Friday, September 17, 2010

Review of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I have this inclination to buy any book that I've heard of before that my library doesn't stock whenever I see it in a store. That's what happened to make me read Thirteen Reasons Why. I'd heard of it from a friend, couldn't find it at my local library, but then bought it on impulse when I saw it.

The blurb reads:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

The premise of this book is quite intriguing. Asher said in a interview printed in the back of the paperback of the book that he likes books with unusual formats. His debut novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, had that unusual format. It had two simultaneous narratives running: one told first-person from Clay's perspective, and the other told by the late Hannah Baker through her suicide tapes.

Though the premise was interesting, and the prose was well written, Hannah's character really irked me. In her tapes, she comes off as melodramatic and overly sarcastic for someone so supposedly depressed. The events leading up to her suicide don't seem serious enough to make her take her own life. For instance, (mild spoiler warning), the first tape details her first kiss with Justin Foley, and the subsequent rumors that more than kissing was done. I can understand some melancholy about that situation - but sending the tapes onto him, making him feel unneccessarily guilty?

Though, after the tapes are finished, and Clay sends the tapes on, the book does improve. In between listening to the tapes, Clay narrates his trek around town, following all the places Hannah talks about. More than once, he sees a girl from school named Skye (this is the first time I've ever read of a character with my name)(also, another spoiler warning). He describes her as once popular and bubbly, but now more reserved and sad. She portrayed all the characteristics that Hannah did preceding her suicide. During the tapes, Clay expresses guilt at not trying harder to help Hannah, and for not noticing her downfall. The book ends with Clay calling after Skye in the hallway, doing for her what he failed to do for Hannah.

I found out after reading this that someone had actually made Hannah's tapes, and they can be found at

My final verdict is that I'd be interested in future releases from Jay Asher, and I give his debut a 3 out of 5.

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