Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Genre: YA contemporary fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone
First line: “Sir?” she repeats. “How soon do you want it to get there?”
High school junior Clay Jensen arrives home from school to find a package waiting for him. It’s addressed to him with no return address and contains 7 cassette tapes. When Clay pops the first tape into his tape deck, he is shaken to hear the voice of Hannah Baker, a classmate who recently committed suicide. Hannah has recorded these tapes in order to explain the reasons she decided to take her own life. As Clay listens to Hannah connect the dots, he realizes that the people in Hannah’s life touched her, sometimes harming her, in ways they never could have imagined. As he listens, he is left to wonder where he fits into the grim picture Hannah is drawing.
I have read so many glowing reviews of Thirteen Reasons Why that I was left wondering if it could even begin to live up to its reputation. It did. I listened to the audiobook edition. Joel Johnstone read the words of Clay; Debra Wiseman read Hannah’s words from the tapes. This had a chilling effect – it made it seem so real to hear those words in the voice of a teenage girl. I couldn’t stop listening – it was absolutely riveting. I knew that Hannah’s story was devastating, and yet I had to know how all the pieces fit together – and especially how Clay fit into the picture.
There were so many people whose lives brushed up against Hannah’s. At best, they were self-involved and petty. At worst, they were controlling and abusive and evil. This story is a graphic depiction of how we effect the people around us – and how our actions and words have the power to effect someone’s life for good or for bad. As I listened, I became especially frustrated and angry at the adults in Hannah’s life: her parents, her peer communications teacher, her guidance counselor. All of these people should have seen the signs in Hannah’s life, the signals she was sending that she was coming to the end of herself – but they didn’t. The missed them, and the consequences were deadly.
This is definitely a must-read for teenagers, because at that time of life it is too easy to become self-involved and make choices based on the need to fit in or impress others, without thought to how those choices will shape our future – and the futures of those around us.