Saturday, May 29, 2010

Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher


Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several 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.
Reasons Why I loved it:
  • I loved Clay's voice (a fantastic male protagonist.)
  • I loved the premise and fresh twist on a suicide themed book
  • It was compelling and I found the pacing to be pretty much spot on
  • I was surprised by just how moved I was by the end of it. It's one of those books that tell such a good story that I didn't even realise until the end just how strong and impacting the overall message was
  • I'm in awe of how the book masterfully handled the darkness and tragedy with hope and I felt kinda empowered by the end of it (haha - cheesy, I know)
  • It was original and all the characters felt grounded. It didn't feel cliché.
I know this is one of those love/hate books. Obviously, I'm in the love camp :) But I do get why people can't connect with it.
  • Those that say Hannah was vindictive/calculating/cruel to leave the tapes behind. Really, her voice does not come across as calculating, cruel, spiteful or vindictive. And imposing those ideas onto her is kind of mixing up the character with the premise. I know she did make the tapes - but I think it was an awesome way to explore one girls act of taking her own life and the little things that impact on it. So I didn't get too worked up on the reasons behind the actual making of the tapes, sometimes I think you're best just to flow with the premise and read the story.
  • There are also those that say the reasons why were stupid and incidental. Hmmm. In some ways, that's highlighting the message. Really, most victims of suicide don't have some HUGE major revealing Hollywood reason why they took their own life. Suicide isn't about that. It's about a state of mind. Losing hope. Little things aren't so little anymore.
  • Then again, if you don't connect with Hannah's voice, I guess you don't connect...
As a writer, there's lots to admire about how well Jay Asher handled the story. It can't have been easy to write: The way he handled setting around town with the listening of the tapes. Juggling Clay's story as well as Hannah's voice. The non-chronological time line (trust me, I once tried to write a non-chron = fail). The fact that it reads so effortlessly just shows how well crafted it is. I know I'm looking forward to his next book.
I've also read that agents are looking for more books like this: Using an idea that is quite prevalent in the YA market (suicide) but has a fresh angle/twist. As a reader, well, I just liked it. I did take a while to warm into the story and at first I was unsure about Hannah and how I felt about her (but I loved Clay from the start - he's just an all-round great guy), but somewhere along the line, I started to really care about Hannah. I even started wishing that she hadn't really killed herself after all and somehow, it would all work out for her...
You should check out the official website for the book, which is very snazzy and also list all the awards it has won.
Which cover do you like best?
US - with Hannah on the swing
UK/Australian - with the soulful grey tones. (I have this one.)
I like them both. I think the UK matches the mood of the book and Hannah looks how I imagined her*
But, the US one has a swing on it - so that gives it an edge :) And I think I'd be more drawn to pick up this version in the bookshop than the UK one.
* Although, you know, I guess I imagined her like that b/c I saw her on the cover first ;)

15 comments:

  1. Your review really made me want to read this book. Well done, Roland

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  2. Sound like an interesting read. I actually like UK version better - the model's face is compelling for some reason.

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  3. Love the concept. And I like our cover better.

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  4. I like the Australian one on the right. It's more compelling. Definitely grabs my attention more.

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  5. I like the Australian cover! The model looks more like how I pictured Hannah.

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  6. I prefer the US cover---it's more visually interesting to me, especially since so many YA books feature photos of girls. The other cover would probably get lost in a sea of similar ones at the bookstore (tho I did like the little snip on the UK one).

    Thanks for sharing! Great review!

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  7. What Deb said, re. cover. And your second point is RIGHT ON. Judging her reasons for suicide as "worthy" or not misses the entire point. Good review!

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  8. I hate to say tihs but I have never ever read this book! it's been on my TBR list for ages.

    And I like the US cover

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  9. I like the US version better (incidentally, it's also the version I have despite being Aussie. Go figure.) Great review, and I really liked this book, too :D

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  10. I like how you've analysed this. Very well-written.

    I thought this book had a very clever concept (and tapes and two 2st person voices) but yes, I'm one of those people who didn't connect till more than half the book was over. I sympathised with Hannah but I felt like a detached observer.

    All in all, though, I liked how the book ended with Sky.

    Oh, and I like the US version better!

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  11. I still haven't read this book. I have the audio book though. May just listen to that one instead

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  12. I'll reserve my judgements until I read the book, but honestly, I might not be pro-Hannah. All that "I killed myself cos of you" tactic, doesn't work on me. How are you going to kill yourself and blame someone who didn't push you to doing it?? I'll leave it at that and wait until I'm done with the book. Nice review by the way.

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  13. I loved this book as well :) But I can see from the "hate camp" haha. I'm for the US one, it just has that extra spark that sets it aside from more generic covers. great review!

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  14. I'd probably pick up the UK one, I'm a big read a book because of it's cover kind of person, same with CD's and I've read heaps of good books and found heaps of good band by being like that.
    I will have to read this one too!
    Why do you have to live so far away now! Who else will give me good books to read? At least you have the blog to keep me up to date...

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  15. I've been intrigued by this book since it came out, but hesitant to read it as it sounded like it could be pretty morbid and spiteful. Still, I've read a lot of good reviews about this book and might just have to give it a go. I like the US cover best of the two.

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Thanks for the commenty love <3