Why read Thirteen Reasons Why? Why not? Check out Robert and Bryan’s review of the painfully good book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
Bryan’s quick summary:
Clay Jensen never expected the tapes. 7 tapes with 13 stories told by Hannah Baker, Clay’s crush and a victim to suicide. Each story holds a clue as to why his classmate ended her life. And Clay is one of the unknowing culprits. Only by listening to each of the tapes will Clay know the truth behind Hannah’s life, Hannah’s death, and the role he played.
Thirteen Reasons Why is by Jay Asher
So what did we think? (From a reader’s perspective)
1. (Bryan) Very sad and very important. This reminded me of the movie Requiem for a Dream. Everybody should watch and read painful art at least once, and while I don’t plan on reading again, I would recommend it wholeheartedly.
2. (Robert) What a wonderfully immersing story, told as it is by an intertwined dual-voice narrative: Clay, and his experience of listening to the tapes; and Hannah, whose voice returns from the dead (italicized in the text). It takes a little while to adjust to the fractured reading experience this creates, yet perfectly underscores the raw nature of Clay’s experience.
3. (Robert) Both main characters – Clay and Hannah – are entirely believable, and as a sensitive male, I wanted to be Clay, which made the “reasons” all the more personal. I’d be interested how a female reader would feel about the story. There are very real descriptions of cruel treatment, but far worse is the [SPOILER ALERT] rape witnessed by Hannah [END SPOILER], and some more explicit scenes near the end of the book. Not suitable for the under-16s!
What did we think from a writer’s perspective?
1. (Bryan) I love that Asher as a first time author was willing to do something so unique to tell his story. It shows how important originality is to your work.
2. (Robert) Some 1-star reviewers have been highly critical of what they saw as the unrealistic portrayal of “reasons” to commit suicide and some character’s reactions, and that this did a disservice to the discussion and support for severe depression leading to potential suicide in teens. This is harsh criticism indeed. Clay may well be an unreliable narrator, as is Hannah, who clearly lays “blame” … but it’s a story, folks, not a psychological thesis! ANYTHING that catches the imagination of teenagers and gets them discussing how and why some behaviors are inappropriate; what bullying and sexual abuse really is and how it might occur, is a “GOOD THING”. Grrr. I’ll certainly be recommending it to my daughter when she’s old enough.
3. (Robert) The narrative device of two voices almost alternating lines and paragraphs is a challenging one to write, yet Jay Asher handles it sensationally. In my version, there were author’s notes at the back, which I highly recommend reading. Asher says he initially tried to write the alternating voices as they appear in the book, but it was too hard, and in the end he wrote Hannah’s story first.
Bryan and Robert’s Famous Takeaways:
1. If you need to tackle a tough issue, be relentless in your portrayal.
2. An educational and thought-provoking story. Should be required reading in schools, even though some students will roll their eyes.
3. Deep themes are revealed through a well-told story. It would be easy to preach, but just like “Before I Fall,” Asher gets the balance right.
Prompt of the Week:
If you could mine some tragedy in your own life to turn into a book, what would you choose and why? How do you think your experience would give you the knowledge you need to do it justice?