During the past semester I’ve picked up a lot of books that I had never heard of before. Maybe it’s the fact that my school library didn’t have a lot of them, or simply that I just hadn’t kept up with what was popular. Whatever the reason was I feel like I’ve made a lot of steps toward fixing this lack of knowledge about what’s popular for teens. This week’s popular reading was 13 Reason’s Why by Jay Asher. I will admit that this reading was partially spurred on by the Netflix show, and partially because the book deals with several topics that I’ve been interested in.
Synopsis: For those who haven’t heard about the book (or the show), it centers around the suicide of Hannah Baker. Before Hannah dies she leaves thirteen different tapes that explain why she ended up killing herself. On each tape is a person that in some way contributed to her death. The story is told in first person by Clay Jenson, who has just received the tapes. We follow Clay as he tries to figure out which tape has his name on it, and what he did to cause his crush to kill herself.
Pros: This book deals with some very heavy details. There is obviously Hannah’s suicide, but underneath her suicide are occurrences of sexual assault and bullying. I won’t reveal all the reasons Hannah kills herself, but they do get readers thinking about the power of words and actions. There is a lot in the book about suicide awareness, and how to know the signs of a person considering suicide. The signs are obviously spread throughout the novel, but are missed by every single character. It gets the reader thinking about their actions, and how they can have a positive impact on another person’s life. I think the book does a good job of painting a picture of what can happen when you take things too far.
Cons: Be careful who reads this book. As someone who has suffered from depression this book was actually very triggering. There are a lot of scenes in the book that are graphic, and can have a negative effect on students who may already deal with some of these issues. This is really something to be aware of. Also, at times it is hard to tell when it is Hannah talking on the tapes and Clay is thinking. These two events are often hard to keep separate.
I read this book in a couple of sittings, and while it took me awhile to get out of my funk it did bring a lot of issues to light that I would rather not be hidden. I think Asher did a beautiful job of dealing with some very hard issues here. I highly, highly recommend checking out this book. It’s very informational and enjoyable (while sometimes very frustrating).