Saturday, July 26, 2014

Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Synopsis:  You can't stop the future.  You can't rewind the past.  The only way to learn the to press play.

Clay Jensen doesn't want anything to do with the tapes Hannah Baker made.  Hannah is dead.  Her secrets should be buried with her.

Then Hannah's voice tells Clay that his name is on her tapes-and that he is, in some way, responsible for her death.

All through the night, Clay keeps listening.  He follows Hannah's recorded words throughout the small town...

...and what he discovers changes his life forever.
From the back of the book

Becky's Review:  I found the concept of this book quite intriguing-recorded messages from a girl who commits suicide and leaves the notes for the people who played into her reasons for ending her life.  From the beginning I was hooked and had to keep reading.  At some point this book lost steam for me.  Perhaps telling stories about the 13 people and how they affected Hannah were just too much for me to keep straight-I lost track of which boy was which boy.  There were twists and turns in the plot and since I didn't get to read this all in one sitting and had a few days in between, I was confused by what was going on.  I also don't buy that Clay fit into Hannah's 13 reasons why.  Obviously the author needed a reason for Clay to be listening to the tapes but it was a weak reason.  What Hannah explained on the tapes as why she thought about suicide and then ultimately killed herself, don't seem to be strong enough reasons why she would do something like that.  It was hard to buy into. The ending didn't make much sense to me either.  I know this seems like a lot of negatives but I still did like it and I think it's a great read.  One of the things that was great about the book was the dual narrator.  In between Hannah talking on the tapes, we heard Clay's reactions to what he was listening to.  I thought this made Hannah's story stronger.

Becky's Rating: 4 stars

Marcie's Review:  This is a tricky book to rate.  On one hand, I was drawn into the story immediately, and didn't want to put the book down to go about my day.  It was suspenseful and gripping, yet it wasn't light and fluffy reading; it really made me think.  It deals with a sensitive topic, and provides a lesson for teens (and everyone) to understand how their words and actions can affect others.  As soon as I finished the book, I called Becky to see if she had read it, and I told my friend Diana that she should put it on her hold list at the library so that I could discuss it with her.  All of those things should mean that I would rate it very highly.  I certainly reacted more strongly to this book than any other book I've read this year.

But on the other hand, I just didn't fully understand Hannah.  I'm not a teen (and haven't been one for a long time, ha ha) and I have never had issues with serious depression (thankfully), so I just couldn't understand why some of her reasons were serious enough to make her commit suicide.  So some guy said she had a nice ass.  Of course girls shouldn't be made to feel objectified, of course it was harassment, but it seems like it would have been a better reason for suicide if he'd said she had the worst ass.  I understand that it was all these reasons building on top of each other until she couldn't cope any more, and she must have had some underlying depression or something, but some reasons seemed so minor and others so major, and the focus on each was about equal.  Then she makes claims that no one was trying to help her, but it seemed to me that she wasn't letting anyone help her, that she wasn't letting anyone see the real Hannah.  Certainly SHE is responsible for that herself.  And her motive for making the tapes was so vengeful.  Does she see that she is now hurting people in the same ways that she has been hurt? Does she see that her actions could be causing other people to also have suicidal thoughts?   I wanted to feel sorry for her, and I did, but she was so awful.

And the sensitive issues around suicide....  It seemed to me that this book could provide a dialogue for teens who are concerned about their friends, and it also listed help lines for those who are considering suicide.  It could make readers consider how they treat others, how their words and actions can affect others in major ways.  And those are all GOOD things.  But, does it romanticize suicide?  Does it give teens the idea that they can do the same things as Hannah?  That they can tell their enemies how much they've hurt people, and then end their own lives.  I don't know. 

So, why the four rating?  Well, because I think the good discussions it can foster with teens, and the idea that one's actions can affect others are more important than my own thoughts about Hannah.  And it was really fascinating reading.

Marcie's Rating:  4 stars

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