Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

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Book Review #2: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Number of pages: 288
Copy: Trade paperback
Date Published: October 18, 2007
Publisher: Razorbill
Rating: Image and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPic

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen 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.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

It took me a while to pick up this book. Truthfully, I was a little scared of the story. I was a never a fan of post mortem stories but the ratings, reviews, and just plain curiosity got the better of me so without much dilly-dallying here goes my review.

Thirteen reasons why focuses on the characters of Hannah Baker and Clay Jensen. Hannah Baker killed herself. Nobody knew why yet she managed to tell her story by having a bunch of cassette tapes delivered from one involved person to another, Clay Jensen included. Clay, on the other hand, had absolutely no idea why he was on the list but he didn’t waste time trying to find out. He began listening to the tapes, one by one, waiting patiently for his name to come out.

Doesn’t that seem too horrifying? It was cruel. That’s how I felt as I tried to empathize with Clay. Let me just say this though, the storytelling is brilliant. I’ve read books which told the story through emails and letters but this is the first time I’ve come across one narrated using audio tapes. There are seven cassette tapes in total, all of which had two sides. Each chapter of the novel corresponds to one side of a cassette tape.

The story was gripping. The characters felt real. The pace was consistent. No chapters served as fillers. Each story was significant to the entire truth that Hannah wanted to convey.

I felt as if I was listening to Hannah’s voice all throughout the novel. It was an absolute thrill – learning to find out what really happened, who was involved in what incident, what was done, and although saddening, what could have or should have been done. Surprisingly, I did not feel hate or remorse towards any of the characters. If anything, I felt that they were very human. I liked Clay Jensen’s character the most. He was definitely not perfect. His thoughts practically labeled him as a coward but his development and his decisions towards the end of the story made me want to give him a pat on the shoulder (provided that he was real of course).

On the other hand, It felt like a roller coaster of emotions reading through Hannah’s thoughts. She had been through a lot (none of which I was able to predict, honestly) and nobody could blame her. Despite the dark premise and the occasional accusatory tone, I couldn’t identify Hannah’s character as just someone who points a finger towards the people she knew. To me, her intention was not to terrify but to tell, to warn, to ask, and to hope.

The concept of the novel is heavy no doubt but it was not so much gut wrenching as many people would think. Thirteen Reasons Why looks like an advocacy embedded in more than 200 pages but if you look past that and focus more on the story, the characters, and their thoughts, you’ll definitely enjoy the ride.

You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything… affects everything.

A lot of you cared, just not enough.

Sometimes we have thoughts that even we don’t understand. Thoughts that aren’t even true—that aren’t really how we feel—but they’re running through our heads anyway because they’re interesting to think about.

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