You can’t stop the future. You can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret. . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen doesn’t want anything to do with the tapes Hannah Baker made. Hannah is dead. Her secrets should be buried with her.
Then Hannah’s voice tells Clay that his name is on her tapes– and that he is, in some way, responsible for her death.
All through the night, Clay keeps listening. He follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his small town. . .
. . .and what he discovers changes his life forever. – Goodreads
Where do you even start with a book like this? It’s pretty different from any other book I’ve read (at least, in recent memory). If you have read the synopsis above, you’ll know why. It’s about a dead girl. Not only a dead girl, but a dead teenager who committed suicide before the book even began. So you can be pretty darn sure going in that this isn’t the right book to read if you’re feeling blue.
That said, it’s not a total downer, either.
The book is a split narrative, switching back and forth – almost like a conversation – between the voice of the dead girl on the audiotapes she left, and the thoughts of Clay Jensen, the boy who loved her. It feels a lot like reading a journal, only with Clay’s reactions to it added in. In the tapes, Hannah Baker has left behind her story, her thirteen reasons for “giving up” (a.k.a. killing herself). She draws a line from one event and pivotal person to the next, in an increasingly dark and isolating tale.
But even in her suicide “note,” Hannah is funny. She’s introspective. She refuses to let bullies and gossip-mongers (and much, much worse) get away with it. She’s got spunk, and she’s got some well-justified anger. Each of the 13 reasons is a moment, built on those that came before, that changed her life, sent it further down the path that led inevitably to her ending it. And for each of the 13 reasons, there’s a person who is responsible for it. Would things have turned out differently had just one of these stories gone differently? Would she still be alive?
That’s the question Hannah is forcing each and every listener to face. And in doing so, she’s creating her own event that has the potential to change each and every one of those 13 lives.
I liked Hannah. I didn’t always buy her voice as belonging to a suicidal teenaged girl (sometimes there’s a little bit too much introspection, self-awareness and maturity). I feel like someone with the ability to see that much forest wouldn’t have been so overtaken by the trees.
But I could forgive her that for the sake of the story and making a point. She’s someone I would have liked to get to know, weird moments of clarity aside. I also liked Clay – I liked being in his head and hearing his reactions to Hannah’s story. Well, maybe “liked” isn’t really the right word, considering the content, but you know what I mean.
Perhaps what makes this book so heart-breaking is not only how likeable these characters are, but how normal. They could be any of the kids I went to high school with. They could be you. And they could definitely be me. I think the only reason I wasn’t a melted little puddle of tears and feels for this book was the fact that the story started after Hannah’s death, so I didn’t have a chance to feel her loss. She was already gone before I met her. And though a part of me wishes the story had started earlier so we could have gotten to know her and felt that loss, I think there’s a unique beauty in this plot presentation.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely – particularly to The Fault In Our Stars set. Though I didn’t connect to it quite as strongly as TFIOS, I definitely think it will appeal to fans of John Green’s stories. But in saying that, it’s still totally and entirely its own thing. It isn’t really like anything I’ve read before. It left me with a sense of humble appreciation, and I’d definitely mark down Asher as an author to watch.
Author: Jay Asher
Published By: Razorbill
Released: June 14, 2011
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
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