Bibliographic Information: Asher, J. (2011). Th1rteen r3asons why: A novel. New York, NY: Razorbill.
Brief Annotation: Clay comes home to find a package at his front door. Inside, he is shocked to discover a series of tapes recorded by Hannah, his former crush, who has recently committed suicide. Clay spends the rest of the day and late into the night listening to Hannah’s tapes on a journey to discover the thirteen reasons why she killed herself.
Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Grade Level: 7th and up
Readers who will like this: Readers who enjoy contemporary realistic fiction; readers who enjoy stories about people struggling with mental illness; readers who feel victimized at school.
Rating/Response: 2; I hated this book. I gave it one point for keeping readers engaged. Asher obviously knows how to write a page-turner. However, I found several parts of the text to be completely lacking in believability, I felt no connection to the characters, and I think Hannah is a dreadful example for teenagers. Creating a set of vicious tapes meant to take down everyone who hurt you from beyond the grave requires both passion and energy. I realize that everyone experiences depression differently, but in my experience, when one is depressed, one generally lacks both passion and energy. Additionally, Hannah’s suicide felt less like a desperate longing to escape than a petty way of getting back at everyone who’s ever hurt her. I also find it completely unbelievable that if, as is stated in the text, Hannah was both showing drastic changes in attitude and behavior and actively sought help that NO adults would have come to her aid (including Mr. Porter, a MANDATED REPORTER). If Hannah had been hiding her depression convincingly or was undergoing treatment that was not successful, I would have been better able to believe this story. As it stands, I was frustrated and angry with both the characters and the author. I understand the reasons this book has been challenged, and although I am a big supporter of freedom of speech, I think this book is best suited to a high school audience. I would not recommend it for 7th and 8th graders.
One question you would ask before a read aloud: Oy vey. “What resources do we have available for people who are struggling with depression or considering suicide?”