Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday Treat #27: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

"You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything."

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."


  1. I've had this one on my shelf for a few months now. I've waited to read it because I know it is powerful and will effect me emotionally. It is awesome that this book helped you reach someone that would not have been reached otherwise. I think this book should be read by every teacher and parent.

  2. I keep seeing this one, and it scares me how real it sounds. Suicide is something that's touched my life too many times, but I think one day I'll need to read this one. Great review :)

  3. Wow, that's great! And the book sounds awesome! Another one for my TBR pile XD

  4. Oh wow - I am so intrigued! I will definitely add this to my list. Stories like this - diving into the minds of unusual characters - grab me. Have you read In Cold Blood? If not, it sounds like you may enjoy it! It's dark and yet totally captivating. I was entranced.

  5. Nice review--thanks for sharing. I'm going to put this on my list.

  6. I read this last year and loved it. What a wonderful story about your student!

  7. What an amazing story about your student. The book sounds fascinating, but I don't think I could stomach such a powerful book. Still, I definitely enjoyed reading your post about it!

  8. Wow. That last segment gave me chills. I definitely want to read this now.

    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Kathleen: It was definitely a powerful book. I had some issues with understanding suicide as a teenager and I think a book like this would have helped me, and many other teens.

    Melissa: It really hits the depths of suicide and death. It is not a happy and uplifting book, but did hold a lot of hope.

    Cariitoo: I'm glad you're going to read this one-its wonderful!

    aebither: I haven't read that title, but I'll add it to the list!

    Melody: Thank you! It is a good one!

    Amanda: I think I saw your review about this one. It really is a powerful little novel.

    kenpen: Thank you. It makes me miss teaching.

    thefriande: It IS a pretty heavy book. It really sits with you for a long time after your finish it.

    Jillian: When I read that last section, I had to set the book aside and go get a hug. It was so dark and deep that I needed a little assurance of who I was, know what I mean?

  10. Wow--this post gives me chills. I listened to this book earlier this year and was very affected by it. I was angered by Hannah's ultimate decision but had hoped that if nothing else this book would help others--and your story is a testament to that. How powerful.

  11. Stunning! That was a great teacher move on your part to read the books with her. I work at a college comprised largely of the "at risk" students you're talking about. While many of them claim not to like to read, I really want to start a book club to bring more of us together and maybe motivate some of my reluctant readers. I think that sense of community can make all the difference.

  12. Trish: Yeah, this book is so incredibly moving. Everyone that has read it has had some wonderful things to say about its power.

    Andi: Aw thanks. I think the book club idea is great! Literature and stories have a great way of bringing everyone together!