Monday, November 5, 2012

Thirteen Reasons Why

Asher, J. (2007). Thirteen Reasons Why. NY: Penguin Group.
YA Lit / Realistic Fiction

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads

The premise of this story is that a teenager, Hannah, creates thirteen recordings, each made for someone who had something to do with why she commits suicide, and sends the tapes to each of the subjects after Hannah's death.
This story will stay with me a long time and definitely made me think about many different things, but primarily, it reminds us that no action goes without a reaction.  It reminds us that what is inconsequential to some can be insurmountable to others.  It reminds us that cruelty is common in the life of a teenager.  It reminds us that there is pain and suffering everywhere if we'll just open our eyes to it. 

Once we open our eyes to the suffering of others, then there is a moral obligation to do something about it.  Most of the subjects of Hannah's recordings had no idea their actions were affecting Hannah or didn't care. Most didn't take the time to open their eyes or ignored what they saw.

The one who did pay attention is the co-narrator of the story, Clay, and part of why I like the book is the format in which the story is told.   We start with Clay, who is the 9th recipient and  subject of the  recordings.  We "hear" Hannah's voice,  but it is interrupted by Clay's reactions to Hannah's words, and Clay's recollection of the events Hannah brings to light.   The distinction in voices is made by a change in font, and it's unbelievable how much emotion I felt via this technique.

Before I read this book, I read a few reviews that didn't give the story a high rating.  They said they couldn't "buy" that the reasons Hannah committed suicide would be enough for her to do it.   THAT, my friends, is part of the problem with bullying and all the misconceptions about kids who take their own lives.  No one can truly understand the depression and depths of despair someone else is experiencing.

What I would hope for is that anyone who reads the book would become more sympathetic, empathetic, and kind towards others and that when there are signs that someone is hurting, they are not ignored.  And finally, Clay is a reminder that we should follow our hearts and question what's not known first hand, even when these are scary propositions.  

My Clean-O-Meter rating on this one is a 3 out of 5 (5 is squeaky clean).  There is mild language, some sexual situations and references, and underage drinking.  There is not any explicit violence, and the suicide itself isn't really discussed or even the focus of the story.

You can listen to the tapes on Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why website, but here is the first tape.


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