“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.”
– Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why
You may or may not have noticed that I read a lot of young adult books and that I am rather passionate about them. They provide hours of entertainment and enjoyment… and every now and then there is one that stands out amongst the rest. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is one of those books that made me slow down, sit up a little straighter, and pay attention to what I was reading.
When Clay Jensen receives a package in the mail full of cassette tapes, he is a little bewildered as to why someone would send them – does anyone actually listen to them anymore? He comes across an old cassette player in the family garage, pops in the first tape and this is what he hears:
“Hello, boys and girls. Hannah Baker here. Live and in stereo…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 your listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.”
Two weeks before, Clay’s sixteen-year-old classmate Hannah Baker committed suicide. Before her death, she recorded thirteen tapes, one each for the people who influenced her decision to end her life. Clay spends one night listening to all thirteen tapes, wandering the town he lives in, before sending the package on to the next person.
This isn’t an easy book to read; it will make you squirm in your seat in discomfort. Hannah’s voice is inescapable and completely on point; she doesn’t shy away from the truth, no matter how awful it is. Hannah is the victim of relentlessly cruel bullying – not that there is any other kind. It begins with rumours of the exaggerated sexual kind that then leads to physical assault; Hannah witnesses a rape and then later on, she is in a minor car incident that results in another person’s death. The final letdown is when she goes to the school guidance counsellor to ask for help and he turns her away. One can only imagine how devastating that would have been.
This book is proving to be harder to review than I thought it would. It is such a sad book. Hannah tells her story with a clear voice; she is frank and honest and Asher has somehow managed to keep a reign on the emotion. He allows Hannah moments of sadness and reflection however in death, she comes across stronger than she must have felt. Despite her absence, Hannah makes her presence felt. I don’t think I have ever felt so sorry for a character but one of the greatest feats of this book is the conversation around bullying it has created. It isn’t a story for everyone but I love it. Take note – this is NOT a book to be read on public transport…