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Young Adult Literature Reviews
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Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why
Thirteen Reasons Why to Carpe Diem
Thirteen Reasons Why
. Young Readers Group 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York. Penguin Group, 2007.
Sitting in class your teacher hands out a list of bullet points. The bullet points tell the signs of what to look for in a teenager on the brink of suicide. You’ve never thought about suicide before. You’re too busy to think of suicide. Too busy studying. Too busy meeting your parents’ expectations. Too busy thinking about your crush and the kiss you shared last weekend. So what would you do with that list? Would you look around your class and see who fits the mold? Or would fold it up and put it in your backpack with the rest of your homework?
That list will come back to haunt you. And every time you think of it, you will think of how you missed the signs-- missed each one of the bullet points. Missed them, because while you were too busy thinking about
busy life, and
crush, and the kiss
shared last week;
crush was too busy swallowing the pills that would end her own.
In the young adult novel,
Thirteen Reasons Why
, by Jay Asher, a young man named Clay Jensen faces this exact predicament after a set of seven cassette tapes are delivered to his door. Clay must listen to the tapes, and amidst other names, learn why Hannah Baker felt that he played a part in her suicide. After listening he must then pass the tapes on to the next person of the list. As he waits for his own name to come up, he hears Hannah's reactions to experiences to varying high school experiences-- experiences that always seemed like typical high school moments to him.
Asher portrays the novel, much like a Shakespearean tragedy, in which changing or stopping just one of the thirteen events could have changed the end result. Quickly the novel becomes haunting as readers are helplessly transported into Clay's footsteps. With every question he faces and every trial he comes across, readers cannot help but think the questions and trails are their own. In this way, by the end of the novel, readers are moved beyond the novel and forced to look into
experiences, and into the secret lives of
classmates that they pass each day in the hall. In discovering the stories and characters throughout the novel, readers inevitably find relaionships in their own lives that mirror the friendship of Clay and Hannah. Greater than anything else, it is what Clay did
do for Hannah that challenges readers to make a difference in their own complicated teenage friendships.
By the end of the novel, Clay was able to understand what Hannah's life could have been if he had taken the time to see the world through her eyes. If left with a relationship like the one Clay and Hannah share, will readers ask theirselves if they will seize the opportunity to make a change or continue their path in fear of taking a stand? As the pain in Hannah's voice is heard, readers become empathetic towards her deep seeded pain... after all haven't we all felt invisible at one point or another? And then, moving back to Clay's narrative readers are susceptible to his overwhelming emotions, as well. Asher leaves readers with the lingering question of, if we all been Clay at Hannah on some levels, what will be do to bridge the gap of pain?
As readers of the novel we are left with a greater sense of everyday CARRE DIEM. Because, as Clay learns, today matters. We matter. But more than that, we matter to one another today. Maybe tomorrow isn't an option. Maybe, like in Hannah's case, tomorrow will no longer exist. So what will be do in
own high schools, for
own experiences, and how will we improve the secret lives of
classmates that we just used to pass each day in the hall way?
As classmates and readers we have an opportunity to change-- as long as we are able to muster the strength to CARPE DIEM.
Table of Contents:
1. Hannah describes the day she got to fulfil one of her dreams: to experience her first kiss. Despite how perfect the kiss was at the time, it ends up being a nightmare as the boy she kissed (Justin) tells his friends and anyone else who will listen, that they had gone much, much further. This establishes a false reputation for her throughout the novel.
2. The next chapter is about how her friend Alex puts Hannah on a list as the "hottest ass in the freshmen class." This is offensive to Hannah because she knows it isn't true. She was just put on the list to spite a fellow student. But this isn't the end of the list's reprecussions. It furthers Hannah's bad reputation and makes the males at her school less respectful of her.
3. Alex's hot and not list places Hannah's friend Jessica at the bottom of the list. Unfortunately, Jessica likes Alex and is angered that Hannah is considered "hot" in his eyes. Jessica abondons their friendship.
4. When school becomes a hostile environment Hannah clings to the safety of her home. Unfortunately this too is taken away from her when Tyler begins peering through her windows and taking pictures of her. The only refuge Hannah had is compromised, and she begins to feel like nothing is safe.
5. Hannah mentions her predicament to a popular girl named Courtney at school. They decide they should try to catch the peeping tom. Hannah thinks that perhaps this girl could be her friend, but in the end Courtney betrays her and spreads even more sexual rumors.
6. Marcus gets paired with Hannah in the Valentines Day survey. She asks him to go out to eat. He thinks it's a joke, but decides to see if she showed up. Unfortunately she was. Marcus proceded to try to touch her inappropriately.
7. Zack sees the scene in the diner and tries to talk to Hannah. She snaps at him and leaves. To get back at Hannah's outburst, he begins to steal Hannah's letters of encouragement in a class. Hannah finds out and is hurt because more than any other time she needs encouragment, acceptance, and love from her peers.
8. One day Hannah sees an advertisement for a happy poetry class that is supposed to enrich and brighten the lives of the participants. Hannah signs up thinking it will help her cope with life. But the class is nothing like it was advertised. On the contrary it is sad and depressing. Ryan, a boy from Hannah's school is also in the class. The two become friends and begin sharing poetry. Ryan steals one of Hannah's deepest, darkest poems and published it in the school newspaper to be dissected by the faculty and students alike.
9. This chapter is about Hannah and Clay, a boy that had liked Hannah and had kissed her once at a party. Although Clay recieves the tapes, it's not because he was mean to her. She wants to tell him that she cared about him and that she wished they had pursued a relationship together while there was still time.
10. Justin comes into the picture again when he leaves Jessica drunk in a bedroom at a party and lets Bryce rape her. Hannah sees the whole thing.
11. Hannah needs a ride home from a party on a dark stormy night and asks a cheerleader names Jenny is she could drop her off. On the way home Jenny hits a stop sign and refuses to call the police. When Hannah argues Jenny kicks her out of the car and leaves her in the street. Hannah walks home and the next day discovers that an old man's car had gone through an intersection without a stop sign and had killed a senior at her highschool. Hannah feels personally responsible.
12. After another party, Hannah lets Bryce finger her, not because she wants to but because she doesn't care anymore. This is important because it isi the first time she ahd given in to her reputation: the first time she had let herself go.
13. Now that Hannah has "given in," she feels as though she has only one other place to turn for support: her school counseler. After explaining what happened between her and Bryce and explaining that she felt like giving up, the counselor responds by telling her to "let it go." This advice makes Hannah feel that she now has permission to commit suicide.
Recommendations for Teachers:
In the teenage world of “he said” and “she said”, it is impossible to know the entire story of a teenager. Asher’s novel discusses the most difficult of topics for teenagers: bullying, gossip, rape. All of which seem relentless for so many teenagers. More so than anything else, depression and suicide become the ultimate topics of discussion in this novel.
Teachers should use this novel, with a great deal of sensitivity, opening discussions that move the students without imnstigating existing issues.
Additionally, the work focuses on the idea that everyone has the power to affect others, whether positively or negatively. Teachers can use this book as a tool to show students how their actions, no matter how insignificant, can change another's life. Perhaps this would be a good time to present the warning signs of a depressed or suicidal teenager. The teacher should also encourage students to act on what they learned, and help depressed individuals by suggesting counseling and being a positive and encouraging friend. But teachers must be on the lookout for signs too. Talking intimately about the topics in this book could inspire depressed or suicidal teens to talk to a teacher (you) about his/her problem. If you are going to teach this book, be ready to talk to students and get them help. This is a link to a list of suicidal warning signs:
Also included is a general suicide hotline along with specialized hotlines for military veterans, the gay and lesbian community, and Spanish speakers.
About Jay Asher:
This is Jay Asher’s first novel. Asher is a self-proclaimed book store efficianato, who loves working with and selling books as much as he does writing them.
You can learn more about Jay and his life at his blog listed below. A fan-made trailor for
Thirteen Reasons Why
At the end of the Novel, an interview was inserted about Jay Asher's inspirations for the story. According to Asher, the idea for the novel happened a bit backwards. It first began with thoughts for its unique format. Prior to writing this novel, Asher had only written humorous books, where this type of format would not be fitting.
Unfortunately, Hannah's condition was one that hit very close to home for Jay. He had a close relative that attempted suicide. She was around the same age as Hannah, but unlike the main character in this book, she thankfully and luckily survived. It was hard for her to put a finger on just one reason as to why she did what she did. Asher explains that she could only give experiences that lead into each other. This aspect intrigued Jay in the fact that "everything affects everything", as he put it.
When Asher was asked if this novel was intended to get a message across, he willingly admitted it was. He wanted to show that how we treat one another is very important. Our words and actions can have a big impact on others.
A fan-made trailor for
Thirteen Reasons Why
Thirteen Reasons Why Official Book Website
- Contains information about the book as well as reviews from readers and teachers.
Jay Asher's Blog
- Contains information about Jay Asher as well as information about the book.
- "Hannah's Reasons" is a blog from the perspective of Hannah Baker, the book's main character.
Thirteen Reasons Why Wikipedia Page
- Gives information about the plot and characters of the book.
A Review of Thirteen Reasons Why
- Written by Kristi Olson of TeenRead.com.
A Review of Thirteen Reasons Why
- Written by Jennifer Wardrip of TeensReadToo.com.
Reviews and Recommendations for Thirteen Reason Why
- Contains topic information, reviews, and further book recommendations for readers.
Thirteen Reasons Why on Amazon.com
- Read reviews and purchase the book.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Provides information related to the prevention of suicide and links to getting help for the suicidal.
- A list of suicide warning signs and a suicide hotline including ones specifically for gays, lesbians, military veterans, and Spanish speakers.
Reviewed by Danielle Houghton, Jhenna Challah, Ana Yonkers, Joslyn Rohrscheib, and Kristy McPherson
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