4 out of 5 Stars
I’ve been on a SciFi and Fantasy kick lately, so I decided to change it up a bit with this tragic YA novel by Jay Asher.
The #1″New York Times”bestseller and modern classic that’s been changing lives for a decade gets a gorgeous revamped cover and special additional content.
“You can’t stop the future.”
“You can’t rewind the past.”
“The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.”
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.
I was intrigued with the premise of this novel: the voice of a dead girl narrating her own path to suicide via cassette tapes. This is one of those books that tears your heart out and stomps on it a few times, leaving you feeling lost over the sad fate of a fictional character. Except then you remember the number of young people who actually commit suicide every year over bullying, sexual assault, loneliness, and any number of other reasons. Then you just want to cry…
Thirteen Reasons Why begins when Clay, a classmate of Hanna Baker, finds a box full of cassette tapes on his doorstep and begins listening out of curiosity. Each tape tells another piece of Hannah’s story and the reasons why she finally decided to commit suicide two weeks earlier. The story is told from Clay’s point of view, but uses Hannah’s suicide tapes to tell her side of things in her own voice. This allows the reader to learn Hannah’s story alongside Clay, essentially flipping back and forth between perspectives.
The writing style is easy to follow, descriptive yet straight forward, with realistic places and scenarios. The characters sometimes seemed catty and overly dramatic, but then again, they’re high school students. My only major complaint was the way Clay’s thoughts were interspersed with Hannah’s recorded words. It got a little confusing and somewhat annoying with all the unnecessary interruptions.
This novel was hard for me to read, delving into some very harsh realities faced by millions of teenagers every year. The reader watches as Hannah falls apart piece by piece, torn to bits by bullies, petty fights, sexual assault, alcohol, violence, and the poor choices of those around her.
Overall, I give the novel 4 out of 5 stars. Asher’s novel is tragic but teaches the horrible truths about suicide, doing an excellent job portraying the warning signs of those contemplating harming themselves while also showing ways to help. I hated this book, but loved it at the same time.