Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Review: 13 Reasons Why
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Reasons for reading: Number Title for Triple 8 Challenge; sounded interesting
Book description: "Clay Jenkins returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers 13 cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list."
First line: "'Sir?' she repeats. 'How soon do you want it to get there?'"
My thoughts: I have mixed feelings about this book. The premise is really a good one - it gets you hooked from the start, wondering what the deal is with the tapes.
But I'm not really sure if I'm supposed to find Hannah stupid for her decision or truly hard-suffering. Or something in between. That's probably the point - her decision will resonate differently with different readers.
I don't want to give away too much, but I have to say, as someone who has found themselves in the pit of despair and someone who didn't have a fab time of it as a fat, weird girl in high school, I didn't have a lot of sympathy for her. Part of it could be that it's a bit hard to keep track of the timeline - the compressed nature of the taped storytelling makes it seem like weeks, yet the events seem to have taken place over two years. Hannah refers to similar events happening in the previous town her family lived in. So, I guess she's meant to have been suffering for years. Yet...some rumors, a couple of bitchy girls, a mean jerk, a creepy jerk, and one really bad guy just don't add up to suicide for me. But then, I guess that's the point - we often never know what leads to suicide and Hannah decides to try and rectify that.
Near the end, Clay says, "Some of us will be too angry at Hannah for killing herself and blaming everyone else." I'm one of those people. She could have turned one jerk in to a teacher, turned the creep over to the police, sucked it up about the bitchy girls like we all have to do... While a few of the people on the tapes really did behave terribly, most of them didn't. Kids endure sexual abuse, horrific bullying in school and online, racism, orphanhood, poverty... Hannah's problems weren't much beyond garden variety, it seemed to me. If she had endured real hardships, the tapes would be understandable, but all she's really doing is making life miserable for 8 people who may not have used the best judgement and weren't as kind as they should have been and one who really tried to help her but she refused the help. Only 3 people really deserved true punishment. Plus, Hannah herself allows a horrible thing to happen to someone else, much worse than anything she's experienced, so she shouldn't be throwing stones. But again, some things do seem to be left out of her story, so perhaps she only told the "relevant" parts to the people on her list.
Overall, though it was a really interesting book. Heavy, but thought-provoking. I hope it shows teens the importance of treating other people well and also that suicide isn't the answer.