Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher
Synopsis: Hannah Baker, a seemingly normal teen aged high-school student has just taken her own life. Left behind is a shoebox full of cassette tapes explaining who and what had a part to play in the her decision. When Clay, a boy at Hannah's school, receives the tapes and begins listening to them he realizes he was given the tapes for a reason: his name is on those tapes. Torn between having to know and not wanting to know, the story follows Clay as he listens to the tapes and comes to realize who and what it was that made Hannah Baker want to give up.
Review: This book talks about some serious issues. Ones that are scary, hard to discuss and sometimes even looked down upon but ones that are very much an issue in the world today. At first this made me skeptical about reading the book. I don't like dwelling on those sorts of issues. Deciding I didn't want to be an ostrich standing around with my head in the dirt while things like suicide, rape and peer pressure go on in the world, I finally opened the book.
In one word, this story was: riveting. Literally, I couldn't put it down. I read it in less than 24 hours because I absolutely HAD to know how things would turn out. But not in a "did the butler do it again?" sort of way in an "what was her breaking point" sort of way. And honestly? I still don't know that I know what it was for her. But I think that's how it is for most of us, isn't it? Sometimes our breaking point, the straw that breaks the camel's back, is lost to us in the most poignant moments of our lives. Sometimes we look back at what we've become and try to pinpoint a solitary moment that marked the turning point for where we are at at that time but in the blur of life, we cannot find it.
That's how this story came off to me. The 'snowball effect' is what Hannah called it. One thing leads to another and so on and so forth until one day you realize your life is "Like driving along a bumpy road and losing control of the steering wheel, tossing you-just a tad-off the road. The wheels kick up some dirt, but you're able to pull it back. Yet no matter how tightly you grip the wheel, no matter how hard you try to drive straight, something keeps jerking you to the side. You have so little control over anything anymore. And at some point, the struggle becomes too much-too tiring-and you consider letting go. Allowing tragedy...or whatever...to happen." (Hannah Baker, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher)
Each person or reason that Hannah named, to her, had a part to play in her death. Whether they knew it or not. Which is such a striking matter all in its own. We really have absolutely no idea what kind of effect we have on other's lives. Good or bad. We have no idea what a smile or a snicker can do to someone. Maybe in that exact moment in time it doesn't seem like a big deal but we cannot even begin to guess what's going on in others lives that might cause them to take the smile or snicker one way or another. That warm smile or that snide snicker could be some one's shining beacon of hope or their last straw. If we as humans could comprehend that fact I just know we'd all analyze more seriously the way we are to others.
This book. It compelled me. It compelled me to deal with what's going on in my life in a more serious manner. It compelled me to just take some extra time and notice people. Simply notice them. Regardless of what you think of the plot or characters or double-first-person-narrative, I'd recommend you take a day and read this book. Allow the theme of the book into your life and pay close attention to what you get out of it. This book isn't about a girl who took her own life because life got too hard. Its about a girl who made a decision based on the way she was treated by others and what's more the way others were treated by others. I love that although Hannah is the one who is dead in this story and she's the one telling what happened to her she is not always portrayed as an innocent victim. Clay recognizes at multiple points that Hannah should never have given up, should have pushed herself harder to allow someone, anyone to help her; and Hannah recognizes that taking her own life was initially her choice no matter what her life was like. That was something I felt was important in the story. Hannah wasn't exactly victimized even though she was the victim.
Basically this book was perfect. It was concrete and simple. Not light and fluffy, just simple.
*I would not recommend this book for a younger audience. It involves some intense topics and adult situations that may be a lot to understand.