A note to parents: The book reviewed below covers difficult topics. I believe these topics are important because many teens today are dealing with them, even if the parents don't know about it. Please carefully read the summary and review, and if you have any more questions, feel free to e-mail me at BellaBookworm@yahoo.com and I will do my best to answer. You may want to read this book with your teen or before he or she reads it. Or, you may at least want to discuss it with him or her after he or she reads it. This is not a light reading book.
Title: TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY
Author: Jay Asher
Target Audience: High school
Approximate reading level: 8th
-Hannah Baker, a high school student who recently committed suicide and has left behind a series of tapes explaining why
-Clay Jensen, the narrator, from whose point of view we hear Hannah's story
Summary: When Hannah Baker decides to take her own life, she also decides to leave behind 7 audio cassette tapes explaining why she made this decision and telling her story, along with the stories of several others in the school--those who affected her decision. We learn her story through Clay, as he listens to the tapes. The author also gives Clay's reactions alongside Hannah's story. At times, Hannah's story, and Clay's reaction to it, are interrupted as Clay wanders through town visiting places where the stories that impacted Hannah's decision happened, meeting and talking to others.
Review: Because Clay's story is told directly alongside Hannah's, rather than the book being divided into two parts or even divided by chapters, the impact of the story is stronger. Many controversial topics are covered, or at least referenced: bullying, teen suicide, teenage drinking/drunkenness, sexual assault, and drunk driving. But it also shows that you have an impact on those around you, even when you don't realize it. Something that seems small and unimportant to one person may be devastating to another. Your actions have consequences. Unfortunately, these topics are influencing teens today, and even "Christian school kids" are not totally exempt. Bullying was present in my Christian school, and I think at least one of these other topics was as well. Even the teen that has never had to deal with any of these topics (which I believe most, if not all teens have had some experience with bullying in some form) can be reminded that the little things are important, and that we should treat others with the kindness that Christ showed us.
This book is not Christian in nature. The only reference to religion at all is when Hannah says, "And you, lucky number thirteen, you can take the tapes straight to hell. Depending on your religion, maybe I'll see you there." However, some Christian principles can be taken from it, such as treating others how you would want to be treated and with love.
I would like to suggest discussing this book with your teen if he or she reads it. You may find out that your teen knows someone in Hannah's position (or even in some other problem situations in the book).
I'm not sure I can say I enjoyed reading this book, because it is a sad, somewhat heartbreaking story. But it is definitely a page-turner. When I needed to stop reading, I couldn't wait to get back to Hannah's story and see what happened to make her believe she had no other choice, as well as seeing what Clay learned from her story.
**** Four stars
Matthew 7:12a "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them;"
Love in Christ,