October Book Club: “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher

One of my favorite bloggers, Julie of Peanut Butter Fingers, hosts a book club every month through her blog. I love to read and thought it might be a neat way to get introduced to new books and authors and do some “fun reading” outside of the reading I’m assigned through school. I’ll be following along with the book club selections over at Peanut Butter Fingers and then posting my review/reflections/comments about the book on here at the beginning of each new month.

October’s Book Club pick was Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I’d heard a lot of buzz about this book but I hadn’t read it yet, and I was intrigued immediately when I picked it up and read the back cover:

“You can’t stop the future. You can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret … is to press play.”

The book is written from the perspective of Clay Jensen, a high school senior who receives a package in the mail with no return address. Inside the package is a series of tapes — thirteen sides in all — containing the recorded testimony of Hannah Baker, a girl from Clay’s school who had committed suicide just a few short weeks before. Clay had nursed a crush on Hannah for years, but hadn’t summoned the courage to act on his feelings {other than one confusing night right before Hannah died} and is filled with regret about the way things turned out. He is both curious and repulsed by the tapes. He wants to hear what Hannah has to say, but is also filled with frustration and sadness to hear the pain in her voice.

Something that really impressed me about this book was the way Asher interweaves Hannah’s voice and memories in the tapes with Clay’s narrative and thoughts in the present line of action. Their voices/perspectives interweave seamlessly and beautifully, in a way that reminded me of a musical duet, steadily increasing the tension more and more until the inevitable, and yet also surprising, conclusion. Asher writes with honesty, vividness, and unflinching realism — and for a novel dealing with suicide, Thirteen Reasons Why was surprisingly hopeful. I was very moved while reading this book, and particularly at the end. I don’t usually cry while reading, but the tears came when I was turning the final pages of this novel.

To me, some of the most poignant moments in the novel were when Clay laments, Why didn’t you talk to me, Hannah? I would have listened. This book made me think of the myriad of ways, both large and small, that peoples’ lives are intertwined. We have no idea how big of an impact we have on those around us. The smallest gesture — a smile, a kind word, a “hello” in the halls — can be just the thing to give someone else hope or happiness or turn their life around.

Have any of you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

6 thoughts on “October Book Club: “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher

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