Title: 13 Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Publisher: Penguin Books
Plot: The plot orbits around a young girl’s suicide. I haven’t seen this done before in YA – at least not to such a high standard. Told through a series of 7 two-sided tapes (with the exception of the last which is one-sided), Hannah takes us on an eerie journey from the first moment she starts to feel depressed and isolated right up until the moment she resolves to take her own life. The plot moves fast and is interspersed with what Hannah tells us on the tapes and Clay’s thoughts and actions as he listens and gets to grips with what she reveals.
Narration: The narrative style is genius. Told from Clay’s point of view in first-person but the tapes add an extra layer. Haunting and chilling, Hannah’s voice comes through loud and clear. The narrative voice when interspersed with Clay’s thoughts can get a little jarring sometimes.
Character: I think Hannah is the star of the story and not just because she is a tragic case. It’s because her voice is so strong in the tapes and that even though we know what happens, we still want Hannah to fight and we want her to choose life. She demonstrates humour and real pain and her character lets us see suicide not as a selfish act, but a cry for help and in Hannah’s case, she doesn’t get the help she needs. The other characters, Clay, his Mom and Dad (etc.) all function as would be expected. I think we could have seen more character from some of the others but at the same time, that would have detracted from the poignancy of the story and Hannah’s character.
Quality of Writing: There are some great phrases and the language used by both Clay and Hannah is, most of the time, easily discernible. The only criticism I have is that I felt, at times, the descriptions could have been a little bit sharper.
Setting: This ties in with the tapes which makes it more profound. From the rocket slide where it all begins to the school and the sweet shop Hannah visits after school, we always know where we are. We see this places physically through Clay’s eyes but they are reinforced by Hannah in the tapes when she tells us what they mean to her.
Comparative Literature: Asher crafts a magnificent story, touching on some crucial issues like bullying and suicide. As I’ve already said, I haven’t seen anyone else tackle this issue in such a hard-hitting way. It’s a book that makes you think and it will stay with you long after you finish it. The initial reason for Hannah’s spiral can seem a little bit melodramatic on her part but it’s the betrayal she feels by all these people, what they do exactly and how that takes away her confidence, her safe places and how it gives her an unwanted and undeserved reputation. See below for reading suggestions!
NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…
- Unique narrative style
- Tragic, hard-hitting story
- A story that will change the way you think and stick with you long after you finish it
Books You May Also Like:
Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen – another book that will stay with you long after you read it
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green – for another warm, tragic story that will change the way you think