Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is a young adult book which deals with a disturbing case of teenage suicide. This book has recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and has been made into a series by Netflix.
Teenager Clay Jensen returns home to find a mystery package on his doorstep. It contains old style cassette tapes from a girl at school, rumoured to have committed suicide. Intrigued, Clay begins to listen, then he is reminded of a map of the town which mysteriously arrived in his school locker.
Hannah’s reasons for creating the tapes have Clay criss-crossing town as we hear about the decisions others made which, she felt, which left her alone, hurt and eventually suicidal.
The author chose to write the book using dual narration: Hannah’s voice on the tapes and Clay’s immediate response to points and situations. It makes the story incredibly intense and puts the reader right in with the middle of the story. Thirteen reasons; thirteen stories of how and why Hannah ended up where, she believed, she only had one choice left. Those mentioned on the tapes never realising the connections they made and the impact they had on one girl.
Using everyday situations that many teens find themselves in, the suicide element has already shown itself to be a controversial discussion topic among many other readers. Was the book intended to highlight suicide? I don’t think so; it is more about the impact anyone’s thoughts and actions can have on another human being. Would it be a suitable book for anyone with suicidal tendencies? I don’t think so, not particularly; there are no answers or suggestions for help. Instead, it could make us think about how simple, often thoughtless, words, and action or non-action, can have such an effect on another’s life, and highlight that we don’t exist in a bubble.
I liked this book and read it over the course of twenty four hours. It was refreshing, harsh at times, intense and even surreal. The unusual writing style worked well and I can see this work being a popular discussion topic, for the teenage groups in years to come. Maybe a classic in the making? I shall leave you with a quote from the book:
“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people.”
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You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.
About the author
Jay Asher was born in Arcadia, California on September 30, 1975. He grew up in a family that encouraged all of his interests, from playing the guitar to his writing. He attended Cuesta College right after graduating from high school. It was here where he wrote his first two children’s books for a class called Children’s Literature Appreciation. At this point in his life, he had decided he wanted to become an elementary school teacher. He then transferred to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo where he left his senior year in order to pursue his career as a serious writer. Throughout his life he worked in various establishments, including as a salesman in a shoe store and in libraries and bookstores. Many of his work experiences had an impact on some aspect of his writing.
He has published only one book to date, Thirteen Reasons Why, which was published in October 2007. He is currently working on his second Young Adult novel, and has written several picture books and screenplays. Thirteen Reasons Why has won several awards and has received five stars from Teen Book Review. It also has received high reviews from fellow authors such as Ellen Hopkins, Chris Crutcher, and Gordon Kormon.