Th1rteen R3asons Why
by Jay Asher
AR Level 3.9, 9 points (totally NOT appropriate for kids)
This is the story of Hannah Baker’s life leading up to her suicide. More specifically, it is her explaining (via pre-recorded cassette tapes) 13 people ( the “reasons”) who influenced her decision to take her own life. Hannah records these tapes and sends them to the first person, who has to pass them along to the next person, and so on, under threat of the tapes being released in a public and embarrassing manner. The author first wrote the story with just Hannah’s narration, but decided to tell it instead from another character’s perspective, a classmate named Clay.
Clay’s role as one of the (unlucky) 13 is somewhat predictable, but this book made finding out that role suspenseful. Not Friday the 13th suspenseful or The Walking Dead suspenseful, but “just tell me why Clay is one of the 13” suspenseful. I just had to understand how each part fit into this puzzle. It is a page-turner, which is probably why it only took me a few hours to finish it. Luckily, I am blessed with a husband who will sit in a hotel room and supervise my children who were allegedly napping, while I was able to sit in 110 degree heat under an umbrella with an adult beverage, mere feet from a cool lazy river. Oh, and I got to read uninterrupted for 3 hours straight. I got caught up in my vacation and forgot the point of the description.
What I liked about this book was that it had an underlying message that wasn’t hard to grasp. Not because I needed easy reading, but because I think it’s important for everyone to be able to put themselves into someone else’s shoes and see how their words and actions (or lack thereof) can impact someone else, for better or worse. Suicide leaves the ones they left behind with so many emotions… sadness, emptiness, regret, guilt, etc. I wouldn’t wish for anyone to be in a place where they felt they had no other options. The reader wants to tell Hannah she has options, that people care, and that high school doesn’t last forever.
Being a teacher of elementary school children, I don’t see the issue of suicide coming up very often, but I do see bullying and misconstrued events. I have one particular student who sees everything said and done to him as being negative, even when they’re innocent words or actions. Something has gone very wrong for this child. He is not in a healthy frame of mind most of the time. If someone accidentally trips over his backpack, it is on purpose. If someone calls him a jerk, it is because everyone hates him. If he doesn’t have a partner, it’s not because he’s alienated himself, but because no one likes him. How many of us, children and adults, are doing the same thing? I want to teach my students to 1) react appropriately in response to negativity, whether it is ignoring someone or approaching the situation with maturity, and 2) remind them to respect and reach out to each other- even beyond the golden rule of treating others the way you want to be treated.
What I didn’t like about this book was the topic. Suicide is not something I can relate to, and I have a hard time comprehending the state of mind a person has to be to even consider it. I won’t say anything more than any movie, book, new story, etc. about suicide makes me very uncomfortable, and I generally won’t even discuss it, because I can’t clearly articulate (obviously… ha ha) my thoughts on the topic. This was a book I initially refused to read. However, upon reading more reviews, I thought that this might be a worth-while read, and it proved to be decent.
Book 17 of 52
This is book 17, but I’m in week 14. Yikes- I need to stay ahead of the game. Better get reading!