Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

Okay, so Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why is, indeed, all that: It's a thought-provoking, compelling, and ultimately touching read for the YA audience.

For those of you who haven't read it yet, here's the set up: High school student Hannah Baker has killed herself. A few days later, Hannah's classmate Clay Jensen receives a box with seven audio cassettes--each side labeled from 1 to 13. Clay pops Tape 1 into a tape player and hears, "Hello, boys and girls. Hannah Baker here...I hope you're ready, because I'm about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you're listening to these tapes, you're one of the reasons why."

As Clay listens to the tapes, he follows Hannah's map around town--a map showing where she experienced indifferent or hostile treatment from the 13 people on her tapes. Clay--as does the reader--races through the tapes to understand why Hannah killed herself and what role did he--the valedictorian, the good boy--play in Hannah's death.

Asher's narrative skills are particularly strong. Hannah becomes increasingly serious and depressed as she describes what she experienced and witnessed in the days before her death. And, Clay begins to understand why and how Hannah shut down and gave up hope. While I do wish Clay had recognized that, ultimately, Hannah was responsible as well in choosing to kill herself, it's probably more realistic that he comes to the conclusions he did: that Hannah saw and experienced more than she could handle, lost hope, and, upon not receiving support from her high-school community, gave up.

Thirteen Reasons Why is a stand-out Young Adult title of 2007. Clay's conclusions (and I don't want to give anything away) are life-changing and, simply, beautiful. Every teen fifteen and older should read Thirteen Reasons Why.