Rating: 4 1/2 crowns
Synopsis: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and crush – who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a first-hand witness to Hannah’s pain, and learns the truth about himself – a truth he never wanted to face.
Review: I was drawn to this book from the moment I saw an advertisement for it, so I snatched it up the first time I saw it in a book store. The idea of exploring a teen suicide from a serious perspective was very appealing to me, because I think this is an important issue that affects us all, and should be addressed as such.
This book is a very effective avenue for not only exploring teen suicide, but how our individual actions affect the people around us. Hannah devotes one side of a tape to each reason that went into her ultimate decision to end her life. And while I didn’t agree with her reasoning, I also understand that people aren’t rational in this kind of situation and their reasons don’t need to make sense.
I really liked the way the story unfolded, and how we were able to see that seemingly little things on the parts of a variety of individuals turned into a very big problem for Hannah. And how one change in attitude or behavior could have saved a life, but we can all be so thoughtless, we very rarely realize how our actions really affect one another. To me, that’s the real theme of the book – how we all need to think more about what we do and how it may affect the people around us.
The book is written from dual perspective, with Hannah’s tapes spliced together with Clay’s reactions to them. It was a great way to show the point of view of someone who cared about Hannah, and really helped you to feel Clay’s anxiety as he learned about everything that went into Hannah’s decision.
I read the whole book in one sitting, and kept hoping for a twist ending where Hannah wasn’t actually dead, and had just played a game to show people the error of their ways. I liked her, wanted to help her, and show her that the anxiety she felt would surely pass as she progressed in her life. But as is the case in real life, Hannah was serious and no one tried to stop her, so a life ends tragically long before it should.
I cannot recommend this book enough, both for the story and themes it covers, as well as for the serious discussion I hope it opens up between teens and their parents. Hannah could be anyone, she seems like someone we all knew in school, and I think it’s important for people to talk about this issue before tragedy strikes in their own lives.