The reason I picked up this novel is as special to me as the story itself.
Two years ago (the first year I was out of school and looking for a full-time teaching job) found me answering a phone call the day before school started. I wound up at a school an hour north of my home as a long-term substitute for eight months. It was a great experience and I loved every minute of being there.
Besides teaching history, I was also responsible for a class called "Guided Academics" which was a study skills based class for the large at-risk population in the school. One of their requirements was to read for 20 minutes a day.
There was one girl in my class that I was almost scared of. She was prone to some violent reactions and I never knew when she would be in class. We argued when she was in class about the reading requirement. She continued to tell me that there were no books in the world that she could relate to, and there was nothing that I could suggest that would interest her. In desperation, I sent her down to the library and told her to come back with 3 books that might be interesting. I would read one with her if she did so.
She came back with 3, and Thirteen Reasons Why was one of them. I went and bought a copy to read with her, and together, we finished the book in class during silent reading time. After that, we seemed to get along and she tried a few others books I recommended (like The Perks of Being a Wallflower). It was one of the best teaching experiences I've had.
But the book itself? Marvelous. It's the story of a girl, Hannah, who committed suicide and left behind 13 tapes with the reasons why she did it. Clay finds the tapes and begins to listen....and learn what drove a normal teenage girl to kill herself.
It is a book that I struggled to put down. The power of Hannah's voice over the tapes haunted me. Her struggle with identity and coming to terms with life's difficulties was something that my teenage self could have related to. I also found that when she listed her thirteen reasons (in reality, 13 people) why she did what she did, it made me think of moments in my own life when I didn't reach out to someone else who needed help. The book was an eye-opener, and truly powerful. My student told me she loved it because it felt real and honest. That is all I could have hoped for as a teacher.
"A lot of you cared, just not enough. And that...that is what I needed to find out.
But I didn't know what you were going through, Hannah.
And I did find out.
The footsteps continue. Faster.
And I'm sorry.
The recorder clicks off."