Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Book: Thirteen reasons Why
By: Jay Asher
Published: October 8, 2007
Published by: Razorbill

Description: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.
Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

My Thoughts: For those of you that watched my you tube book haul, you know that I got Thirteen Reasons Why as an audiobook from the library. I don't normally read contemporary novels, so when I do, they tend to be in audiobook format. This particular story is one that I heard a lot about. I was told it was heart wrenching and deep and moving and all that. I'm not sure I totally agree, but it certainly was an interesting read.

The story follows Clay Jensen. He's a high school student who comes home and finds box of tapes for him to read. Those tapes hold a step by step account from Hanna Baker, his former classmate and crush, who killed herself. In the tapes she explains the reasons she committed suicide and the people involved in the process. The audiobook, narrated by a man and a woman to give the voices of Hanna on the tapes and Clay's thoughts, really captured the intended feelings.

Clay panics most of the story. He obviously liked Hanna despite her"reputation." and seemingly feels guilty about her death. He seems to think that people can read on his face the fact that he's listening to an account from a dead girl and just acts all around strange the entirety of the book. That being said, he seems to be your typical "nice guy" and is wondering why he's included in the tapes at all.

As for Hanna, I must say I don't respect her. The whole book is her explaining the reason she killed herself and she is, in my opinion, doing whatever she can to bring everyone else down with her. She seems to have a thin skin, is extremely naive and just basically annoyed me the entire book. I found myself wanting to go through the book and strangle her myself, before I remembered she was already dead. I mean seriously, the things that bothered her, on their own or piled together, do not warrant suicide in my opinion.

I must point out though, that this book was one big snowball effect. As I said, on their own, the events that contributed to Hanna's resolution don't warrant suicide. However, when you stack them up, one on top of the other, on top of the other, you can understand why she was so depressed. I still don't agree with the suicide, but I guess I can follow how these things affected her so deeply. It's interesting to read how everything connected and ho, one little mean/selfish thing one person does can affect that person's entire life from then on. It reminded me of when I watched time travel movies as a kid, and they said if you change just one thing in the past, the entire future is different. Likewise, a small insult, or comment in the past can affect the way people treat and view other people, and often this grows into something in the future that becomes bigger than it was.

Hanna understands that she's giving up, and near the end of the book, we realize that she's doing whatever she can to just ruin her life further, so that there's nothing left to salvage. Ultimately, her bad judgment was part of the reason she continued to ruin her life, and she expected others to see her actions and stop her. Admittedly, I can sympathize with that feeling. Often, when I was her age I remember feeling a bit like a failure, like my life was ruined, and I began to act accordingly. Many of my decisions were hurried and destructive (although no where near as serious as suicide or cutting or the like). I just didn't hold myself up to the level I should have because I didn't think I deserved it. Luckily, I grew up, and began to understand my own worth. I understood that no one can help you if you don't try to help yourself. Hanna killed herself before she could learn.

Thirteen Reasons Why was an interesting story about seizing great opportunities and chances, being a good person, understanding how things you do affect others, and understanding how the things you do affect yourself. It was about accountability and immaturity. While I was reading, I couldn't wait for it to be over, just as Clay couldn't. It kept you thinking and reflecting.

That being said, I gave this story a low rating. It really was wonderfully written and accomplished everything it sought out to do. Nonetheless, I just couldn't bring myself to give it a higher rating. My rating was merely a reflection of how I feel about Hanna, and Clay, and their view on the world. It's also low because I don't like the idea of the tapes and the blame game that ensues. I don't agree with her suicide. Nevertheless, I would without a doubt recommend this story to all middle schoolers/high schoolers. I would also recommend it to those of you who like contemporary novels that teach a bit of a lesson about life and make you reflect on your own decisions. It was a great book, though I will probably never read it again. Yes, my review is kind of all over the place, but that's how my feelings are for this book. My Rating is 3 Stars.


Jen K said...

I completely agree with everything you are saying (in fact, I just reread my review from over a year ago, and my main point is how dislikeable Hannah is). Every time she talked about how depressed she was I was waiting for this big reveal about her life, but the big reveal ended up being that she let something bad happen to someone else! Not only that, but she put that same person on her list and sent her the tapes - you think that person doesn't already feel horrible without being blamed for your suicide? I liked the book but was incredibly irritated with the characters. You are probably the only other person I've seen that wrote a less than glowing review of this! Very glad to see I'm not alone.

Lan said...

I don't generally read books about suicide anyway but I've stayed away from this one because I'm not keen on the premise. How selfish and mean spirited must a person be to take their own life and then dump everything on some else in the form of tapes so that they do bring everyone else around them down as well?

LaMar Nelson said...

As I am becoming more associated with reading and writing I realize that I don't have much experience with different kinds of characters. Most of the books I have read to this point in my life...all of but six, it’s pretty pathetic yes, but I'm working on it...have had characters that I liked or at least I thought I liked them. I say that because I never really thought about not liking the characters, but just accepting them for who they were and whatever reasons they were created...if that makes any sense, and if it don’t I understand because honestly it doesn't make complete sense in my head as I'm typing this (LOL). I guess it doesn't bother me the same way because I don't have to physically interact with that character in reality, but only through the pages of a book.
Any who, this book does sound kind of depressing, and I have so many other books on my plate right now I'm not looking to buy anything new until I've finished this current helping, except for Eve and Adam; good review as always Sherre, but I think I'll be passing on this read.

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