Greetings! Below is a book review I wrote for a literature class back in grad school. Any comments and/or thoughts are appreciated! – Jenn
Asher, Jay. Thirteen Reasons Why. Johnston, Joel and Wiseman, Debra. Audiobook. Listening Library. October 23, 2007. Wake County Public Libraries Overdrive Media Console. March 7, 2013
Clay Jensen listens to the voice of Hannah Baker, the girl he distantly loves, as she tells the unfair, selfish, arrogant acts of her classmates that tell her life story, relating to her suicide.
Jay Asher crafts a story in Thirteen Reasons Why asking what leads a high-schooler to commit suicide. The story centers around Clay Jenson, a fellow high-schooler who receives a mysterious package after school one day. Within, he finds 7 tapes from Hannah Baker, a classmate who committed suicide three weeks earlier and the girl he loves. Hannah says that she is about to tell her life story – with the twelve people involved, contributing to her suicide.
The narrative is in the first person from Clay, his thoughts and actions interspersed with Hannah telling his story. The audiobook is recited by a Joel Johnston, as Clay and general narrator and Debra Wiseman as Hannah. Because Clay is listening to Hannah while sharing his own thoughts, it is helpful to have the different voices which is a difficult distinction otherwise. The narration is intriguing, but I do not think it improves on the story. In fact, reading might be smoother to experience because the abrupt change between Clay and Hannah is less. The story sounds choppy with the constant back and forth. Reading the story gives it a personal relevance because you still ‘hear’ Hannah’s voice and realize her pain at the circumstances out of her control, all of which drive her further away from people.
The introspection of Hannah’s thoughts opens a window to the isolation her misconstrued reputation results in. Others have lied about her. To her, her innocence is sacrificed without her consent. And she brings out how the thoughtless, selfish, attention-grabbing acts of her classmates have a “snowball effect” and these tapes are intended to tell these students what those implications were for her. The story ends with Clay purposing to make choices with positive effect in another’s life. He pursues another classmate – Skye – who showed symptoms of inclusion and hiding. He does not want to repeat the tragedy of Hannah’s life in another classmate.
Copyright 2013 Jennifer Herring