Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Prior to committing suicide, Hannah records tapes that she places in a box. These messages–thirteen reasons why–detail the series of events that led her to take her life. She mails the box of tapes to the first person on the list with instructions to listen and then mail the box to the next person on the list and so on.
I wasn’t planning on reading this book, but I needed to find a banned book because ’tis the season, and I had already read all the ghost books on the banned list. Note to banning zealots: Let’s get some more ghost novels on the banned list for next year, all right?
It was also R.I.P. Challenge time.
Making my way through Thirteen Reasons Why, I thought it was quite clever to include a listener to the tapes–Hannah’s friend Clay. Clay offers background information and grieves with every revelation. Otherwise, the novel might sound like an oral Gossip Girl, but it’s much deeper than that. My one quibble is that too many coincidences hang upon the events of one party. That felt a little implausible.
Anyhow, I selected Thirteen Reasons Why in audio format, and it just now occurs to me that was the best choice because (aside from the fact that I couldn’t cheat and peek at the end. I know, a nasty habit), I listened to Hannah’s thirteen reasons just as the characters would–her voice telling the thirteen stories that brought her to her untimely end. The book blurb led me to believe Hannah’s story was a self-indulgent revenge tirade. Now, having read this, I think her (and the author’s) motivation was to leave a legacy of sorts and to provide a roadmap of the way in which even small unkindnesses can build and destroy those among us who are sensitive.
I’ve read that some high school classes are reading Thirteen Reasons Why and having discussions. I think that’s an excellent thing (though this book might not be appropriate for some sensitive and suggestible teens). There’s too much bullying and unkindness, and we need to be reminded of the power of our words and actions, intended or not.