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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Genre: Young Adult (Contemporary/Realistic Fiction)
Date Published: October 18, 2007
Publisher: Razorbill

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.

After going back and forth about it, I've decided not to officially rate this book. Honestly, I don't know how. When I first finished reading it, I was angry. I was mad at Hannah. I was mad at the author. I was mad at the World for all the real life Hannahs out there. 

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher was a little different than what I was expecting. I knew it would be pretty emotional since it's partially told from the point of view of a suicidal teenage girl who carried out her plans of suicide and succeeded. The book does a great job showing various signs to watch for in a suicidal person. I listened to the audiobook version, and if you want to read this book, I highly recommend listening to the audio version for two reasons. One, I never heard it specify when there was a change in the point of view, but with the audio, you easily knew when it was Clay or Hannah by the obvious change in voice. I'd imagine that would be confusing at times if I was reading the actual book. Second, Hannah's narrator did a fabulous job. Both narrators did, but since Hannah's point of view is all told from cassette tapes, it's almost like you're listening to her actual tapes which was painful and at times excruciating, but I think that's important. You truly want to jump in there and help this girl.

Many of the things that happen to Hannah don't seem like a big deal, but who are we to decide that? Everyone handles things differently. Some people can't handle as much. Some people handle too much. We never know what a person is going through when we're not around them. We don't all live with them, and we're not in their mind. We really have no clue. So, little things are big things to them, especially if they are all building toward one really screwed up ugly picture. People always say: "It's the little things." Usually they mean it in a positive light, but I think it means just as much in the negative as well. The little things can break us sometimes. In the case with this book, we know only what Hannah chose to tell us. When she made these tapes, she seems cool and collected. At times she was even witty and fun, so it's easy to get mad at her. And I did! Who was she to throw all those people under the bus, when what she did was so much worse? Worse meaning: Hannah didn't help a friend when they needed her most! I can't say more or it'd turn into a spoiler.

The book leaves this to interpretation, but I think the guilt she felt over her friend is what created and cemented her decision to commit suicide. In fact, I don't really think she was considering suicide before this. When it happened, all the previous things that seem so "small" to us as the readers just inflated in her mind, (not to mention the guilt) until she felt there was no other way out. So, she went on to allow what I consider the ultimate act of self destruction. It was like she was punishing herself...committing her emotional suicide before the actual suicide. Then she made her tapes.

Anyway... yes! I was angry at Hannah! But I had to remember, these tapes weren't made by a person in a healthy state of mind. When she recorded them, she was in turmoil. She was in pain. She was scared. She was confused. She probably didn't even know how she really felt about anything. So, she was lashing out. She was also calling for help. Unfortunately, no one has the chance to hear her until she was already dead. I fully realize I'm talking about her like she is a real person, but in a sense, she is real. There are real Hannahs out there.

My big fear, and this fear applies to the mini series as well, is that people will copy this behavior. I can't say this book does or doesn't glamorize suicide. I just can't give a blanket statement like that, because it's all in the mindset of the individual, and I can clearly see how this idea of the ultimate revenge on all who have wronged you can seem appealing. Especially when you're young, and hormones and emotions are at an all time high. Everything feels world ending and life changing when you're young. So, I can easily see both sides.. the good and the bad. One thing I can say is, this book will change you. Good or bad, you will forever see things differently.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer or fail-safe with issues like this. I just hope the good far outweighs the bad. I hope people feel hope, and I hope this opens some much needed lines of communication among people. I think it is already. I've read that this book has saved lives, and I hope it saves more. It brings awareness to things we may not be paying enough attention to as individuals and as a society. The fact that I think it has potential to help people, is a big reason why I'm not putting a rating on it. Whether I like it or not is irrelevant, and I'm not sure how I feel about it at the moment anyway. Earlier, I was mad. Right now? My feelings are favorable. Five minutes ago? I was crying. Ask me again in an hour. How can you rate that? Like I said in the beginning of this post, I wouldn't know how.

This book felt very real to me. I guess that's why I've written and rewritten this review over the last few weeks. I still don't think I have it right.

*Please keep in mind the book is very different from the Netflix mini series version. The show adds and changes a lot. For once, I actually like that they changed things. I think the differences may be helpful to even more people that may have had similar experiences and may or may not have been reached by the book and visa versa. Also, the author of the book originally planned for Hannah to survive, and after searching online real quick, I found that there is a 10th Anniversary edition of 13 Reasons Why that has that alternate ending in it. I grabbed it as soon as I could. I think the alternate ending has the potential to help people too. Plus, it's nice to see her survive. Hopefully in reading this book, seeing the series, or both, people will realize they aren't alone and that there is hope. Suicide is never the answer. Get help. Don't give up.

Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) anytime if you are in the United States. It’s free and confidential. If you're in another country, click here and select your country.

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.

To learn more about Jay Asher and his books, visit his website & the Thirteen Reasons Why website.You can also find him on Goodreads & Facebook.  This is the Facebook page for 13 Reasons Why.

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