I read this book last year, just before hearing Jay speak at a writer’s conference. I’ll admit, Mr. Asher has talent, his book is a page turner. It’s unique, shocking and well-put-together, but I have some serious issues with passing it along.
Thirteen Reasons Why is the story of a high school girl who commits suicide. But before she does the deed, she makes a series of tapes centered around thirteen individuals who pushed her into taking her life. Then she mails them to the first of the thirteen with the rules–you must listen, and you must pass them on. We come late to the list, with Clay Jensen, the one person whose name appears not because of anything bad he has done. Rather, he receives the tapes more as an explanation, an apology, and therein lies a secondary tragedy. Clay and Hannah had recently found a mutual attraction for each other, but it was too late. Hannah had already given up. And Clay is left listening to her story, wondering what if?
Knowing the prevalence of teen suicide, this story attracted and concerned me. Never having dealt personally with the dark emotions Hannah describes, I had a hard time understanding them. I was, and I remain, skeptical of much of what she says. Some of her misery even seems self-inflicted. I respond thinking she should just suck it up and adjust, deal with this stuff head on. But that’s my way, and I realize it’s not everyone’s way. For Hannah and others like her, her situation was overwhelming. And that makes this a very thought-provoking and disturbing read, and on those grounds, I could recommend it.
But I don’t think I will. Because it’s also full of profanity, partying and teen sex–and we’re not just talking nuance here. I know, I know, it’s how things are in today’s high schools. But that doesn’t make such behavior appropriate or safe, so I won’t put my name on this and tell everyone it’s a great read. I chose to tackle it because it’s still ranking high on the best-sellers list, and some folks who think like I do might appreciate the heads up. Perhaps there are others who will overlook the junk and benefit from the theme. Either way, it’s definitely YA and not intended for young readers.