Monday, 23 September 2013

Caragh Reviews - Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Published - 16th September 2009
Publisher - Penguin
Format - Paperback
Synopsis - You can't stop the future. You can't rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret is to press play. Clay Jensen returns home to find a strange package with his name on it. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and first love – who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah's voice explains there are thirteen reasons why she killed herself. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why. All through the night, Clay keeps listening – and what he discovers changes his life... forever.

I first heard about this book from Priscilla's YouTube Channel (find the video here) and it really did intrigue me! As always, I then completely forgot about it until I just happened to spot it crammed in between Neil Gaiman books at the library! Despite promising myself to not check any more books out, I did it anyway and it was really GOOD!

Thirteen Reasons Why tells the story of Hannah Baker's suicide. It was really interesting as the story comes through the medium of cassette tapes which made the format of the book and the actual storytelling very different and unique which I loved. At the beginning it was a little confusing as italics were the only thing that set apart Hannah from Clay but it soon became fluid and very easy to follow. I can definitely see why people choose the audiobook format for this one and maybe one day i'll have to listen too!

Hannah desperately wants the people who hurt her to know why she took her own life and what part they played in that. Honestly it does feel somewhat childish - that Hannah wants revenge and wants others to hurt with her but by the end of the story I didn't feel that anymore. By the end of Hannah's tapes I started to forget about the frustration I felt about Hannah's 'revenge act' and realised that what she was actually doing was changing people, for the better. Hannah wasn't able to help herself. She felt lost and defeated by the actions of others and her own responses to those actions but by sending out the tapes to the people who hurt her, she had the chance to help them to help themselves.

I've read a lot of reviews in which people found Thirteen Reasons Why to lack any true emotional depth and I'm completely baffled by that. Sure, Hannah is often blasé and dispassionate when she talks but this is a girl who is literally on the edge of taking her own life after being mentally tortured for a long time. She no longer reasons in the same way that mentally healthy people do. It is Clay who feels the emotions as ultimately it is Clay's story we are interested in, not Hannah. Through the tapes we see how Clay changes, grows up, shows and reacts to emotions etc. I think some people took Hannah's tapes to mean the story was about her and I don't think that's necessarily true.

Thirteen Reasons Why could make a great discussion book and it's quick and easy to read. Judging by other reviews, this book can be very hit and miss but I would definitely suggest trying it yourself before turning it down. I really enjoyed it.

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