Friday, April 22, 2011

[Re-Review] Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Publication: 2009
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Source: Won, thanks Jay Asher!
Age: 14+ (some sexual content and language, but the issue explored needs to be heard by younger teens)
Pages: 280
My Rating:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list. Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.
My thoughts: 

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher spun me around and around--so much so that I felt just as lost and confused and hurt that Clay felt as he was listening to the suicide tapes of a girl he could've loved. Asher does not shy away from exploring the painful but gripping issue that comes attached with growing up and feeling as though reality is slipping away from you. Hannah Baker earned herself a reputation that she by no means deserved. A reputation that she earned through a rumour based on just a kiss. Clay Jenson is a protagonist and narrator both reliable and realistic in his portrayal, and Asher made a great decision to choose such a character to drive this narrative.

Clay Jenson comes home from school to find a mysterious box, full of audiotapes, each marked numerically by nail polish. Once he finds a way to listen to said tapes, he makes a remarkable discovery: these tapes outline the thirteen reasons why Hannah Baker, the girl who killed herself two weeks earlier, came to her life-ending decision, "and if you're listening to these tapes, you're one of the reasons why".

The scenes and 'reasons why' are told with great care, and I think it's only after I've re-read it that I was able to piece things together a lot better than I did the first time around. Many people have criticised Thirteen Reasons Why, as supposedly the reasons listed should not, would not, have been enough for someone to end their life, but while I was reading it, I could feel it. How trapped and devoid she was of anything secure or safe in her life, that she so needed, especially then. People were continuously letting her down, and she continued to believe that maybe someone could've helped her to not give up on herself. The reasons, every action, in itself are for the most part seemingly harmless. But when you look at the full picture, the links add up and it's astounding to think that this does happen in real life. That one small action could start a "snowball effect". If there's anything that I'll be taking away from this book, it's that "everything . . . affects everything" (which is what Asher signed my book with)

Hannah Baker was unlucky, in that she was targeted for unfair ridicule and judgement, just so that kids at school could have a good laugh every now and then. And at its core, that is what many, many high school kids would actually do, without really thinking about how that could affect someone's mental state. Clay Jenson is the average all-around good guy at school. His interactions and stories seemed true to life, and in the back of my copy, Asher does say that some of these events are based on his own experiences, which I always appreciate. The thing I love about these types of books, is that there is such an obvious space for character development, and that is what Clay does. He develops into a wiser, stronger, narrator--even in his strife and fury.

Last time I gave this book a 4.5/5 (and yes, I am embarrassed by my earliest reviews, as all bloggers would be), but this time I cannot give it anything lower than a 5. It's one of those life-altering novels, but it was a real page-turner despite how hard it could be to read at times. It made me cry, it made me laugh, it made me disgusted and angry and hurt and annoyed and feel as though I were right in Hannah's, and Clay's, shoes, feeling her pain and stifled cries for help. 

It's a book I would urge everyone to read. Please, put this book on your bucket list.


First Lines

""Sir?"she repeats. "How soon do you want it to get there?"
I rub two fingers, hard, over my left eyebrow. The throbbing has become intense. "It doesn't matter," I say."

Favourite Quotes

"I guess that's the point of it all. No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same."

(pg. 156, Hannah)

"You can't go back to how things were. How you thought they were.
All you really have . . . is now."

(pg. 206, Hannah)


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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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