Monday, December 15, 2014

Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why
I love that my Adolescent Literature course this term has exposed me to a few hidden gems that I somehow had not come across before. Of course, most of what we are reading is super depressing because they are books dealing with heavy issues: gang violence, rape, suicide. 

Suicide. That's the heavy topic of the book today, Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why

I have to admit; I never thought a book about suicide could be so riveting. I was completely glued to this one. Asher somehow turned a very sad story about a high school girl who commits suicide and leaves behind a series of explanatory tapes into a thriller of sorts.

Though Clay Jensen is the character with whom we spend the most time, Hannah Baker is the real main character. When the book opens, Hannah has recently taken her own life. She left behind a secret set of tapes and instructions to send them around to thirteen different people like the worst chain letter in history. On the tapes, Hannah explains how each of the selected thirteen people contributed to her decision to end her life. 

The main story follows Clay around town as he listens to Hannah's voice recounting the last year or two of her life and how the sometimes vicious sometimes seemingly innocent actions and words of others shaped her opinion about herself and her life. Clay, by virtue of receiving the tapes, is one of the ones included in the morbid list, but Asher keeps his role in Hannah's life from us for much of the book. Even Clay himself is largely unsure why or how he could have ended up included in this group. The book is haunting, in the most literal way possible. As Clay wonders around, he continually has the ghost of Hannah whispering in his ear, explaining her most intimate thoughts and feelings. 

It also takes a sharp look at the consequences of even the most simple actions. The manipulations, games, and jokes of high school suddenly seem far less innocent. It's a painful reminder that how we interact with others matters. 

Just as with Speak, I enjoyed this book as much as I could, under the topical circumstances. Asher does a masterful job presenting the story and giving you a glimpse into Hannah's descent from happy young girl to suicidal, vengeful teenager. Though the book is hard to read at points, I certainly recommend it, particularly to teenagers who are currently caught in a similar world of Mean Girls cattiness and counterattacks. 

Pages: 304
Date Completed: November 19, 2014

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