Thursday, November 12, 2009

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

       Summary from the book's website:

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.

Thirteen Reasons Why was one of those books I added to my TBR and just couldn't get out of my head. So when I pulled it from my hat (that's how I used to choose what to read next; now I use I was excited to finally read it. That being said, I obviously had high expectations for the book.

One thing I liked right away was that the chapters were split into each side of a tape. Chapter one (after the prologue) was cassette one, side one, and so on. I thought this to be a very unique way to split up chapters; I've never seen it done quite the same way in other books I have read.

However when I first started reading, I found it confusing how the dialogue was written. One paragraph, in italics, would indicate Hannah speaking over the tape, and the immediate next paragraph would be back to the voice of Clay Jensen (the boy listening to the tapes Hannah sent him). I found it hard to keep up with the flip-flopping back and forth between story lines. For example: Clay would be discussing a friend named Tony, Hannah would come on (different topic), and immediately after, Clay would come back talking about Tony again. I found myself having to skip back a couple paragraphs to remember who Tony even was. I will say that I got used to the style of writing though, after about 40-50 pages into the book. After that, it wasn't a problem anymore.

I'm really neutral about the voice of Hannah in this book, as I explain in the next paragraph down. As for Clay: of course he's very much needed in the story, and he was slightly likable at times, but I just found him bland. I suppose he wasn't meant to be too developed--Hannah is our main character, after all--but it still would have been nice to know just a little more about him as a person, and maybe his background too.

Through most of the book, I kind of kept waiting for something big to happen to Hannah, to just make her snap. A lot of what she goes through throughout most of the book just seems petty to me. I felt like it was typical high school--rumors get spread, friends turn their backs on you, it happens--and I honestly felt like she was just...for lack of better words, being a huge drama queen. I do hate that she committed suicide, and while two main things did end up happening that make her snap, she purposely put herself in one situation even though she already knew the outcome, so she really can't blame anyone but herself for that. She really made me mad at that point.

In conclusion, I was expecting more from Thirteen Reasons Why. I can't, however, bring myself to label it all-out disappointing. It's just that anytime I start reading a book, I'm longing for that "can't put it down" dialogue and plot, and if I have to put it down, I want it to be that book that I can't stop thinking about until I pick it up again--and unfortunately I just didn't find that in Thirteen Reasons Why.


Andrea said...

Aw. 13 Reasons is one of my top favorite books. I thought it was a really affecting book about how something so small can mean so much to someone else and how we effect people's lives without knowing it. And Hannah's thinking quickly becomes the thinking that is associated with suicides and she put herself in the last situation so she would really have a reason. She just needed an extra push and so gave it to herself.
I don't know if you listen to audio but it is really good in that format since it agrees with the format set up in the book.

Patricia said...

hmm, nice review. I can't say I agree, though. I loved this book. I thought it was haunting and both POVs were very much alive for me. But very nice review, anyways!

Cackleberry Homestead said...

Very interesting to read a differing review - I understand your points and thanks for giving them.

I personally loved the book, but if we all loved the same thing this world would be a very boring place.

brizmus said...

I feel like I've heard about how deep this is from so many different people. It's interesting to hear it referred to as petty. Although I guess that's not EXACTLY what you said, but still. . .
I'm still very intrigues by this book.

Andrea [Buried In Books] said...

I guess it just wasn't my type of read! I thought I would enjoy it too, from the summary and from reviews I've read, but it just didn't do it for me. Maybe it was just a little too dark for my taste, who knows?

And that's very true Crystal, good point :D

Unknown said...

I love to read all the different reviews! This makes for great dialogue. Thanks for posting your honest opinion and writing a great review.


Marce said...

Thanks so much for stopping over and telling me about, yaaaaay, i'm decisive also.

And this book was on my TBR list, I really have to reconsider after your review mainly because of the back and fourth dialogue, that is a style I realised I do not enjoy.