Thirteen Reasons Why

Asher, J. (2007). Thirteen reasons why. New York: Razor Bill. Print.

Reader’s Annotation

When Clay Jensen gets a box in the mail full of old cassette tapes he doesn’t know what to expect; when they turn out to be from a classmate that recently committed suicide, he is even more perplexed. Follow along with Clay as Hannah tells him why she took her life.

Plot Summary

It all starts with a box on his porch. Clay Jensen hasn’t been oblivious to Hannah’s death, not by any means. They worked together at the local theater after all, and even if he was never really able to tell her, he had a huge crush on her. He never thought for an instant that he’d be the recipient of an after death message from her though. That’s what’s in the box though, 13 cassette tapes, 13 stories, of the reasons why Hannah took her own life. Clay digs up an old boom box in the garage and starts listening, not understanding how or why he made the list. He doesn’t want to hear what Hannah is saying, the secrets that she’s making known, but he’s got to know what happened. Clay takes to the street with a “borrowed” walkman and follows along with the map Hannah provided to the location of each offense, trying to make sense of all of Hannah’s pain, all the while trying to figure out what his part in the story is.

Critical Evaluation

This was a hard book for me. I read it because I knew that it won a bunch of awards and that everyone loved it, but I was turned off an annoyed by it right away. I don’t wan to speak ill of the dead, especially the fictional dead, but Hannah was kind of annoying. I don’t think I would have been able to sit through her 13 tapes of blame and accusation, with the exception of the one boy who couldn’t save her. Maybe I’m just too jaded, or too old to appreciate it, but the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. Highschool is a terrible, awful place, we all know it, blaming everyone else for your misery is such a cop out, and even though I feel bad about it because she committed suicide and awful things DID happen to her, Hannah was a seriously depressed girl who needed help and her actions don’t belong to anyone BUT herself. It’s such a load of crap to blame everyone else for your death, so manipulative and codependent, it really kind of pissed me off. That said, I understand the value of this book and why everyone loves it, I just wasn’t crazy about it myself.

Author Information

Jay Asher was born in 1975 in Arcadia, California. He attended CalPoly in San Luis Obisbo with the intention of becoming an elementary school teach, but dropped out his senior year to pursue his career as a writer. 13 Reasons Why is his first novel, he has also published The Future of Us with Carolyn Mackler and the novella Love in Progress

Genre

Suicide, YA Fiction, High School

Curriculum Ties

Supports CA Dept of Education literary response and analysis curriculum for grades 9 and 10:

3.3 Analyze interactions between main and subordinate characters in a literary text (e.g., internal and external conflicts, motivations, relationships, influences) and explain the way those interactions affect the plot.

3.4 Determine characters’ traits by what the characters say about themselves in narration, dialogue, dramatic monologue, and soliloquy.

3.6 Analyze and trace an author’s development of time and sequence, including the use of complex literary devices (e.g., foreshadowing, flashbacks).

Booktalk Ideas

Do you think suicide is a selfish act? Was Hannah’s?

What are some the ways Hannah was burned by those she thought were her friends? What about the adults in her life?

Why is Clay on the list? Why is Hannah apologizing to him?

Reading Level/Interest Age 

14+

Challenge Issues

This book is about a girl committing suicide. It also covers topics like sexual abuse, bullying, and underage drinking. The library defends each reader’s right to read, and has a policy against censorship. This book supports the CA Department of Education’s curriculum by using literary analysis techniques to determine the motivations and characteristics of the narrator and main protagonist  Additionally the book creates a safe space for teens to discuss the important topics of depression, bullying and worse. Furthermore, the book is the recipient of several awards and commendations by libraries and literary organization.

Alternate titles are: Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral, and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Reason for inclusion

It’s important for teens to be able to talk about depression and suicide. This book opens up that dialogue and creates a safe space for teens to talk about a topic that generally send parents and administrators into a frenzy.

References

Jay Asher. (2009). In Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CH1000185606&v=2.1&u=csusj&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w

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