Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher – 4 stars
The premise of this book, I thought, was really interesting and original. It follows a boy who is mysteriously delivered thirteen cassette tapes. He finds that they hold the final ‘confessions’ of his school-mate who recently committed suicide; she describes the events and the people that pushed her into action.
What is effectively a dual narrative makes for a really fresh structure that was probably my favourite thing about this novel. It’s easy to read and keeps the reader gripped by a completely character-oriented story.
I think that this book is fantastic for dealing with problems that teens face all the time; it’s so important to understand that many people really find it difficult to cope. There are many points in this story that I felt frustrated at not being able to step in, and that’s a testament to the writer.
The one thing that really troubled me about this book was the character of Hannah – the girl who leaves the cassettes. This might just have been the performance (I listened to the audiobook), but I really felt that her voice was so strong – to make a series of cassettes not only ordering around twelve people, but blackmailing them strikes me as a very powerful thing to do. I felt for her, and her story is really tragic, but I didn’t feel like the writer got her quite to the point where I could understand her wanting to end everything.
Another thing I found really fascinating was the emphasis on the way little things can change everything; the author outlines numerous horrible events, and depicts the little differences that could have saved people. It’s difficult to read about mostly because it’s such a challenge: we can’t walk away from a book like this and remain indifferent.
Despite the general melancholy of the story, the tone is hopeful. It’s too late for Hannah, and our protagonist is obviously devastated, but he walks away stronger and braver; he’s not going to let anyone else slip away.
I’ve heard people say that the ending is unsatisfactory, but to me it’s perfect: a circular ending with the added wisdom gained by hindsight.
I flew through this book, and while the subject matter is obviously very heavy, it’s not told oppressively. If you’ve not read this yet, I really do recommend it.
If you have read it, let me know what you thought!
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!