Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
The Skinny: Clay Jensen finds a package lying on his porch one afternoon after school, addressed to him but with no return address on it. When he opens the package he is surprised to find seven cassette tapes. Even more surprising is what he hears when he plays the first one: the voice of Hannah Baker, a girl from his school who had committed suicide only two weeks before. She begins telling the thirteen reasons why she decided to commit suicide. And Clay is one of them.
BFF?: Honestly, I don’t know what to say. I feel like my heart is so shattered from both Clay and Hannah that I just don’t know. At the same time I hated Hannah I wanted to reach out and hug her, to let her know that life gets better, that things aren’t as bad as they seem right now. She infuriated me that she blamed others but then I understood how she felt and loved her that much more. And Clay… he’s just one of those special people who comes into your life but doesn’t do anything. There were several times where I wanted to hit him over the head with my folder and scream “Are you kidding me? You’re half in love with this girl and you’re letting something stupid like that get in the way?!” However, I feel like that since we went through Hannah’s tape together, I’m just as emotionally beaten up as he is and we need each other to be the others’ BFF and to tell each other “Hey, it’s going to be okay.”
Listen-ability: I really want to go back and read this book after listening to it. Not because the recording was bad but because it was great! The book is written in dual voices – Clay’s narrator voice and Hannah’s tapes. The recording is done in the same way. A man read’s Clay’s narrative and a woman read’s Hannah’s tapes. There were some points where I really forgot I was listening to the CD but that I was listening to Hannah’s tapes and there were other points where I would have a thought in reaction to them and then Clay would interject and say the exact same thought. The actors’ emotions felt real and allowed me to get lost in what I was hearing. Which definitely isn’t a good thing if you’re driving in the middle of nowhere at night.
Crush Level: 4
But this is so low! Yes, it is. It’s not to say that I didn’t develop a little crush on Clay, but he wasn’t exactly in the middle of a romantic book so he didn’t have any opportunities to wow me with his big romantic gestures. Clay also isn’t your stereotypical YA male crush. He’s kind of spineless when push comes to shove. Time after time he could have gone after Hannah or fought for her, but he didn’t. And then she was gone. But, I do feel that if he was given the chance, if he actually made a move and went for it, he would be a wonderful boyfriend. You know, to a teenage girl. Not me. Um.. no, not me.
I know… this is kind of lame, right? Well there really wasn’t anything that made this book extra special to me because the entire thing was extra special to me.
Commencement Speech: For reasons undisclosed this book is very special to me. A lot of things in it hit home for me, whether things I remember as a teenager or maybe dealt with as an adult. But that’s not the focus here. Hannah’s deterioration is slow, her life slipping away little by little with each tape. About 3/4 of the way through I had to stop and think “Hannah, how did we get here?” No matter what your opinion of suicide is, this book really challenges those opinions. Why do people decide to kill themselves? What about their lives is so bad that they would rather not be alive? What happened that made them do it? Usually with suicide you think that there’s some huge catastrophe in a person’s life that makes them consider (and sometimes follow through) with it. But for Hannah, there wasn’t. She came from a happy home, two parents. It was the little things that pecked away at her life. Asher does a good job of slowly showing how little things begin to unravel, how thoughtless actions affect the greater picture, how they affect the future of Hannah’s life. Asher doesn’t make you feel sorry for Hannah or hate the others in this book. He doesn’t make you hate her for killing herself. Her life is presented as it is; you’re able to make your own opinions. One thing I liked a lot about this book is that the anguish, guilt, and frustration Clay felt was real. His reactions to Hannah’s tapes were an emotional roller coaster as he listened to her disclose all the reasons why she killed herself. My reactions were very nearly the same. This book is one of those ones that wins a place on my very picky bookshelf. I have a feeling I’ll never truly get over this book.
Superlatives – Most Likely to Always Keep it Real