In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”


My hope is that this is what books become to you—as important as almost anything else on earth. This blog is about helping you find the miracle in these small, flat, rigid squares of paper while you are in middle school and beyond. Once you read alongside me, you are forever a member of my tribe of readers. No matter how you old you are, when you need to be reminded of the power of a good story, you will find me here, waiting to place one in your hands.

Monday, February 20, 2012

THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher



copyright date: October 2007
primarily marketed for: young adults (12 and up)

This is one of those books I heard people talk about for so long that I thought I knew what it was about.  I knew it was the story of a girl who committed suicide, but had left behind cassette tapes explaining the thirteen reasons why.  I knew it was moving.  I knew it was powerful.  I knew it was about a girl who was bullied.  I knew reading it changed people.

But I had no idea.

First of all, it is not really the story of Hannah.  It is really the story of Clay.  Clay receives the 7 cassette tapes Hannah left behind in an anonymous package in the mail.  He has to hunker down in the garage to listen to the tapes because it is the only place with an old cassette player. 

As he listens to the tapes, Clay learns that all 13 people who make up Hannah’s story, who played some part in the events that led her to take her own life, have heard or will hear these tapes.  If any person decides not to pass them on, a third party who has a copy of the tapes, will go public with them.  And Hannah knows the people on those tapes do not want that.

The thing that surprised me about this story was how dynamic it is.  I expected a realistic, but straightforward story about a girl who was bullied.  However, there are no clear answers here.  Sure, there are some people who did obvious wrong.  However, there are many more people who just didn’t do right…including Hannah herself.  The most moving part of the story for me was Clay’s response to Hannah’s story.  Clay is the main character here.  He is the character who has the opportunity to change.  It is too late for Hannah.

This is a complex story about what it is really like to be human and grow up amongst peers who are also struggling to be human.  There are mature themes and some mature language, though none of it seemed gratuitous to me.  It is there because it is present in our society. 

I read it in one day, in one sitting.  I couldn’t put it down.  There is a reason this remained a New York Times Bestseller for over a year. 

3 comments:

  1. I loved this book. Great review, Christy. You hit the nail on the head. I expected more obvious examples of bullying, but bullying isn't always that obvious. This is a fantastic read...

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  2. Christy, thank you for this. I have avoided and avoided this book, but now I won't. It sounds important.

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  3. I'm in the middle of listening to this one and I am still unsure how I feel about it. I'm thinking I have the same expectations going in that you did. Looking forward to seeing where it takes me.

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