Thirteen Reasons Why
Jay Asher, author
My rating 2/5 stars
Clay Jenson comes home to find a shoebox of casette tapes with the following instructions: listen, and pass it on. He's surprised to hear the voice of dead classmate Hannah Baker, who in 13 tapes will reveal 13 names, 13 stories, and 13 reasons why she killed herself. Clay spends the rest of the day and long into the night listening to Hannah's voice and going to the locations she wants him to visit.
I don't hate the premise of the story. I think it's a unique way to tackle the subject of bullying, depression, betrayals, secrets, consequences of small, seemingly innocuous actions, suicide. However, a unique premise, a novel way of telling a story should not be the only reason why authors feel the need to write and publishers feel the need to publish. What about the efferent nature of reading? The vicarious experience of reading that adds to our knowledge as readers and helps us to make connections with our own life, and thus to create meaning with the world (Rosenblatt)? Why does Hannah and Clay's story need to be read? Who needs to read it and what will they learn from it?
In my 20 years of working with teens, I've heard similar stories, but I couldn't sympathize with Hannah. In fact, the more I read, the angrier I got. I kept waiting for a climax, for a story so horrific that it could justify her actions, her whininess, her decision to pull Clay into her sick drama. Nothing.
I usually have students in mind when I've read a book. I can usually see students that I'll pull into booktalks with me during SSR on Mondays, but I'm still stuck on the question, "who needs to read this, and why?"