Thursday, February 17, 2011

Book Hungry's February Frosting: TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY

I first read Jay Asher's tale of teen tragedy last June.  Since then, I have told everyone and their mother about how this was a must-read book.  So, when Patty Blount chose it for Book Hungry's February selection, I did a little happy dance. 

Upon the re-read, this still holds true.  For those of you who haven't read 13RW, you must first know that this isn't just the story of a girl who commits suicide.  It's more about the aftermath, about how those around her struggle to come to grips with the tragedy and make sense of her death.

To Clay Jensen, Hannah Baker was the girl he'd always wanted but never really had the courage to approach...that is until a party just shortly before her death.  Then, she commits suicide, and shortly thereafter, our story begins with Clay receiving an anonymous package containing seven audio cassette tapes...the Baker's Dozen.  Hannah's thirteen reason why she did what she did.

At first, Clay wants nothing to do with them.  As the first tape begins playing and realizes what is contained on the collection, he decides that he'll listen no further, but before he can stop the tape, Hannah tells him that he is on the tapes and that he is one her 'reasons why'. 

What follows is an emotionally charged journey in which Clay spends the night following Hannah's voice to destination after destination.  Through Hannah's revelations, Clay begins to see well-known streets and storefronts of his small town in a whole new that is much darker and more secretive than he'd ever known before.  Before the night and the last tape ends, Clay will discover what his role was in Hannah Baker's suicide, and his life will be irrevocably altered.

My Opinion:
The subject matter here is nothing new.  I've read many books and seen even more movies where a teen commits this senseless act.  And, while good, the writing wasn't brilliant...although the format and the layering of the two narratives kept me riveted the whole way through, so much so that Asher could've written this in five one-syllable word sentences and I'd probably still enjoy.  The pacing was that well done.

For me, it was Clay more than it was Hannah that really shone here.  Yes, Hannah committed suicide and that was a tragedy.  And yes, I did have a very vocal reaction at the beginning of #13 (just like Clay), but we all knew from the start how this would end: with her death.  No surprise there. 

But, Clay...well, I liked him from the very beginning.  There was just something so complex about him.  I could really tell that Asher made a great effort to construct the many different layers that made up Clay.  With Hannah, there were times that she was one-note, but I think it needed to be that way.  After all, the reader could only know her through her tapes and Clay's memories of her...which were both a bit skewed (Clay having put her up on a pedestal and Hannah believing herself to be worthless).

So, I found myself not wanting Clay to be on the tapes at all because I so did not want him to have caused Hannah's death, no matter how indirect his influence may have been.  Does that make any sense?  And then, of course, when his name popped up, I was more than a little relieved that he hadn't really done anything horrible enough to warrant being there...but then, my relief gave way to irritation because how could he not feel even a smidgen of guilt, no matter what Hannah said on the tapes to gloss over the reason for him being on the list?  Now, I know that if you haven't read this book, you're not going to get that.  oh well *shrugs*

Anywho, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY is still one of my favorite YA books.  I'm glad to say that didn't change on the re-read. Now that you've heard my take, hop on over the other Book Hungry members' blogs (see side bar) for their opinions.

Until next month, folks, when Kelly Breakey has chosen NATURAL BORN CHARMER by Susan Elizabeth Phillips


  1. Sounds like a book that would hurt to read. Just hearing about it makes me glad my kids aren't teenagers anymore.

  2. I am with you on this. The book just seems to stay with you. Here I am almost a week later and I still can't get it out of my head. That is the mark of a good story teller.

  3. first off, i love how you spelled the title of the post.

    secondly, love your review. you nailed the characterizations of clay and hannah and the essence of the book. this is clay's journey, not hannah's, and it's a more positive read if you focus on him.

    thanks again for "forcing" me to read this. you did good.

  4. I agree. This is a must read...and I hear there's a movie in the works.

  5. This was a lovely review, Karla, and it's interesting because I agree completely, and yet I didn't like the book nearly as much. :) What makes you think Clay didn't feel any guilt, though? I got the sense that he did, and even thought it was out of proportion to his offense (which, seriously, didn't she ask him to do what he did, like, three times, and she even threw a fit and screamed it into a pillow)?

  6. Elizabeth: I definitely think that Clay felt guilty (a whole lot more than he ever should have). My point was that if Clay had never been sent those tapes, he wouldn't have felt guilt so much as confusion. But, he did receive the tapes which opened with the disclaimer that 'if you got them, you are a reason why' she did what she did. Yes, she did flat out say that Clay was the only one who didn't actually hurt her but then she went on to say that he had to be on the list anyway because their stolen moments had affected the other 'reasons'. In my mind, no matter how she spun it, he'd end up feeling like he pulled the trigger so to speak. She may have thought she was releasing him from blame, but she only added to his guilt. Did that make any sense?


Everyone has an opinion. Make yours known, right here. right now!