The Book Shelf, A Teen Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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Courtney Bowers writes a monthly book review The Bookshelf, A Teen Review. Courtney is a junior at Heritage High School in Blount County. Join Courtney in the book discussion under comments.

When Clay Jensen received a package one fateful afternoon, he never dared to consider what it may contain. Soft-spoken and polite, Clay is a nice guy. Everyone likes him, because he never bothers anyone. So the last thing he expected to find inside that shoebox was a collection of seven cassette tapes, all recorded by a dead girl.

Hannah Baker had just killed herself a few weeks prior. She was his classmate, and she worked at the movie theater with him. Clay barely knew her, although he had a slight crush on Hannah. Why on earth would she send him tapes?

When he begins to listen, he realizes that the tapes are Hannah’s explanation for her suicide. Thirteen people led to her taking her life, and she intended for them all to know their part in her death.

Each person on the list is instructed to listen to the entire story, since they are a part of it, and then pass it on to the next person on the list. If they do not follow the rules, another set of tapes will be released, and then everyone will know the mistakes they had made.

Clay can’t believe that he could have been part of the reason why Hannah was gone. But as he listens to the story and goes to the places where the events happened, he is suddenly drawn into Hannah’s life and begins to learn the truth of what her life was like. Hannah’s problems all began with a boy who kissed her at the park and made her feel special, but then told all of his friends that he did much more than kiss her. It may have seemed like a harmless exaggeration, but it ruined Hannah’s reputation. Afterwards, she got more attention from boys that she ever wanted, causing girls to resent her, perverted guys to stalk her and her own self-esteem to diminish.

Clay listens intently to the tapes and sees how unfairly Hannah was treated, and how each disturbing lie and painful experience pushed her over the edge.

What Clay eventually discovers changes his life forever. Hannah tells Clay that she doesn’t blame him, but she thinks he could have been the one to save her from herself, although to be fair, she seldom gave him that opportunity. Filled with remorse, he wishes he could have spent more time with Hannah, and he could have prevented it all from happening. Clay can’t change the past, but perhaps Hannah’s words can change others, especially those who hurt her along the way and people like Hannah, silently suffering. If Clay has learned one thing, it’s that sometimes it’s not what you do, it’s what you don’t do.

Thirteen Reasons Why is an incredible novel. In fact, I stayed up half the night until I finished it. Asher is a fantastic storyteller, revealing one piece of the puzzle at a time so readers are desperate for more.

The theme of teen suicide may be mature, but it contains true life lessons. Hannah’s story is scarily realistic as to what can happen when teens are ostracized by their peers. I believe it is a novel that should be required reading for every high school student. It will definitely make you think twice before lying, making fun of someone or simply allowing others to ridicule someone. It is a book that will open your eyes to what goes on around you.

Hannah’s tapes changed the lives of those thirteen fictional people, and they also have the ability to change the lives of readers.

Have you read “Thirteen Reasons Why?” Discuss your thoughts on the book below.

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