Asher, Jay. 2007. Thirteen Reasons Why.
Hello, boys and girls. Hannah Baker here. Live and in stereo...No return engagements. No encore. And this time absolutely no requests...I hope you're ready, because I'm about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you're listening to these tapes, you're one of the reasons why....I'm not saying which tape brings you into the story. But fear not, if you received this lovely little box, your name will pop up...I promise. (7)Before Hannah Baker ended her life with an overdose of pills, she wanted to leave behind a message. She recorded seven tapes--thirteen sides--that revealed bit by bit her drama and why she, in the end, felt like she had no other options. Clay Jensen is one of the tape's recipients. He is our narrator or guide through this listening experience. We hear Hannah's words alongside his thoughts and words. Hers are italicized. His aren't. He came home from school one day to find this package--a shoebox wrapped in paper and mailed--on his front porch. And from the time he first hits play...his life will already never be the same.
I wish I'd never seen that box or the seven tapes inside it. Hitting play that first time was easy. A piece of cake. I had no idea what I was about to hear. But this time, it's one of the most frightening things I've ever done. I turn the volume down and hit play. (9)Clay Jensen at first feels like it's some kind of mistake. He never did anything to Hannah. He worked side by side with her at the movies. They made small talk. And one night--at a party--they made out. That's it. Why would he be to blame for her death? He couldn't, could he?
As the story unfolds, the reader learns that some actions have unforeseen consequences. A bit of gossip here or there, a rude word there, etc. Some were quite malicious--like her first boyfriend whose imagination got carried away with him. He ruined her reputation after their very first date. And why? Because he liked to talk big with the guys. Or how about the guy who labeled her the hottest a** in class? From then on, guys who were practically strangers tried to get away with grabbing her butt. Or how about the peeping tom who stalked her outside her bedroom window? Some people on the tapes are evident creeps and jerks...others seem more shocking.
Thirteen Reasons Why is without a doubt one of the best books of the year. Why? It isn't because it's sad. It isn't because it's about suicide. It isn't because it's dramatic. It's because it's well-written; it's real. The characters--from Hannah and Clay through all of the minor characters that come up as "reasons" such as Justin and Brent and Jenny--are so real, so well-developed, so human. The story is haunting and it's easy to understand why Clay's life will never be the same. How Hannah's death and life have changed him. Clay couldn't stop until he'd heard the tapes; I couldn't stop from reading til her story was through. It was very gripping, very haunting.