Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Reviewed by Margo Dill, www.margodill.com, email@example.com
Young adult novel, contemporary
High school guy and girl as main characters
Rating: This is one of the best YA books I’ve ever “listened” to. The story is well-told, realistically in two distinct voices. I would recommend this to anyone–young or old.
Purchase Thirteen Reasons Why
Short, short summary: Clay Jensen receives a box of audiotapes one day after school. The audiotapes turn out to be from Hannah Baker, who committed suicide a few weeks before. Clay discovers he is receiving these tapes because he is featured on one of them, along with 11 other people in his school. The tapes have been passed on from one person to the next, so they won’t be turned over for the public to hear. Hannah made the tapes before she killed herself in an attempt to explain why she did what she did and how these people played a part. Clay spends an entire night listening to the tapes, following a map left to him by Hannah, and interacting with a couple people on the tapes. The story is heartbreaking and touching and important, and what Clay does with it in the end is what we can hope all people do who hear or read this book.
So, what do I do with this book:
1. Although this book has a few “sexual” scenes, I think it is an important book for schools to use. All students, parents, teachers, and counselors should read this book and discuss it. This is an unusual book on the topic of suicide because Hannah Baker did kill herself, and so the characters can do nothing to stop it. They have to learn from it. When your students or your child finish reading this book, ask them either in a discussion or a journal assignment or both–what did they learn from this book? What can they do to make a difference in someone else’s life? What are some suicide warning signs that are mentioned in the book?
2. Suicide is a scary topic for teens, but even scarier for adults. This book can get the communication paths open and discussions started. Give students resources they can use if they feel like suicide is the only answer. Who can they call? Who can they talk to? What should they do? Make sure all students know who to turn to just like when they were in elementary school and they learned how to dial 911 in an emergency. What do they do in this emergency? What do they do if a friend is threatening suicide? The resource sheet should be typed and given to EVERY student. They should not have to pick one up in the guidance office, so everyone can see them. However, these resource sheets should also be posted on bulletin boards or maybe even on the school’s website in case someone loses his sheet. If you have a group of students in your school who are interested in helping, they could research and create the resource sheet.
3. How does Jay Asher write in these two unique, authentic voices interchangeably throughout the book? How do the characters change, develop, and evolve? Voice and character development are two writing skills that you can study along with this book. Thirteen Reasons Why is its own master’s class in creating two sensational voices and believable, realistic characters.
For an interview with Jay Asher, check out The First Book. If you have used this book with your students or your child, please leave a comment here about your experiences.
If you have a recommendation of a book for me to read and review, please leave a comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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