Monday, 20 September 2010

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

UK cover
US Cover

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Genre:Young Adult - Contemporary
Interest:Debut novel
Age Group:13+
Publisher:Razorbill Penguin
Release Date: 2007
Pages: 288
Cover love? My edition of Thirteen Reasons Why is the one shown on the right - the UK one. And I have to say that it looks a little morbid, which is probably the reasons why I didn't immediately pick it up and read it. But after reading the book, I think this cover is perfect. However, the US cover looks brighter, one I would probably pick up immediately. 

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

Thirteen Reasons Why is a strikingly truthful account of teenage troubles. It's not a happy, fluffy comtemporary novel - it's a sad, haunting story with themes of sexual abuse and suicide. It will make your heart wrench and your tears flow, because it's filled with so much truth and sadness.

The book occurs over one night, as Clay Jensen is listening to Hannah's tapes. The format of this book is in alternating first person perspectives, from Clay's thoughts, to those of Hannah Baker, as told to us through what Clay hears from the cassette tapes. We get the story from Hannah's voice, and the reactions and alternate point of view from Clay. The alternating POVs were clear and served their purpose well, contrary to the confusion commonly induced with alternating first-person narratives.

Jay Asher's decision to tell the story in this way is both original and enticing, setting this book apart from many others that I've read. Hannah and Clay's voices are exceedingly believable. I could almost hear them in my mind as I was reading the book, and I credit this to Jay Asher's immense ability to give personality to his characters through their prose. Hannah was personified well - although she was in her grave, her voice in was witty, snarky and had a dry humour that made me like her immensely. I wanted to reach through the pages and console her.

Clay never receded into the background, because when he listened to the tapes, he was recounting and redefining his concept of Hannah. Although the book was from his perspective, Hannah was the main character.

Hannah told us everything that happened to her - all the events that in combination, lead to her decision to kill herself. The plot seemed like a string of unfortunate events, but there were twists and turns that caused me to gasp and clutch my book harder. Although two particular scenes dark subject matters, it was told in a way that wasn't perverse or explicit. It was told through the impact that it had on Hannah.

I can't quite put my finger on what exactly makes me love so much. I guess it was a combination of Hannah's resounding and real voice, the beautiful but sad tale and the unique format of the book. It's a beautifully emotive book that will forever remain in my heart.