Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thirteen Reasons Why

My first book review for Tea Cozy! Let's all toss confetti. In the spirit of the blog, I will structure my reviews the same as Liz's: plot synopsis, what's good about it, and links about the book/author.

Thirteen Reasons Why (also written as Th1rteen R3asons Why) by Jay Asher, copy from publisher, Penguin/Razorbill.

The Plot: Clay Jenkins spends the longest night of his life listening to a set of tapes he received in the mail. The tapes were made by his classmate and crush Hannah Baker, who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Clay doesn't know where on the tapes Hannah will talk about his role in her life. All he can do is listen to Hannah's voice, follow the map of the town she left in his locker, and learn how his classmates, some of whom he barely knows, factor into life-altering (and life-taking) events. Hannah's tapes shatter reputations and reveal secrets that could ruin people's lives. Those who are mentioned on the tapes are instructed to listen and pass the tapes on to the next person on the list, thirteen people in all. In the course of the night, Clay learns the profound effect that rumors and reputations can have on a person...and that not all good (or bad) reputations are deserved.

The Good: Convergence.

I'd really like to leave it at just that, because I can think of no better word to describe what goes on in this book. I think the only book I've ever read that illustrated the concept of convergence as well as Thirteen Reasons Why does is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I also loved the idea that the protagonist of this book is not the narrator. To me, there's no such thing as a reliable first-person narrator and Asher uses Hannah's unreliability brilliantly. Clay cannot argue with Hannah, cannot present an alternate viewpoint of Hannah's stories. All he can do is hear her side and try to reconcile her thoughts and actions with what he knows about himself and his classmates. Hannah is not the most likable of protagonists; I often found her grating, obnoxious, and proud of her victim status. At the same time, though, I found her, as Clay does, hypnotic. As Hannah ties seemingly unrelated people together, the larger picture of what led her to commit suicide grows more horrific. She knew many dark secrets but chose to keep them to herself, only revealing them on the tapes. The idea that one person could be in so many places at just the wrong...or maybe the right...times and gain the knowledge to destroy a lot of other people makes for a fascinating and bleak read. You're never sure who to root for, but that's half the joy of reading this book.


Thirteen Reasons Why
Jay Asher's MySpace
Author profile @ Random House

crossposted at my blog

1 comment:

Liz B said...

Oh, I'm so glad you blogged this because it's one of my favorites for this year and I just haven't been able to give it the time to do it justice.

Hannah is such an interesting character; on the one hand, my heart literally hurt as I read this, hurt for her and for all the real life Hannahs. On the other, as Hannah claims her victim status so totally, well, let me back up.

Hannah illustrates again and again how people never really know someone else; don't know what really happened with her, or with certain rumored events. And in the end life crushes her.

Yet, in true teen fashion (or in true ego fashion for anyone) she does not extend this to someone else. Here she is, saying "you didn't know my true life and true fragility" over and over, yet she's not allowing that others are equally fragile. What, I wonder, if someone is so shook by Hannah's tapes that he/she commits suicide as Hannah did? Doesn't Hannah realize she may be doing to another what was done to her?

Bloody brilliant.

And at the end, a foolish part of me wanted, somehow, for Hannah to not be dead after all. Because faults and all, she is a captivating character and you just want to tell her, it does get better. Give life and people a chance.