Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

Hmm. I wanted to like this book, I did. It came with good recommendations, and it’s even on one or more of those award lists I’m reading from for my YA lit class. But except for maybe twenty or thirty minutes, I spent the six and a half hours of audiobook rolling my eyes and bitching at Hannah. I’m not thinking I was supposed to do that. I am really getting old before my time.

The story revolves around Clay Jensen, who gets a package of thirteen cassette tapes in the mail. He is intrigued by this strange anachronism and begins listening to them, only to find out that they are essentially the last words of Hannah Baker, a girl who committed suicide a couple weeks back. On each tape Hannah details an event or person who made her life so horrible that she was driven to kill herself, and instructs the listeners to pass on the tapes, lest a second set be released to the general high-school public for everyone to listen to.

So on the one hand, it’s an interesting read/listen, because most of the events are teeny-tiny things that no one would think anything of on their own, but you can understand how the combination of all of them might make someone want to just disappear off the face of the earth. However, I had a hard time thinking of these things as being enough to make someone want to stop living completely. There were a couple of events that made me think, “Wow. Those suck. I would probably go into a very deep depression if those happened to me,” but those were completely unrelated to the other events and as such I think Hannah’s cassette package could have been much smaller.

I imagine that back in high school, when I was even less popular than Hannah Baker (but didn’t have any crazy rumors floating around… that I know of…), I might have connected more with this book. As it stands, I was a little too busy thinking about how stupid Hannah was to think about other things, like how her situation might apply to my life or how I might go about being nicer to other people.

Rating: 4/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2007, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
books i done read
The Written World
Maw Books Blog
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?
My Friend Amy

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

3 thoughts on “Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

  1. Mary says:

    Ah, poo… well. In my defense, since you know I LOVED it… I read it in one night (which in retrospect is kind of like my own Clay experience), I enjoyed seeing the popular kids get what they deserved, and, as weird as this sounds, I was impressed that, despite the severity of her actions, Asher made Hannah seem so rational. I feel like the suicided person is always made out to be hysterical, and here, it's kind of like: look, things pile up, and this can turn into a reasonable alternative for even the most sensible of people.

    Anyway… next time I recommend a book, I'll try to make sure no one dies 😛

  2. Alison says:

    Maybe if I had read it in one night… I did have a lot of time to be irked at Hannah in between listenings. 🙂

    But you say Asher made Hannah seem rational. I call shenanigans on that — not once does she give a real reason for wanting to commit suicide. She gives the circumstances that lead her to want to do it, certainly, but as far as I recall she never says anything like “So clearly you guys hate me and I need to go die now” or “And now I feel like a sack of shit and I don't see that changing ever, so killing myself seems like a good idea.” You know? Also, if Hannah felt that it was a rational or at least reasonable idea, she wouldn't have had such a problem telling the guidance counselor what she was planning.

    Of course, if the high-schoolers reading this feel the same way about Hannah as I do, I think the suicide rate will be going down drastically soon. 🙂

  3. Mary says:

    Well… I say “rational” because she took the time to lay out the INSANE web of connections and immortalize it on a set of cassette tapes instead of just being like “OMG my life sucks!” and doing it.

    I don't know if Twinsburg was close enough to participate, but did you ever do the YSU English Festival? I remember reading a lot of books for that that I thought had hysterical people doing stupid things in the guise of “realism” or “teaching lessons” for young adults… and though there was a little moralizing every now and then, I really just felt horrible for Clay, and the fact that he was such a strong presence made me more willing to deal with Hannah because I think he made her likeable by showing how her death made him sad.

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