A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{June 24, 2013}   13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

ThirteenReasonsWhyPlot: Clay receives a set of cassette tapes from Hannah Baker, the girl he had a crush on, the girl who had only recently killed herself. The tapes come with two rules: listen to all thirteen sides and then pass the tapes on to the next person on the list. If her instructions are not followed, the tapes and their contents will be shared with the world. So Clay finds himself compelled to listen as she explains the events that led to her suicide and denounces those responsible for those events.

This review is based on the audiobook version of the novel, read by Joel Johnstone and Debra Wiseman.

The conceit of the tapes makes this a perfect choice for an audiobook. I felt like I was listening to Hannah’s last words with Clay. Like him, I listened to them in a single day. Hannah’s words are hard, accusing but also sad.

There are a lot of books about suicide and dealing with the aftermath of it, especially in the YA world. But I like Asher’s approach. Hannah is more than an innocent victim getting back at the people who drove her to kill herself. Life and death are more complicated than that and so is Asher’s novel. Hannah’s despair is a combination of vicious rumours gone out of control, sexual harassment, a failure to connect with people and guilt at her own mistakes. She blames herself as much as she blames some of the recipients of the tapes.You can simultaneously understand why she couldn’t take it anymore and, like Clay, be angry at the waste of it. “I would have helped you if you asked,” is his refrain though Hannah seems to whisper in response “No one was listening. Every is too concerned with their own worlds and their own problems to see anyone else”.

If I had one complaint it is that Clay himself felt ill defined to me. Hannah says at one point that all the rumours about him are good and that, though she tried, she could find nothing to contradict them. And though he narrates the story, I don’t feel that I know him much better than she does. In a cast of flawed characters who each have their weight to bear – not all are bad people, by any measure, but they all have something to feel guilty about – he sometimes felt blank, a generic everyman.

A very impressive debut novel, that will make you think.

2013 (#36)


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