Courtesy of TeensReadToo.com, Reviewed by Jennifer Wardrip aka "The Genius", Rating 5 Stars & Gold Award
I don't often write introductions to my reviews. In fact, the last time I can remember doing so was with the wonderful PUCKER by Melanie Gideon, which I read in 2006. However, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, the debut novel from author Jay Asher, is the type of book that begs an introduction. So if you'd like to skip down to the third paragraph for the "meat" of the story, I won't hold it against you -- but you'll be missing something important.
If you have the chance to only read one novel this year, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY should be that book. It's sad, amazing, heartbreaking, and hopeful, all at the same time. I dare you to read it and not become so immersed in the story that you lose track of time and your surroundings. You'll cry, several times, while reading this story. You'll have no choice but to think about your actions, and wonder what type of effect they have on other people. And, in the end, you might also find the need to say "thank you."
Now, on to the story...
When Clay Jensen finds a package on his front porch, he's excited. A package, for him? With no return address? What could it possibly be? What Clay finds is a shoebox full of cassette tapes, each marked as "Cassette 1: Side A," "Cassette 1: Side B," etc. Of course he rushes to the old radio/cassette player in his dad's garage to check out these mysterious tapes.
And soon wishes, wholeheartedly, that he'd never picked up that stupid package from his front porch.
What he hears when he inserts that first tape is the voice of Hannah Baker. Hannah, the girl he'd crushed on for longer than he could remember. The girl he went to school with. The girl he worked at the movie theater with. The girl who had changed, drastically, in the last several months. Hannah Baker, the girl who committed suicide.
Clay soon realizes that these tapes aren't just a suicide note, aren't, really, even a clear-cut rendition of why she did what she did. Instead, these are thirteen reasons -- thirteen people, to be exact -- who created a snowball-effect of events that led Hannah to believe that suicide was her only option. But why is Clay on that list? How could he possibly be one of the reasons that she killed herself?
As the day goes on, Clay becomes obsessed with listening to the tapes. And what he hears frightens him, disturbs him, and, in the end, leads him to realizations that he never would have expected. As Clay listens to the role that thirteen people, including himself, led in the ultimate death of Hannah Baker, his view of the world, and himself, changes drastically.
You will love this book, because you won't be able to help yourself. You will feel what Clay feels. You will, in a very strong way, experience the highs and lows of Hannah's life right along with her. And there is nothing, in my opinion, that could speak better for the authenticity of a book. Read THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. And then, if you're like me, you'll read it again. And, hopefully, none of us will ever forget it.
I had intended to write my own review, but I believe that Jennifer said it all. THIRTEEN REASONS WHY is the kind of book that will stay with you throughtout your life, occasionally popping into your head at odd moments.
Asher brilliantly captures the realistic, heartbreaking voice of Hannah Baker in the tapes. And as Clay listens, one by one, afraid to hear his own name, you will follow in his emotional footsteps.
I hope we can look forward to many more books by Asher.
A person who commits suicide is totally responsible for their own actions. This book is trying to promote that everyone else is responsible for someone's actions. In the wrong hands this book could prove to be fatal.
I disagree with your statement that "this book is trying to promote that everyone else is responsible for someone's actions." If you read the entire book, towards the end Clay very clearly "tells" Hannah (in his mind while listening to her final tape) that she didn't have to do what she did and that she had other options. I think that Jay Asher makes a very definitive and positive statement AGAINST suicide and he portrays Hannah as being wrong-headed and in a downward spiral. While it is true that many people could have helped her, had they only known how depressed she was, and Jay Asher does seem to be indicating that some people's actions contributed to Hannah's sense of despair, I think you are mistaken if you think that this book in any way condones either her suicide or her attempt to make other people feel responsible.
i disagree with you. this book was not sad and it wont stay with me for a long time. i read A LOT of great books that were sad and they stayed with me, this book was neither. i felt like hannah kept blaming everyone for her problems. in the beginning she was the one that set herself up to commit suicide. instead of asking for help or doing something she just went with the flow and decided to end her life.
it was boring, and didnt catch my attention. i wanted more drama but it was like 5 grade drama.
I don't know that the book "promotes" that others are responsible for one's actions directly, but my concern as a teacher, parent and former adolescent counselor, is that it does indirectly glamourize what Hannah did. The "drama" that kept us spellbound while reading is the tapes; the "Here's what you did to me and now I have the last say". In the minds of some young teen girls the world feels like it will fall apart weekly and the idea of suicide, the drama of "I'll show them..." is a little too appealing in this book. As an adult I can appreciate the story because I have perspective. I am just not sure it is great reading for young teens themselves. I really wanted to put this book in my 8th grade classroom because I knew it would get kids to read. I just couldn't do it--I sent it to the high school, for a more mature audience. I think it would be a great book for a class to read together and discuss. After reading the glowing reviews, I felt that we too often judge a book as great just because it keeps us spellbound. This kept me spellbound, indeed. It was also disturbing to me. It didn't really have any redemptive value in my opinion. The short part where Clay tells Hannah that she didn't have to do it (in his head) was pretty weak compared to the mountains of drama where we "feel sorry" for Hannah.
I disagree with this view of the book. Hannah might have blamed other people but in the end she blamed herself. She wanted the help and wanted to helps ones who needed it but in her own way couldnt do it. She did ask for help did you read the end of the book? Sometimes when it comes to situations like that its hard to get help or ask for it. When I was in highschool I saw this stuff all the time. I was Hannah at one time but thank god I had my family to help me over come the troubles.
Jennifer, You had made a great review for this book. I felt everything going on and could picture each scene play in my head. I read this nook in less than two days and would have finished it in one if I wasn't working or in the process of finishing up my move into my house. I lost track of everything around me and it even made me mad at the other charators in the book that screwed up. Keep them coming!!!!!!!!!
@Tethryn: She turned to her one-period-a-day teacher-cum-guidance counselor. Hmmm ... throwing that one dart at the wall probably wasn't her best option and constitutes a really lackluster effort. What really bugs me is that it paints the teacher out to be the person who, figuratively, drove the last nail into her coffin.
I agree with you. I think the teacher was definitely an undeserved scapegoat.
I enjoyed the book because of the "suspense."
I'm 43 and have 2 teenage girls, a ten year old daughter and a 5 year old son.
I didn't condone the blaming. And I think Mr. Asher didn't intentionally want it to come across that way...I think he intended it to be...bullying, rumours we should take responsibility for the things we say... BUT it's just too much...we're smacked over the head way too much. We are never introduced to HANNAH's parents- where were they in all this? I think her mother was just a bit of a mention (?)...I agree with the Amazon com reviewer who said if this book were "real" over half the teenagers that I grew up with (including myself) would have done what Hannah did.
Hannah was wrong! Asher doesn't stress that enough. Clay's declaration that she didn't have to kill herself wasn't enough. That was the message this book SHOULD HAVE delivered, but it seemed it's message was aimed at those who teased her instead.
I'd give the book 3 stars for effort, 2 stars for content. I did enjoy it overall. And I think controversy is what a well written, good book is suppossed to cause.
I liked this book very much, and it is definitely going to be stuck in my head for a while. But just so you know, this book has very advanced content, which might be disturbing for a reader under the age of 13. It was one of my favorite books, but again, the message was both shadowed and overcasting the mature content. The sympathy was turned out by the inappropriate parts, but the mature content also proved a point that Hannah's life was miserable, and it added to her final decision of suicide.
This book was incredible. I really think that it should be required High School reading. I'm somewhat surprised by some of the above comments that Hannah's reasons weren't bad enough for her to kill herself. Really? Who are we to say what anybody thinks is a good enough reason. I think teenagers should read this book so that they can maybe see how what they do and how they do it can really affect someone's life. Maybe each of the 13 reasons why Hannah killed herself weren't "huge" issues but then again everything happened at once, didn't it. And one of the most imporant message that came out of this book is that Hannah didn't think anyone cared about her. I love the way the author went back and forth with Hannah's recording and what Clay was thinking as he was listeing to her.
I have read Thirteen Reasons Why to all of my 10th grade students. They admitted that, at first, they were not into the book because of the initial reaction to the cover (a girl swinging on a swing) but after I read the first chapter, they were hooked. We did an in-depth analysis of each person and at the end they created movie trailers for the novel. It was a great book to read. I also suggest Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Piccoult to read to high school students. Absolutely compelling book.