Before I had a book blog, I sporadically wrote about books on my personal blog.  From time to time, I like to share here some of my favorite books I’ve read during the last three years.  I originally read this one in August of 2009. It haunted me so much that I checked out the audiobook after I returned the paper book.  The subject matter is heavy, but Asher handles it very well. He accurately portrays the distorted thinking that accompanies depression that leads to suicidal thoughts.

thirteen reasons whyName of Book: TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY

By: Jay Asher

Publisher: Razorbill

Copyright Date: October 2007

Number of Pages: 304

Format: young adult, fiction

Reason for Reading: As an adolescent and a young adult, I dealt with a lot of heavy stuff that caused me to fall into deep depressions, wherein I contemplated suicide. I could relate to the character of Hannah. Obviously, I overcame my struggles as I am very much alive, thriving and well into adulthood. I was also curious to see how the subject matter was dealt with.

Rating: A

Clay Jensen arrives home from school one day to find an unmarked package on his doorstep. He opens it to find seven audiocassettes, each side labeled with a different number. He plays the first tape to discover the voice of Hannah Baker, a classmate who killed herself two weeks ago. She says there are thirteen reasons why she did it and he is one of them. He must listen to find out the role he played.

This was a powerfully written, haunting, sad tale. The novel is written in a dual narrative, intertwining Hannah and Clay’s voices. You get Clay’s reaction to Hannah’s words immediately. Sometimes I would have to re-read a few lines when the lines overlapped one by one, but overall it was a very effective way to tell the story.

At times it was agonizing to read, as Hannah’s story unfolded because everything you were learning about had already happened and you couldn’t stop it or help since Hannah was gone too. I felt with Clay as he was listening and responding, getting insight into certain events; I felt his anger at Hannah, I felt his remorse, I felt his sadness.

Asher captures the high school experience well. He illuminates the effect our words and actions have on other people, whether we realize it or not.

When I turned the final page, I can’t describe the emotion coursing through me. I was moved. It was very similar to the experience of watching a really good, powerful, moving play, the curtains have dropped and it’s over-there is a lot of emotion, no thought, just feeling whatever it was I just witnessed. I felt sad yet hopeful. I felt like crying but no tears came. I just sat with the book for several moments and let the book wash over me.

These are the kinds of books I like best. The ones that leave me with their ghost at the end. The ones that sit with me after the final page has been turned.

This entry was posted in Fiction, Posts by Jehara, YA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Review: TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I liked this book, but not as much as everyone else. I thought Hannah created some of her own misery and then blamed it on other people. Sure, that’s typical teen behavior, but she took it a step too far.

    • jehara says:

      I can understand that. Hannah didn’t make good choices in her response to the sexual harassment she was subjected to at school. In my eyes, her biggest mistake was not talking to anyone about what was happening. However, that is not uncommon. Many people that ultimately commit suicide do so because of feeling unloved, unworthy, and because of actions they perceive as being against them, which just fuels their own negative thinking. Depression causes distorted thinking, which can be really difficult to get out of. Yes, Hannah certainly is responsible for her actions, in taking her own life and how she chose to react to the world around her. However, all of our actions towards others are intricately linked in ways we cannot always know, which was the biggest takeaway for me.

  2. Amy says:

    I really appreciate your honesty in telling us why you read this book and the connection you felt to it. It sounds like a powerful, sad and disturbing book as well as a very important one in terms of the way life can feel for young people. The premise is really interesting and the way Asher delivers the story justaposing Hannah’s past with Clay’s present is intriguing. I cannot imagine how Clay must have felt to receive the cassettes from a deceased classmate and to be told he was one of the reasons for her death. Wow!
    Thank you for a terrific, insightful review and for being here to tell us about it :o)

    • jehara says:

      Thanks, Amy! I was initially hesitant to get so personal, but it was the reason I was drawn to the book, and that seemed important to share.
      I really liked the way the story was written with the dual narrative. I also really enjoyed listening to it on audio with the male and female narrators. It is definitely a powerful book.

  3. Heather says:

    I enjoyed the book because it caused so many different emotions in me. One, Hannah was doing the blaming game and if you think about it, her crap wasn’t as bad as other people’s crap…but I think that was the point. It was a story to get you thinking about what are actions do and how they affect those around us for good or bad. Some people are going to do what they do no matter what but I took from it a way to be aware of those around us and our actions. Kind of a do better after reading kind of book. It’s also a way to discuss suicide. People get depressed and suicidal even when their lives may be super peachy. So it was a “be aware” book too. Anyway, sorry to go on so long. But this book really got me thinking as well!

    • jehara says:

      I think that was exactly the point. The thing is, it doesn’t matter how great your life might seem from the outside. Your life could be great, but if your internal world is murky and distorted, it doesn’t matter. I can’t speak for others, but for me one of the hardest things about depression was the jarring juxtaposition of knowing that my life was good, but my internal world didn’t match it. It made me beat myself up even more.
      I can understand the premise may make some readers uncomfortable, but the beauty of it is that it provides a vehicle for the reader to understand what was going on in Hannah’s mind. Yeah, she played the blame game, but I can understand how she felt. There were parts of the story that made me really uncomfortable, but I think if there wasn’t the ambiguity, it wouldn’t have been as powerful.
      Also, Hannah’s interpretation of events is not unlike students who are on the fringe and end up taking out schools. Instead of turning on her peers, she turned on herself.
      Ultimately though, I think the most pertinent message is be aware of your actions and how they may affect others. That was my biggest takeaway.
      This book gets me thinking as well. 🙂

  4. Staci says:

    I thought this book was amazing and that a YA book club could really benefit from reading and discussing it! Excellent review of a worthwhile and important read!

  5. Kacie says:

    I’ve always thought about reading this book and this review has inspired me to finally make sure that I do.

  6. stacybuckeye says:

    I recently listened to the audio and, like you, it haunted me for a week. What I still take away from it is that we don’t know how our actions will influence or effect someone else, so it’s best to be kind 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s