Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Reason to Say Something: Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Razorbill, 2007

When a few teachers at my school approached me about the idea of a faculty book club and would I be interested in helping out, I was right on board. When they said they'd like the first book to be YA and could I come up with a few titles that everyone could then vote on, I immediately suggested this novel and was really pleased when after our very democratic vote, it had the highest tally.

When Clay gets a box of cassette tapes, the absolute last thing he expects to hear on them is the voice of Hannah Baker. The girl he had a crush on for years. The girl who, except for one night, felt so far out of reach. And the girl who committed suicide two weeks ago. But she's left behind tapes and instructions: listen, then pass them on to the next person on this list. Thirteen sides of the tapes, thirteen people, thirteen reasons why she's dead now. So over the course of one night, accompanied by Hannah's voice and a map, Clay makes his way around their town and learns her side of the story.

The first time I read this book in grad school for my YA lit class, I was truly and utterly devastated  This is a fast read, which is surprising considering the topic. But readers, like Clay, feel this compulsive need to keep going, to find out what happened next. This second time around, all of those same feelings were there, but my perspective was slightly changed, too. Because this time, I'm a teacher. I go work every morning, into a building with 2400 teenagers and I want them all to be okay. It's much more than a job to me and most of the people I work with.

This is one of those books that I really believe ought to be mandatory reading if you are going to be working in a high school or with teens. Because it is a gut -wrenching, horrible, awful tale of the underside of being a teenager that so many people refuse to talk about. Because it's not nice. It's not pretty, it's not simple, and it's not black and white. And when enough of those awful things pile up, to far too many teens, suicide seems like the only option they have left.

This was Jay Asher's debut novel, and what a start to his career it was. It's been hugely popular since it first came out about five years ago, and with good reason. If you work with teens and haven't read this yet, it really is a MUST read. It fostered great discussion among the teachers and staff at our book club meeting, and impacted each of us in a different way.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Jay Asher's Blog
Jay Asher on Twitter
Official Website for Thirteen Reasons Why

1 comment:

  1. THIS BOOK. I can't even put my feelings about it into words. When I was going into my freshman year of high school, the summer reading assignment was for the entire grade to read this. My feelings about summer reading assignments aside, I'm so glad they picked this book. It's one of those books that I want to force every teenager and everyone who knows a teenager to read.

    I saw this book affect so many students at my school, and I'm glad that it's having such a huge impact on teachers and staff too.