Published by Razorbill on October 18, 2007
Genres: Young Adult
Amazon / Barnes & Noble
You don’t know what went on in the rest of my life. At home. Even at school. You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life.
I’ve read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher a few times now, and each time I am moved to tears and then anger when I hear of libraries banning the novel. This novel about teen suicide ~ what leads up to high school freshman, Hannah, committing suicide and how her suicide affects fellow freshman, Clay Jensen.
The story begins with Clay opening a package sent to him from Hannah who very recently killed herself. Inside the package are several cassette tapes and when Clay puts the first one into the cassette player it is Hannah’s voice he hears. Hannah telling him about the people she believes helped lead her to the decision to take her own life. There’s Justin who started rumors of how a kiss was much more than a kiss; Tyler, a peeping tom who took pictures of Hannah in her own bedroom; and Courtney who helped Hannah identify Tyler but then took advantage of Hannah’s friendship. On and on and on Hannah goes through a list of thirteen reasons why. . .Clay is to listen to the tapes and then mail to the next person on the list.
When she gets home tomorrow, or the next day, she’ll find a package on her doorstep. Or if her mom or dad or someone else gets there first, maybe she’ll find it on her bed. And she’ll be excited. I was excited. A package with no return address? Did they forget, or was it intentional? Maybe from a secret admirer?
Clay knew Hannah from their job over the summer at a movie theater when he first developed a crush on her. Several times throughout the tapes and the novel we are told of instances where Clay tried to help Hannah only to fall short or be too late. As Clay listens to each tape and hears the downward spiral and the consequences of each person’s actions, his character grows in only the way that someone who has survived a tragedy can exhibit ~ it’s either accept responsibility, grow and change the world with your newfound knowledge. . .or wallow in self-pity and guilt, wasting a life. The mystery of the novel comes from why Hannah chose the way out that she did and how Clay chooses to deal with her death. . .and the reasons why.
This novel targets so many challenges faced by high schoolers today ~ drinking, sex, friendship, suicide, responsibility and how we never truly know someone else’s life. Unfortunately, it has been on the frequently banned books list since its publication in 2007. And why? For confronting the very subjects our teenagers are handling ~ alcohol, drugs, suicide, sex. Asher does an amazing job of grabbing the reader from the opening line and not letting go ~ ever. I highly recommend this novel to every teenager, parent, teacher, or anyone else who works with teens.
[Tweet “@jayasher knows the heart of teens as revealed in #thirteenreasonswhy”]
To bring awareness to the too many books on the banned book lists I am giving away a book from the Banned Book Lists at the American Library Association website. To enter please leave a comment about your favorite banned book. The winner will be selected on September 21st. The contest ends on Friday, September 20th at 11:59 pm. This contest is open to all ~ international friends included. The winner will be able to choose a book up to $15 from either amazon or the book depository.
This post is in participation with Book Journey’s “Reading to Beat the Banned.” To read additional posts on banned books this week please visit Book Journey. And be sure to check back here during the official Banned Book Week, September 22-29 when I will be giving away several special prizes!