Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Th1rteen R3asons Why

First, let me start by saying that this is a little different than the fantasy books I usually review on The Happy Booker, but I’ve found that I thoroughly enjoy an emotionally powerful read, whether it be fantasy, contemporary, YA, or adult. I hope to find more wonderful books similar to this, please feel free to make suggestions. 

I picked up Thirteen Reasons Why because I kept seeing it pop up on lists of “must read” books. I was a little hesitant about it at first because suicide isn’t really a subject matter I’m generally interested in reading about. Also, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the premise as it almost sounded like the book was justifying placing blame for the decision to commit suicide on those who Hannah felt wronged her. But instead, the book gave a very realistic look at how thoughtless words and actions can have a very real effect on someone's life.

The story revolves around two central characters. Hanna, who commits suicide after recording a series of tapes giving all of her reasons and sending them to the people she feels were a large factor in that decision, and Clay, who is one of the recipients of these tapes. Hanna’s voice is powerful and compelling as she relives some of the worst moments of her life. I was so impressed at the way the author was able to convey the sense of trapped isolation Hannah was feeling and how things just kept snowballing. But at the same time, the author showed how Hannah’s choices contributed to that breakdown. I loved Clay’s character. It was his story that really touched my heart. The way he reacted to what he was hearing, visiting each scene as Hanna related her experiences to better feel what she was saying and where she was both physically and emotionally when she was living these moments. The insight that went into creating this novel was nothing less than incredible.

Each cassette focused on a particular person or incident and how one situation fit into or affected the next. In the author's own words, a "snowball effect" that lead to Hannah making this most final of decisions. I think that this is a great book to open a dialog about feeling overwhelmed and helpless, as so many teenagers do. I think, as adults, we forget sometimes how intensely teenagers feel things and how tough some of the social aspects of school can be. I would love to see this book used to initiate discussions about these things, both with parents as well as in the schools themselves.

I can only rate this a five and also consider this a must read for everyone, all ages.

Rating – 5

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