Summary: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his front porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why.
Clay responds the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a first-hand witness to Hannah's pain, and learns the truth about himself--a truth he never wanted to face. (Summary from book jacket and image from http://www.rhcl.org/)
My Review: Wow. This was a very unique read and a novel concept, at least for me. Just knowing the concept I wasn't sure if I'd like this book. A girl creates cassette tapes and sends it to the people who were part of her downfall into a place she felt she couldn't return from. She basically blackmails them into listening. The whole set up is intricately detailed and purposeful, down to the order the tapes are recorded in. And while this sounds very disturbing (and it kind of is) it sets up the book to be a fantastic mystery. I wasn't quite sure how everything fit together until the very end, which for me is a bonus. It also isn't until the end that the most unnerving parts of her experience are revealed. At first I kept thinking she was an overly dramatic girl--not so by the end.
Some of my favorite aspects to the books are: 1) I like who Asher chose as the narrator--I can't go into detail why here lest it ruins the book for you 2) with the hardcover edition the jacket cover has a map of all the locations she speaks about and you can follow along as you read, just like the narrator does in the story 3) that the author focused on making it more of a puzzle and less an obsession on the darker aspects of suicide 4) the overall message of the story that you never know what your, seemingly small, impact on others' lives can produce 5) lastly, I love that this is a male writer portraying the damage that can be done to a girl when put through the ordeal she was. I honestly felt it was very authentic with a strong voice.
If there was only one thing I would take away from the book, it would be the author's message and that, for me, is enough to promote the book up and down the halls of my school. We can all be more kind, more attune to the struggles and pain of others. I love how the story focuses on how each decision, each interaction is cumulative and you never know if yours will be what pushes a person over the edge. So, think before you speak, think about others before acting.
My Rating: 4.5 stars
For the sensitive reader: There are some scenes where she witnesses a rape. Minimal language, but overall concept is raw--a very planned and intentional suicide.
Sum it up: A YA puzzle with a unique set up that completely pulls you in.