My goal is to read 10 YA books this year. I have found it easier to listen to them on CD while I do busy work. This is my second book, and like the first, it deals with suicide.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
No one knew why Hannah Baker killed herself. But before she died, Hannah recorded a set of cassette tapes, one side for each of the reasons she killed herself, some of the incidents being minor and some more serious. Each of those reasons has to do with a person, and those thirteen people must listen to the tapes and pass them on.
When high school student Clay Jensen receives the tapes, he has no idea how much they will change his life. He plays the first tape and is surprised to hear the voice of classmate Hannah Baker, who recently committed suicide. Aside from making out with her at a party, he didn’t really know her well—even though they worked at the movie theater together for a time and attended the same school.
He spends a long night listening to the tapes and visiting the places the tapes led him to. The book alternates between Hannah’s story on the tape and Clay’s thoughts and memories. As the story progresses, Clay wonders if things would have been different if he’d only had the courage to speak to her.
After he listens to the tapes, the world looks different to Clay. When he returns to school, he notices Skye, another student who seems to be heading down the same road as Hannah and reaches out to her.
In some ways this was a compelling read, but in others it lacked authenticity.
The way the story is woven together from two point of view characters, one who is telling her story by tape and the other through his thoughts and memories, is engaging. I listened to the book on CD, so I heard the story in two different voices. Reading it might not be so compelling.
The idea of a person’s actions affecting another person is important, however I don’t think Hannah should have blamed thirteen people for her choice to commit suicide. Some of the people were merely unkind, while others were cruel. The title “The Thirteen Reasons” points a finger at others and could be taken as vindictive. “You made me suffer, so I committed suicide, and it’s your fault.”
That being said, I think it’s good if the book makes people look for those around them who are hurting, reach out to others and consider their words and actions. What to some people might have just been annoying, was traumatic to Hannah. Just one more thing piled on top of the others.
Hannah never really stood up for herself in the book, and more than once she put herself in a situation that led to her problems. For instance, at one point she was in a place that was a teen hang out. She was cornered in a booth and was being groped. She hoped some one would notice and help her, but she did not yell for help, which would have quickly ended the problem. Another time Hannah went into a hot tub with a boy knowing his intentions, and she had sex with him knowing it would make her darkness worse.
People need to be honest with others about their feelings. Clay assumed he had no chance with Hannah, when Hannah was actually hoping that he’d show interest in her. But since she appeared to want him to leave her alone, he did.
“Thirteen Reasons Why” ended with Clay feeling hopeful as he reached out to another student because of listening to the tapes and realizing his mistake with Hannah. But that is the only hope it gave.
It’s a good read, but it somewhat trivialized suicide. The book lacks any spiritual content. It is set in a public school and some of the language used and incidents reported do not support the values of a Christian teen. Yet it is enlightening. If you choose to read it, use discretion.
I found the book “All the Bright Places” to be much more authentic. So if you are going to read only one book about suicide, read “All the Bright Places.”
Hannah had 13 reasons why she committed suicide, here are my
Thirteen Reasons Why You Should Choose Life: I only have five so help me out and write your suggestions in the comments section.
- God created you in his own image with a unique personality and talents. (Genesis 1:27, Psalm 139:14)
- God has work especially for you to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
- You have something to contribute to society that only you can contribute.
- There is someone else hurting, and you are the perfect one to reach out to him or her.
- Only by living will you find out all that you are capable of.
Other things to read: