Recently I was in our local book store, perusing the young adult section. I was researching stories that might be contemporaries to the novels I’m working on, and one of the clerks–a most knowledgeable and engaging young woman, suggested I read Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. It’s appropriate, I think, to review this book now since it’s the beginning of Suicide Prevention Week.
From the back cover copy:
You can’t stop the future. You can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret is to press play.
Clay Jenson doesn’t want anything to do with the tapes Hannah Baker made. Hannah is dead. Her secrets should be buried with her.
Then Hannah’s voice tells Clay that his name is on her tapes–and that he is, in some way, responsible for her death. All through the night, Clay keeps listening. He follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his small town…and what he discovers changes his life forever.
Clay is a left-behind, and I appreciated the angst he felt as he listened to the tapes. Some of the reasons Hannah took her own life seem insignificant but Asher did a masterful job of showing how one small snowball can become an avalanche-producing boulder as Hannah leads Clay through her story. There were moments when I found myself saying along with Clay, “Really, Hannah? That’s why?” and other moments where I was holding my breath waiting for the next description. I shared his incredulity and his anger. I even recognized his guilt.
This is a story I’ll return to even though it isn’t a story I loved. I couldn’t love it because I’m a left-behind too and there are days when that is exhausting. The subject matter of suicide is difficult–but in my opinion, it’s not nearly as difficult as the reality of it.