults–put your high school hat back on. It’s time for a trip down memory lane.
This novel is generally up my alley–YA fiction makes up the majority of my list of books read over the past few years. It is written from the point of view of Clay Jensen, a high school teen who receives cassette tapes from an anonymous sender. It turns out to be from Hannah Baker, a girl who committed suicide at his school, and in these tapes she spells out why she took her own life. The unique part of all of this? In these tapes, she tells the listeners that if they received the tapes, it is because they are one of the reasons why she killed herself. After listening to the tapes, they must be passed on to the next person on the list. Confused, Clay listens to the tapes to find out what role he played in Hannah’s death. In the end, he finds out a whole lot more than he could ever have expected.
Asher’s choice of writing style for this novel worked out very well for me. Hannah’s tapes and Clay’s story were unfolding simultaneously. At first, I thought that it may get annoying. When Hannah was getting to a particularly shocking revelation, I did NOT want to know where Clay was sitting! And yet, as the book progressed, I realized that I did. Clay’s thoughts were what kept me from yelling at Hannah sometimes. He was like a running commentary. Other times, he provided insight into Hannah’s stories that she left out or did not know. And he provided some real humour on occasion, not the dry/sarcastic variety Hannah provides on her tapes.
Hannah: If you ever caught me reading one of those teen magazines, I swear, it wasn’t for the makeup tips. It was for the surveys.
Clay: Because you never wore makeup, Hannah. You didn’t need it.
Hannah: Fine, some of the hair and makeup tips were helpful.
Clay: You wore makeup?
And then there was the suspense. If you like reading books that keep you turning the page, wanting to know who-did-what next, Thirteen Reasons Why does that. I would give credit to Hannah’s story telling ability for that. It had its benefits. I ended up reading the entire book in one go, and then rereading it because I lost track of who the Peeping Tom was and what exactly Courtney did. One downside I found to this was that, during the first half, it really made Hannah seem like a bit of a jerk. I imagined her smirking, like she was having the last laugh at their discomfort. Which is understandable, but it wasn’t what I had expected from her. The second half, though, when she got really down and into the last few days of her life, was what got me.
The real take home from this, for me, was that we never know the impact of our actions. Or our “lack of action” at other times. We are often so wrapped up in our own world that the idea of getting involved in someone else’s is just not our cup of tea. And ‘little’ things, like passing on a rumour about something that seems believable (so we’re not really spreading a rumour, right?) or is just ‘funny’. I wasn’t very sympathetic, I’ll admit, at the start. You may not have been either. Don’t sweat the small stuff– life moves on, right? I guess not always.
And now, I shall give City of Thieves another shot.