10 Reasons to Read 13 Reasons Why

December 24, 2009

13 Reasons Why stirs up the compelling, infuriating dynamic of a chain letter raised to performance art in this teen suspense novel.  http://www.thirteenreasonswhy.com/book.php Published by Penguin/Razorbill http://www.razorbillbooks.com

Story Snapshot. Hannah Baker has committed suicide, but not before creating and boxing up a set of cassette tapes with instructions to 13 people to visit key places around town while listening to her tapes – and to then mail them to the next person on the list. Clay Jensen is one of the 13 receiving the tapes, one of the 13 reasons why. We hear the story through his narration punctuated by Hannah’s voice on tape but as-if from the grave. Haunting. Clay fears what he will hear but can’t not listen. We journey with him through the events that lead up to the death. He gains a major insight, the book transitions from mystery to parable, ending on an up note and lesson integrated. This is a teen novel about choosing life or death in these crazy times. Its popularity has gone viral with devoted readers and ecstatic blog posts. Why?  That’s one reason to read it and find out. Here are 9 more reasons for adults to read this book …

  1. Author Jay Asher gives parents, teachers, and professionals a conversation tool: a narrative of how emotionally stressful events accelerate and metastasize into a hopelessness that cascades into suicide. Talking about this topic directly is often impossible, but here art is imitating life.  Easier, and no less meaningful is to talk about it via art.
  2. A relationship with a dead person can still be alive in your head. Clay struggles with chain letter paranoia – the ambivalence about following instructions being dictated from the grave in order to honor the person and not risk bad karma, despite the anger that no discussion is possible.
  3. Hannah leaves behind a  work of conceptual performance art – her life was the price of its enactment. What is the relationship between depression and creativity?
  4. An emotional avalanche stands in eerie juxtaposition with a cool thesis of explanation, insight, and planning.
  5. It’s not about vampires. What a relief, teenagers are still interested in classically tragic themes.
  6. Hannah reaches out to a teacher who tries, but it slips away from him – good training lesson here. Teachers can’t do it all and don’t have the training. This is scary considering budget cuts for counselors.
  7. It’s a really compelling read. I agree with this post on the above website:  “… my niece has this book. It seemed interesting so I started to read it….I could not STOP reading it! A few hours later and I must say JOB WELL DONE! It was very thought provoking and heartbreakingly true….”
  8. The psychophysics of the adolescent space-time continuum is very vivid in this novel.
  9. Cassette tapes traveling via boxes, stamps, and post offices in this Gen Y, MP3, virtual world is a great literary vehicle, characters themselves really – you want to hear them.

If you read it, let me know what you think!


3 Responses to “10 Reasons to Read 13 Reasons Why”

  1. I’ve been reading the fav reviews yet your pithy reasons create the tipping point for me to finally go out and get it. Is there a movie coming out re this book?

  2. Debbie F. Says:

    I read the book and loved it. I thought it was important, but your 10 reasons explained to me WHY it is important. Thanks.

  3. John Betak Says:

    I have not read the book, in fact I didn’t even know about it. But, your 10 Reasons to Read Thirteen Reasons Why, has led me to want to go read it.

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