Sunday, April 26, 2009

TSS - Review - 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Synopsis from publisher:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers 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:

I'd heard and read lots and lots of good things about this novel, so I was prepared to be blown away by its greatness. And I was. Blown away, that is. This is one powerful book. In my head, I'm not that far away from high school (though getting farther by the day), so I could relate, intimately and in great detail, with so many of the situations described in Hannah's tapes. Not all - I am grateful I wasn't exposed to everything Hannah deals with. But wow, a lot of it hit home - both things done to me, and things I did.

I found the narrative structure to be quite effective - Hannah's and Clay's thoughts intertwine throughout the pages, often giving two different sides to the same events. I thought the author did a great job of capturing the teenage mindset - while Clay and Hannah are obviously supposed to be sympathetic, there were times when they were a little bit whiny and "teenagery", which I found quite appropriate. Teens are whiny sometimes, even the great ones, and Asher didn't try to paint his protagonists as perfect.

This is not an easy book to read. I had to set it aside on a couple of occasions, to give myself a break and catch my breath. But, honestly, I believe it's a valuable book, especially for kids just entering their teen years. Most kids don't realize what their words and actions can do to each other - I know I didn't - and I think a book like this might give them some insight. It does deal with some sexual situations, and have some language that some parents might find objectionable. I would encourage parents to read it along with their kids, and try to have the discussion about the issues it brings up.

I highly recommend this book - it is captivating, and heartwrenching, and beautiful. And, as impossible as it seems, it manages to end with a flicker of hope. It's one book lately that deserves the buzz it has been receiving!

Finished: 4/21/09
Source: my shelves - my copy is on its way to Kathrin - enjoy!
Rating: 9/10

Don't just take my word for it - here's what some other fabulous bloggers had to say:

Medieval Bookworm
Bermudaonion's weblog
Beth Fish Reads
A Reader's Respite
S. Krishna's Books
My Friend Amy
The Zen Leaf


J.S. Peyton said...

I've heard a lot about this book lately. I don't think this is my cup of tea, but I'm glad you liked it. =)

bermudaonion said...

I think this would be a great book for kids and parents to read together. I wish the author had listed the warning signs of suicide somewhere in the book since a few of them were briefly mentioned in the story. Thanks for the link love.

Molly said...

I requested this book over 6 weeks ago from my local library and I am still number 30 on the waiting list!

I am very anxious to read it and your review has caused me to become slightly impatient :)

Belle said...

Great review. I've had this on my list for a while now. I really should get to it soon - it sounds like a wonderful read.

Meghan said...

I totally agree with you, this is a stunning book. I think there is a lot to learn from it for teenagers, too, especially given that as you say, it captures the teenage mindset so well.

Thank you for linking to my review!

Elizabeth said...

J.S. - I understand it not being your cup of tea - it's definitely intense, and not an easy read.

bermuda - I agree that it would have been a good addition for the author to include a list of the signs of suicide.

Molly - I was on the wait list at the library forever, too - eventually, I got lucky and found a copy at Half Price books!

Belle - I do think you would enjoy it!

Meghan - I was impressed by how well he got the teenage voice!

Rebecca :) said...

Nice review! I have this one on my TBR list.

Gavin said...

Wonderful review. I had this book from my library but had to return it as I ran out of time. I will put it on hold again,thanks!

Joanne said...

I agree with what you said about being able to relate - High School is a good 10+ years behind me, but I found a lot of the behavior very familiar.

Great review!

jehara said...

i am definitely going to have to pick this one up. great review. :)