Friday, January 29, 2010

13 Reasons

Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher (NY: Razorbill, 2007).

Some books should come with a warning label: Do not start reading unless you have several free hours. This is one of them. Asher masterfully grabs the reader and does not let go in this compelling tale of teen suicide and its aftermath.

Everyone loves receiving an unexpected package, so Clay Jensen thinks nothing of opening up the box addressed to him that he finds propped up against his front door when he arrives home from school. In it he finds seven audiocassettes that suck him into a vortex of circumstances that have ended in the death of a classmate. Hannah narrates the thirteen reasons she ended her life, each reason being a different person, each person being sent the tapes sequentially to hear his or her role in Hannah's death.

Clay knows Hannah. He thinks he loved her; he even kissed her at a party and assumed something about him made the relationship wither. He does not want to listen to the tapes, afraid of what he might hear, but at the same time, he has to. Using a map that had appeared in his locker a few weeks before Hannah died, Clay revisits the places and events in Hannah's life that led to her decision. We feel his pain and regret, and Hannah's as well, as Asher vividly evokes adolescent intensity--the way rumors and gossip can lead to pain and destruction. It's easy to dismiss it as overdramatization, but the realism of this novel makes it all too plausible.

Sexual situations, language, disturbing theme. Grades 7 & up.

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