Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wednesday Reads: Thirteen Reasons Why

I contemplated for along time whether or not to review this book.  Why?  Because it's too beautiful for words.  Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (his first book, by the way) is the sort of book that touches your heart, squeezes it in a vice grip, and never lets go.  It's sad, depressing, funny, surprising, and if I weren't broken, I probably would have been brought to tears.

"Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box 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. 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."
First Sentence: " "Sir?" she repeats.  "How soon do you want it to get there?" " 
I'm not a big fan of dialogue starting a book.  You do want to know what she's talking about, and who she is talking to.  However, this prologue really isn't necessary to the book.  It's more like a teaser, but not one that necessarily compels you to read.  You continue thinking about the prologue all the way through the book though, because, sequentially, it happens at the end.  Jury's still out on this one.  I'll take the book as is.
Beefs: It made me almost cry.  Not for the faint of heart.  (Not sure if this is a complaint, I loved it, didn't I?)
Brownie Points: The dual narratives of Hannah and Clay are woven so perfectly together, it's as if you are right there with them, not just reading a book.  I've never seen this done before, and I'm likely never to see it again.  With any less skill, it would have been a disaster.
Ending: Satisfying.  Unsettling.  Sad.  Hopeful.
Recommendation: Read it.  Duh.  So good.  And give it to a teenager.  I'm curious as to how a teenager, still in high school, would respond to this.  Do you know one, or are you one, who has read it?  I want your opinion.
Would I represent it? If you don't know the answer to that by now, you haven't been paying attention.  This novel is everything I love.  (I read it in one day.)  Death, high school, real relationships, love, love lost, hope, bullies, drama, angst (in the best way possible), emotions so real you can almost touch them...  yes, i would represent it.

Happy reading!


Karen Baldwin said...

Thanks for sharing. And I like how you broke it down. :)

AlaskaNicole said...

I agree, I LOVED it as well and also read it in one night. I'm a high school English teacher and had the opportunity to order a class set and read it with my students (mixed group from 8th-10th grade). Thank God my principal didn't pick up a copy...I would have had some explaining to do with some of the language ;)

The response was intense. The school I taught at was in a community with a high rate of suicide and bullying. Every student knew someone who had committed suicide. I think we went through 12 boxes of Kleenex before we finished the novel (okay, minor exaggeration...but still)!

One thing I noticed was that the students were uncomfortable, frustrated and irritated with the fact that Hannah let herself be a victim. They felt she should have been more vocal. This opened up a great discussion about what to do if you have suicidal thoughts. The party scene and park scene were awkward for them...I think they would have been more accepting if Hannah just had sex.

In the end they felt that Hannah was definitely NOT justified in committing suicide, and for the most part, I agree. Teens these days (especially the teens I taught last year) are facing bigger issues than Hannah's trifling ones.

The girls enjoyed the novel more; however, because of Clay's narration, the boys were also drawn in. (I even saw a boy get teary a few times!)

As a whole they were engrossed; I couldn't get them to put it down. And these teens didn't like to read. At all. Ever.

In short, I think Jay Asher is amazing. This novel inspired quite a few ideas for my own writing endeavors.

... said...

I'm in seventh grade, and I absolutely love this book. It made me cry.