Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher
Published by Razor Bill
Copyright © 2007

This is one of the most compelling books I’ve read in a long time. Suicide is certainly not a pick me up, make me feel better subject. But Asher’s use of double narrative and the mystery of motive grab you and don’t let you go.

Clay Jensen comes home from school and finds a package on his front porch addressed to him. His life has already bruised by the suicide of Hannah Baker, but what he finds in that package will shatter him.

Hannah Baker committed suicide a couple of weeks ago, and nobody knew why? She did though, and she decided to share those reasons. Not with the entire world mind you, not unless they forced her. She made a list of the thirteen people who had altered her life since she had moved to this town. She then recorded seven audio cassettes, one side per a person and told the story of their interaction. Before she kills herself she sends these tapes to the first person on her list.

At the very beginning of her recording she instructs the listener that when they are done with the tapes that they must send them on to the next person on the list or else there is a second set of tapes that will go public. Why does she do this? Because she wants everyone on the list to understand that what they do and say has an effect. Everyone and everything is connected in some way.

We see the impact of these tapes through the thoughts and reactions of Clay Jensen. Clay immediately wonders why he is on these tapes, because he can’t think of anything that he did to Hannah Baker. To the contrary he really liked her and was a bit too shy to talk to her the way he wanted. But he listens anyway and we listen along with him as Hannah narrates her story.

“Thirteen Reasons Why” is a bit mysterious and mildly disturbing. While the content of this book may be a bit mature in places, I think that this is a book that every teen (13 and up) should read at some point during their high school careers. This tale is not so much a rally against suicide as it is a rally for compassion. So many times we do and say things that we think will have no effect on others, and other times we are just outright selfish and don’t care about others. This book is begs you to think about what you are doing. This book is a call to action. If you see someone who displays suicidal tendencies show them that you care and don’t give up just because they push you away. Sometimes how hard you try shows how much you care.

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