… the high school girl who held her tormentors responsible for her suicide? In Jay Asher’s critically acclaimed teen novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, Clay Jensen wakes up to find a set of cassette tapes on his front door from Hannah Baker, his classmate and long-time crush who killed herself two weeks previously. The tapes promise to detail the reasons why she killed herself, and they promise to name the people who led her to her decision. When a person received the tapes, that meant they played a role in Hannah’s death.
The story itself is told from Clay’s point of view as he listens to the tapes, but the text alternates from Clay to Hannah’s voice on the cassette tapes. And because of how Hannah has constructed her story, the reader is at the mercy of her narration. We can’t fast forward or skip ahead. We are drawn, little by little, into Hannah’s world.
After reading this book, I instantly understood why this has been such a noteworthy title in the world of young adult fiction. Besides being an unstoppable page turner, this is a very, very realistic and heart-wrenching story about how one person’s actions can have lasting repercussions. I have to admit, as a high school outcast, I related very strongly to the book. It brought back long-buried memories and realizations of how strongly I was affected by the people I went to school with. Obviously, my life did not end tragically like Hannah’s, but her experiences touched a nerve in me.
Teens will likely have an easier time relating to this story than adults, but as an adult, I can honestly say that the novel did its job. It drew me in, horrified me with stories of intentional and unintentional manipulation, and made me think about my own experiences. This is a powerful, yet universal story that should be required reading for every teenager.
Reviewed by Katie (staff)