Thursday, November 29, 2007

THIRTEEN REASONS WHY: A Book You Cannot Put Down

With all of the recent buzz about THIRTEEN REASONS WHY and the fact that its debut author, Jay Asher, is from my SCBWI region, I had to give this book a read. I admit that I don't usually go for YA novels about such serious issues, but from what I'd heard, there were way more than thirteen reasons to pick up this book. And I'm so glad I did.

Clay Jenson’s classmate, Hannah Baker, had committed suicide just days before he received a mysterious package in the mail. He never expected that Hannah’s voice would be what he heard next. On seven cassette tapes, Hannah chronicles the thirteen reasons—the thirteen people—who contributed to her decision to take her own life. Clay, who had a slight crush on Hannah and worked with her at the theatre, listens to the tapes into the late hours of the night, traveling to the designated locations she directs him to, desperately trying to figure out why he was on her list. He ultimately discovers a horrible mistake he made, that he is sure never to repeat.

Jay Asher uses a unique approach to telling this powerful, compelling and heart-wrenching story of teen suicide. The book is full of emotion based on Hannah Baker’s voice from the past and Clay Jenson’s struggle to hear her story. Typical happenings in the lives of high school students are what propel an otherwise average girl into the ultimate state of hopelessness and desperation. When Hannah is caught up in tawdry rumors and cruel behavior from her classmates, her life slips out of her control and she too becomes guilty of the very sins that were committed against her. Clay is an average “nice guy” who can’t understand why he is included on her list, but as he hears Hannah’s story, he is torn apart inside.

This book deals with serious issues such as suicide, drinking, and rape. However, because Asher so intricately lays the groundwork for the underlying message of the importance in how we treat each other, and he leaves the reader with hope, I feel not only teens, but also parents and high school staff should read it as well.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher/ ISBN-10: 1595141715/ ISBN-13: 978-1595141712/2007/Razorbill (The Penguin Group)