The book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher was recently sent to me for review, and as it is Big Issues week at We Love YA, it was a perfect time to read the book. There is no bigger issue than teen suicide, and the people that are left behind are often left wondering why: what went wrong, what they could have done to prevent it. In this compelling story, Hannah Baker records a series of cassette tapes before she ends her life — the tapes tell the thirteen reasons why.
Here are thirteen reasons why you should read this book:
1. The book opens after our main protagonist Clay has listened to Hannah’s tapes and he is waiting at the post office to send them to the next person (the next reason) listed on the tapes. “But I never want to hear those tapes again, though her voice will never leave my head.” It’s a compelling and tense opening that immediately draws the reader in. I wanted to hear exactly what Clay had heard.
2. There is a dual narrative running throughout the book as Clay listens to Hannah’s tapes. The first narrative is that of Hannah explaining the circumstances that led to her decision to end her life, in past tense. The second narrative thread is Clay’s thoughts, in the present, as he listens to the tapes. This immediacy aligns the reader with Clay.
3. The character of Clay is well-rounded and I related well to him, drawn into his anxiety, wondering why he had received the package, what he’d done to Hannah to contribute to her death and it was both a relief and a burden to find out why he was named.
4. The story gives a realistic depiction of teen life seen through both Hannah and Clay’s perspective: including rumours, bullying, peer pressure.
5. Have you ever felt your life is out of control? I know I have. I can relate to some of what Hannah went through, even in my early twenties. I think this section sums it up nicely.
“Like driving along a bumpy road and losing control of the steering wheel, tossing you — just a tad — off the road. The wheels kick up some dirt, but you’re able to pull it back. Yet no matter how tightly you grip the wheel, no matter how hard you try to drive straight, something keeps jerking you to the side. You have so little control over anything anymore. And at some point, the struggle becomes too much — too tiring — and you consider letting go. Allowing tragedy…or whatever…to happen.”
I’m glad I never let go.
6. The story stays with you. It’s five days since I finished reading, and most of it was read in one sitting, and I’m still thinking about Hannah and Clay.
7. There is a high suicide rate amongst teens. Often the real story never gets out. The local papers report their death as a tragic accident. Awareness and prevention are needed. This book gives context to one girl’s story, thirteen reasons why, without sensationalism.
8. There are times when you need to step back from the fantasy world of vampires and witches, and instead consider the real-life demons that haunt teenagers – peer pressure, bullying, competitiveness, loneliness. Teenagers read the other books as a kind of escape, but sometimes it helps to read a story such as Thirteen Reasons Why to realise that they’re not alone, or how their behaviour may be affecting others.
9. Look around – maybe there’s a ‘Hannah in your class.’ Reach out to her.
10. Or maybe you are ‘Hannah.’ Let someone in.
11. Often we don’t think about the consequences of our actions, or even our words. We don’t think about the consequences of what we did, or what we didn’t do. But as Hannah says, “Everything affects everything.”
12. You’re a teen. You’re a parent. You’re a teacher. Read it.
13. The ending. Thirteen Reasons Why was gut-wrenching and I read the book almost straight through, tense all the way. Along with Clay, I knew that there was no way that Hannah could be saved. The decision and the act was already complete. But the story ended with hope for the future, and I loved that hope could shine through in such a dark subject.