Jane's Reviews > Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
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Aug 16, 2011

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Read in August, 2011

The premise seems like a horrible one for a young adult novel. A young girl commits suicide and leaves tapes for people who affected her decision. They are directed to pass the tapes on to the next person on the list, and because they are also told that there is another copy of the tapes and they will be made public if the recipients don't follow instructions, they do. The narrator is one of the recipients, and he can't understand why. His voice and the main character, Hannah's, voices go back and forth. Someone commented that she listened to an audio version, and I can imagine that would work well.

The book is really about teen culture, rumors, crushes and loneliness. Hannah is presented as someone with her own set of issues. At times I think she's cruel, makes many poor decisions (before her final one) and misses what are acts of kindness and genuine interest. I like that she's presented as believable, but I wonder about how teen readers see her. A friend said he'd never give this book to a teenager. I understand his point. The book does introduce the possibility of suicide as a possibility, but given that kids see news articles and TV about the topic already, it also seems to be a vehicle for conversation and reflection. The author says that one young reader wrote to him that the book made her want to be "wonderful." I think the point is that we don't know one another's stories and we don't know the impact our words and actions can have. I still wouldn't suggest the book to fifth or sixth graders, but I can see ways in which it could be useful and important for older teens. I'm curious about what others think.
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