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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

(I've really got to review books while they are still fresh. My brain doesn't seem to retain any information at all lately.)

Th1rteen R3asons Why (the actual spelling on the book) has been around and around the blog-o-sphere lately. After reading several great reviews (only ONE of which I specifically remember) I decided that I had to jump in and read it too. I'm not sure that my review is gonna go over well, but here goes!

The story opens with Clay Jensen receiving a box of cassette tapes from a classmate- Hannah. Only Hannah killed herself several weeks prior, so it's a bit of a shock. As Hannah explains in the first tape, there are 13 reasons why she killed herself and there are 13 (half) tapes in the box- one for each person who is a reason. They are each to listen to the tapes and then pass them on to the next person. Clay is shocked and scared. He had a crush on Hannah and can't think of anything he ever did to make her want to kill herself. Throughout the course of that night Clay wanders town and listens to all 13 reasons.

While it would seem that the book is about Hannah, it's really about Clay and the other 12 reasons. The first person on the tapes is Hannah's first boyfriend. Despite what rumors you might have heard, not much happened with him. Too bad he felt the need to say things did. That rumor snowballed (a frequent description in the book) until everyone believe things that weren't true and treated Hannah accordingly. Hannah explains in detail how everyone is connected and how one little lie can have huge consequences.

I have mixed feelings about the book. Asher does a great job showing how something that is seemingly minor can affect someone, especially someone who is a bit fragile to start. He really made me see things from Hannah's point of view and he did a really good job of showing Clay's reaction to it. However, I felt that the book was really manipulative. There are two incidents at the end (and if you've read it, you know what I'm talking about) that taken together are just too much. One of them would have been believable (one or the other, doesn't matter) but I thought that adding the second one (or the first, your choice) was just for shock value. The author takes advantage of the reader's sense of guilt (and yes, you start to feel guilty for anything you might have done or said in high school) and just plows into you with it.

Hannah is awfully thin-skinned. To say this sounds like I am blaming the victim and it's pretty hard to even say, but she is. She even admits that there are times she could have stood up for herself more and countered the rumors and didn't. In a lot of ways it felt like she was wallowing in the self-pity. I KNOW. People, especially teenagers and especially suicidal teenagers do this. So yeah, it's probably accurate. It still got old. You know that person, the one who gets to the point where everything is ABOUT THEM and INTENTIONAL. I feel like I would be one of her reasons, because I would get tired of listening if she were alive and complaining. I also hope that I would take her seriously and notice the signs of suicide and then DO SOMETHING about it. I am not totally without sympathy!

Clay is perfect. Hannah knows it, Clay knows it, the reader knows it.

Even with all this complaining, I did like the book. It did a great job of connecting one event to the next to the next in Hannah's downward spiral. My husband was inspired to read the book after me, and read it in one sitting. It's generated a good bit of conversation between us. This is his verbal review :

"It was well written and exciting, but the characters never gain any depth and by the end of it you just feel manipulated. On some level I felt bad for her, but rumors happen to every kid. She's a freaking drama-llama and Clay is too perfect. End of story."

Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher
288 pages



  1. Your husband's review made me laugh out loud :)


  2. This is in my stacks and I hope to read it soon. I watched the trailer for it and it freaked me out. I hope the book lives up to it.

  3. I didn't know there was a trailer, I'll have to find it.

  4. I didn't know there was a trailer either - I'll have to find it.

    Great review. I agree with all of it, even though I did enjoy the book :)

  5. Interesting concept. I would be freaked out if someone gave me a tape like one of the ones in the book.

  6. Love the "Drama Llama" phrase! I've been so curious about this book. I still hope to read it at some point. Thanks for the review!

  7. I agree with your view of Hannah towards the end not standing up for herself. Why didn't she? I felt sorry for Clay. God, if I had to wait for my name to be called along with a reason why - what would I do? Interesting book. But they have a movie trailer?

  8. This book made me cry, its a must read! Completely worth your time, you will never forget it.


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