Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, totally worn out and screaming,
"WOO HOO, what a ride!"

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Review: Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher

You can't stop the future.
You can't rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret to press play.
-from back cover

When Clay Jensen arrives home after school a package with his name on it is waiting on his porch. When he opens the package he discovers a set of seven cassette tapes with each side numbered 1-13 but no other information. It is only after he starts listening to a tape that he is shocked to discover the voice of Hannah Baker, a classmate who committed suicide a few weeks ago. Clay had liked Hannah and even had a crush on her. He had no idea why he received these tapes and what they were about. Now he was listening to her voice telling him that he was one of the people who had some responsibility for her death. How was that possible? Clay's journey into Hannah's world is brutal. She bares her soul and has a lot to say and she doesn't sugarcoat it. These are her last words and she says everything she has ever wanted to say.

I've heard from others who have read this book that the audio version is excellent, especially since it has two readers. There is so much back and forth between Hannah's voice on the tapes and Clay's thoughts I think that it would be an excellent way to experience this story. Sometimes it switches between characters after every sentence and that can be confusing at times. I also had too many interruptions at home while I was reading this book and I needed to it be a continuous flow. The later chapters of the book felt a bit drawn out as Hannah's tapes continued. I did have much sympathy for her and although I didn't find her unlikeable at all it made Hannah less likable for me.

My high school self would have reacted very differently to this book compared to my grown-up, parent self now. Even though we lived very different teenage years I would have been able to relate better to those raw emotions. As an adult I know that things do change and high school doesn't last forever. With time you can hopefully learn to cope better with your feelings, issues and hardships. But as a teenager with a broken heart or hurt feelings I would have had a hard time believing that myself.

In this debut novel for Jay Asher he delivers an important message with his details of Hannah's life and death. Like most people she did have some warning signs before she took her life. It's always easier in hindsight though, when you look back and recognize things that never seemed life threatening at the time. We've had two family members go through the same thing as teens. They thought suicide was the only answer to their problems. One of them survived and one did not. My younger cousin had a horrible childhood but it had improved greatly and we all thought he was doing well. His senior year of high school he took a bottle of pills. He was found in time but he spent several days in ICU recovering from his near death experience. Fortunately he did survive and now many years later he is happily married with one child and another one on the way. My husband's cousin was not so fortunate. He was in his early 20's when a romantic relationship fell apart. He felt he couldn't live without her so he took his father's gun and ended his life. His parents have never recovered and never will. They carry a deep sadness and will forever think of what could have been.

This book was written for young adults but it will have an impact on anyone who reads it. I look forward to reading more from this author.


  1. I'm looking forward to reading this one!

  2. This looks good. I'll have to look for the audio. Thanks for the great review :)

  3. I listened to this book last month on unabridged audio. It was incredible. I thought the story was breathtaking, and listening to the audio made it that much better. It felt like Hannah was playing the tapes for me. Loved your review on this!

  4. This is a very powerful book. I listened to the audio and have been recommending it to everyone!

  5. Interesting to point out that your "high school self" would have reacted differently than your "grown up self" did.

    I think that's why I've stayed away from reviewing YA books, because I don't know if I can step outside *me* to give a useful review.

    Instead, sometimes my almost-13-year-old daughter will review them :)

    *Th1rteen R3asons Why* does sound worth looking into!

  6. I loved this book from start to finish and am looking forward to reading more of Jay Asher's work. I didn't know about the audio, I think I'm going to have to look into that!


  7. Great review Wrighty. You are right, your perspective as a parent is so different than pre parenthood. That is so tragic that someone in their 20's would commit suicide over a breakup. It must have been a total heartbreak for his parents and I am sure the girl must carry some sense of guilt and anguish over it.

  8. I have teenagers and a long car trip coming up, this may be the perfect book on tape to listen to and talk about.

  9. The more I hear from others it sounds like the audio version might be more to my liking. I'll have to try it to compare.

    Dawn - Don't sell yourself short! You don't have to be a kid to review a YA or even child's book. And you don't have to think back to your perspective when you were younger. Your opinions now are what's valuable. Maybe you could try reviewing some books along with your daughter and compare your thoughts. That would be interesting to hear!

    Kim - I have teens too and I know any opportunity for a discussion is a good one. I don't want to give anything away but there are more issues here than just suicide. You may want to check it out first so you aren't surprised by it yourself. It's all important but it's harsh. I just wanted to let you know. Have a great trip!

  10. I'd like to read this one eventually. I've heard really great things about it!

  11. This was one of my favorite books last year. LOVED it. The message was such a bold one. I wanted to buy the book for my other co-workers at the time. Such bitches that needed an attitude adjustment.


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