13 May 2009

Writing on Reading: Thirteen Reasons Why

I recently read the YA novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. It's my understanding the author has been trying to get published for twelve (!) years. Kudos to Mr. Asher for sticking with it! This is not a speculative fiction book so you might be wondering why I read it. My critique group recently had had a discussion about dead narrators and I'd heard this was an example. And it is. There are two pov characters: Clay and his dead crush Hannah. The author handles the dead pov character's narrative in a very interesting way.

The official synopsis is: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.

This book was well-written and very powerful. The author does a great job capturing teen angst and insecurities. I was initially concerned the author was blatantly trying to emotionally manipulate his YA readers, and ultimately $$profit$$ from their angst. However, the final message is one of hope and empowerment so I guess manipulation isn't necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, while this is a YA book about suicide and two rapes and a death in a traffic accident, the author does have the bad stuff happen "off screen". Phew! More importantly, the author is encouraging students to talk about their thoughts in book discussion groups with counselors, etc. Kudos again, Mr. Asher.

We should all write so powerfully.

1 comment:

David E. Hughes said...

Thanks for the review--sounds like this is one I should add to my list.