The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

October 31, 2008

Book review: ‘13 Reasons’ a gripping story of desperate decision

‘13 Reasons Why’

By Jay Asher

Clay Jensen receives a mysterious package with no return address one day after school. At first he is excited at the prospect of the seven audio cassettes found within, but when he pushes “play” and hears the voice of Hannah Baker, a girl from his high school who committed suicide, his excitement turns to fear and pain.

Before her death, Hannah documented the 13 reasons why she made the decision to end her life. Each of the cassette sides contains the story of one person’s actions or inactions that contributed to her inability to cope. Clay is one of those people and he has no idea what he did. He is terrified to find out, but can’t risk all of the tapes becoming public, so must listen to each and every one.

Hannah’s stories and Clay’s reactions alternate as the book progresses. As each cassette progresses, readers see Clay’s reactions and empathize with his agony over how he could have had a role in Hannah’s misery. He spends an entire night listening to Hannah’s account, wandering the streets of their town guided only by her voice and a map she left in his locker. Each story tears Clay apart a little more as the anticipation to hear his own story grows.

Suicide and thoughts of suicide are very real dangers for today’s teens, and Asher treats the subject with the gravity that it deserves without spilling too much into melodrama. Not only does he address Hannah’s overwhelming feelings of isolation and despair, he gives special attention to Clay and the other characters left behind. Clay is confused about why Hannah, a girl he admired greatly (if from afar), could have come to such a desperate decision, and Hannah’s stories bring to light the fact that we never really know our effect on other people. This is a gripping story that, once started, will not be put down until finished.

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