Sunday, April 26, 2015

13 Reasons to read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirty Reasons Why, the New York Times bestseller and young adult novel by Jay Asher, uniquely addresses the issue of teen suicide through a suspenseful story of a young man who receives a mysterious set of tapes following the death of a classmate. Clay Jensen listens to the tapes to discover the voice of Hannah Baker, a girl he knew from school who had passed away. Hannah begins to narrate the story of her downward spiral into a state of depression and ultimately suicide. However, there is a twist. Hannah is exposing the story and the thirteen people who in some way "played a role" in her demise. This revelation shocks Clay - and of course the reader - and propels the action of the novel. Thirteen Reasons Why is an infinitely readable young adult novel that takes on the issue of suicide in a meaningful way.

Thirteen Reasons Why has resonated with both teen and adult readers because:

  1. The issue of teen suicide - and the social pressures that can often instigate it - is as prominent as ever, and one of the best ways to treat the issue is to initiate difficult conversations about the topic.
  2. Jay Asher writes with a readable and believable teen voice that engages the issue of teen angst and the confusion that both leads to and follows the suicide of a young person.
  3. The book is being made into a movie starring Selena Gomez
  4. The novel is written in a unique format with basically two narrators - the actual one and the girl on the tape whose story is being told.
  5. The suspenseful nature of the story - notably the reasons for Hannah's action, the gradual revealing of people and their roles, and Clay's unease over "his role - drive the story forward in a way that's difficult to put down.
  6. It doesn't descend (too much) into cliches about teen life - or teen voices
  7. There are layers of meaning and events that culminate in Hannah's death - a structure that lends understanding to the hardest thing to understand.
  8. It's not a flawless novel, and there is plenty to criticize as you discuss the novel.
  9. It doesn't trivialize its subject as far too many books and movies can.
  10. It's a heck of an achievement for a first novel.
  11. It's thoughtful without being preachy or pretentious
  12. I kind of wish I'd written it - and you probably will, too.
  13. Many of your students have read or are reading it, and you should, too.

And for a couple of other well written young adult novels that deal impressively with tough situations and do so in a voice and style that can even engage adults, you will definitely want to read:

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

It's Kind of a Funny Thing - Ned Vizinni

No comments: