Author: Jay Asher
Published: October 18, 2007
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
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“You can't stop the futureMy Thoughts
You can't rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
...is to press play.”
― Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why
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. (Goodreads)
Stop. Just hit the Pause button on your life, and go buy this book NOW. Thirteen Reasons Why is a heartbreaking, phenomenal read, and I recommend it for EVERYONE. Come on. Would I ever steer you wrong?
When it comes to Thirteen Reasons Why, I can't even think of a single complaint. I have no criticism to offer. I was simply blown away by this book. I was even concerned that the book might be surgically attached to my hands because I could not put it down. I finished it in record timing, and just sat there, open-mouthed with shock.
Enough gushing. Why did I love, love, LOVE this book? Because it was so emotional and intense and a tearjerker. But at the same time, it was beautiful and touching. Thirteen Reasons Why shows the best and the worst in people, and it scraped me raw. You can forget a high school parody like Mean Girls or Easy A, (both of which I adore). Thirteen Reasons Why depicts the painfully realistic side of high school. The high school that Clay and Hannah attend is filled with petty, vicious high schoolers fighting it out in a survival of the meanest. These high schoolers, those who made Hannah's list, are all at fault for their actions, but some are more blameworthy than others.
Thirteen Reasons Why raises some thought-provoking questions. Who is to blame for Hannah's suicide? Can any of the people on her list really be held accountable? Or is it only her fault? What could have been done to prevent this? Time and again, Hannah cries out for help, making this book even more difficult to read when you wish time could be rewound and the past altered. As you listen to Hannah's tapes with Clay, you feel his frustration and despair because nothing can be done. Hannah is already gone. Yet she is more alive than ever because of these tapes, and she lives on in the memories of those on her list. They won't be forgetting her or what they did anytime soon.
I loved how the dual narratives of Clay and Hannah were so flawlessly combined. Most of the time, it was like they were having a conversation, though one of them wasn't alive to hear the other's response. I sympathized with Hannah. By making these tapes, she relived every painful moment she experienced since she moved to a new school. And why? Because it needed to be said. Too much had been kept in the dark for too long, and poor Hannah had endured so much. I also loved Clay. Despite my expectations, I thought he was a sweetheart. I found both of their stories riveting, and I could not have stopped reading even if I wanted to. Their sides unfolded like a mystery, slowly revealing more of the thirteen reasons. In the end, everything came together so wonderfully and horribly, as if all of it was meant to happen. I can only describe it as a Jellicoe Road kind of ending. And if you haven't read that book, I suggest you do.
Then there's the question of why Asher picked cassette tapes. After reading his thoughts, I find the idea genius. While CDs or an Ipod or a podcast would date the book, cassette tapes are from another time and are untouchable by the passage of time. Just like a Mustang, they are considered classic. I loved how Asher described the sound of the tape running, and when Hannah was silent, the humming of the tape was worse than silence. It was the waiting that ate away at Clay. He hung onto her every last word, knowing he wouldn't hear her voice again, and he couldn't handle her pauses. It was remarkable actually. While Hannah was dead, her words could still live on in these tapes.
Suicide is a tricky topic to write about, and it's certainly a heavy one. I think Asher did a brillant job working with such a sensitive issue. While it can be upsetting to read about, I'm glad it's a prevalent topic in young adult books because of its own frequent occurrence amongst teenagers. Thirteen Reasons Why addresses how hard it can be for a teenager in high school, but, don't worry, it does have a silver lining. It shows that there are some good people out there, and they can take you by surprise.
Please read this book ASAP! You will not regret it. I loved it so much that I'm now considering reading Jay Asher's The Future of Us.