As promised, my next book analysis is going to be TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY by Jay Asher.  When I’m picking a book, I try to keep my ears open for young adult novels with some buzz around them.  I like award-winners and especially best-sellers.  If I’m trying to write a best-seller, I figure there’s no better way to seed my brain.  However, TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY kept coming up and I kept passing it by.  Suicide is a tough subject matter and TH1RTEEN R3EASONS WHY unapologetically analyzes why one teenaged girl commits suicide.  But I finally buckled down and did it, so here goes.

TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY by Jay Asher was a New York Times bestseller, got a Georgia Peach Award for young readers, and the Young Adult Library Services Association selected the book as a best book for young adults, a best audio book for young adults, and a quick pick for reluctant readers.  I’m also very interested in debut novels and this happens to be Mr. Asher’s first book.  Talk about a doozy.

The author has a website which, since this is his debut book, focuses on TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY.  There are reader reviews, audio excerpts, and a link to Mr. Asher’s blog.  Have a look at his blog if you get the chance.  Along the right side of the screen he shows the cover art for TH1RTEEN R3EASONS WHY on international versions of the book.  It’s pretty interesting.  I think my favorite is Italy’s cover.  Also, there’s a link to Hannah’s blog, the main character and the suicide victim in the novel.  Of course her blog makes a whole lot more sense if you’ve read the book, but I will note that it includes the phone number for a suicide hotline, which I was glad to see.

So, TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY is the duel story of two lead characters.  Hannah Baker is a girl who has recently committed suicide.  She leaves behind a set of audio tapes that details the thirteen reasons why she made this choice and, as it turns out, each of those reasons is a person.  Some guy or girl who influenced her life her in the last three years  as she spiraled into despair and depression.  We pick up the story as the tapes come to Clay Jensen, one of those reasons why.  By every account, he seems like a decent guy, tortured by the death of a girl he had a huge crush on but never really had the courage to get to know better.  He listens to the tapes, listening for his name and dreading hearing it at the same time.

This book is unsettling.  There’s no other way to put it.  I was expecting something that would make me cry but this book didn’t do that.  Liking Hannah was hard for me.  If you think about the premise of the story, Hannah is a little bit sadistic.  Clay is completely likeable.  It gave me this odd sense of distaste for someone I really should have been sympathetic towards.  And I think that was on purpose.

So, next time, I’m going to talk about the characters and the setting.  This book is almost entirely character sketches.  Fourteen people moving into and out of each other’s lives.  And it looks at the very interesting question of how the small things you do affect others in a big way.  I know that more than one teen wrote on Mr. Asher’s website that this book made them want to change their lives and be better people.  What more could an author ask for than that?!?

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