Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher (2007)

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Interest Level: 15-18
Thirteen Reasons WhyClay Jensen comes home from high school to find a package on his doorstep. In it he finds 7 cassettes from a classmate – and potentially so much more than that, it turns out – who recently committed suicide. Over the next 12 hours, we listen to the tapes with Clay as Hannah Baker names the people in her life who contributed to her decision to take her own life. Clay’s name is on the tapes, and it was delivered to him by the person before him on the tapes – a kind of post-suicide chain letter. It’s a brilliant concept, and remarkably well executed for a first-time author. Asher uses italics to distinguish Hannah’s voice from Clay’s reactions. It works quite well, though I sometimes had to flip back to straighten out the narrative, suggesting a little more work is needed to give Hannah a more distinctive voice. Plot-wise it’s a page-turner, though obviously we know the ending. And while it’s didactic, the novel delivers a poignant lesson about connections, the power of words and the equally important act of simply reaching out.
It’s also one of the top 10 challenged books in 2012 (#3 on the list in fact: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/21stcenturychallenged) as compiled by the American Library Association, which also makes it worth reading and deciding for yourself.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2813153-thirteen-reasons-why

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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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