Life is short.  We are busy.  We rarely consider repercussions of our actions, thoughts, or words in a time where everything needs completed – successfully – before we die.  Jay Asher’s novel Thirteen Reasons Why, highlights these harsh truths of life through the ears of Clay Jensen and the words of Hannah Baker.  Clay, an average high school student, receives a mysterious box on his porch after school one day.  He finds it filled with cassette tapes from his classmate and crush – Hannah Baker.  The catch: Hannah committed suicide two weeks prior to the arrival of the tapes.  Heartbroken Clay must listen to the tapes that unravel the reasons of why Hannah decided to leave.

I did not want to read this story.  Death alone is difficult to understand, especially when we lose someone close to us.  We ask ourselves, “Is there something I could have done to prevent this?” and “Why?” and a million other things.  The death of a young person is beyond tragic.  Having lost a young and beloved family member just prior to my reading this, I wasn’t sure if I was ready.  I kept replaying the last things I said to her and that she said to me.  And suicide – well, in combination with death and youth especially… it’s impossible to explain.  I was approaching this novel determined to find out why Hannah did what she did, expecting justification of her actions.  In her young mind, her taking her life is justified – but in my 26-year-old brain, it’s still unacceptable.  So why read this book?

Answer:  WE are still here.  We must be the voices of those who cannot speak up for themselves.  We need to look beyond the facades – no matter how long our days were or how many things we have to do before the weekend.  We need to care.  We need to be human and realize that other humans are just as important.  We need to consider our last words – or any words for that matter – to others.  I’m not suggesting that it’s possible to save every person, nor should we seek out the innermost problems of individuals.  We just simply need to be kinder.  It might be a simple “hello” or smile or really working hard internally to not flick off that driver who just cut you off – to save a life.  We just never, ever know.

This book is worth a read by anyone, but especially young people who need a little kick in the pants AND their teachers.  So teachers, that’s EVERY last one of you.

Gary gives it 3 paws.

Awards:

2011 – Paperback edition became a #1 New York Times bestseller in the US

2010 – Georgia Peach Book Awards for Teen Readers

2009 – International Reading Association Young Adults’ Choice list

2009 – Writing Conference’s Literature Festival

2008 – Best Books for Young Adults YALSA

2008 – Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers YALSA

2008 – Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults YALSA

2008 – California Book Award winner – Young Adult

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