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TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY

Jay Asher's Thi1rteen R3asons Why looks at the power of compassion, understanding, and patience.

TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY
BOOK REPORT for Thi1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher

BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Fetch
Bonus Factor: Walkman
Relationship Status: That Ex You Still Sort Of Have Feelings For

The Deal:

Clay Jenson arrives home from school one day to find a package on his front porch. Inside? A map and seven cassette tapes. From a dead girl.

Hannah Baker killed herself two weeks prior, and everyone was left wondering why. Those who receive the tapes and follow her journey will have those questions answered, and those answers will open their eyes to the hearts and minds of themselves and the people around them.

BFF Charm: Yay!

There are two narrators to this story, Hannah and Clay. Hannah's dead, so it's a bit difficult to be BFF with her, but from all accounts, she was pretty awesome while she was alive. Both Hannah and Clay are flawed individuals, but their flaws are understandable and realistic. Yes, they can be selfish, shallow and short-sighted, but I've never met a teenager who wasn't these things.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Did I swoon over Hannah and Clay as a couple? Nah, not really. Death, and particularly suicide, is not romantic, no matter what Shakespeare may think. Mostly it just sucks, large.

That said, I think we've all been where Clay's at - left looking back on your time with someone and wondering what more you could have done.

Talky Talk: Fetch

The book suffers, I think, from its main narrative device - that of a dead girl and a living boy narrating the same story. There's just a little too much of "Hannah said this, and now I feel like this" in this novel, which is unfortunate because a more compelling narration could have hidden some of the book's other flaws.

Bonus Factor: Walkman

Well, I was hardly going to put suicide as the bonus factor, right? Actually, this would have been EVEN BETTER if Hannah had recorded her suicide note on those little mini-tapes from the 80s. Remember those? They only had room for one song on each side and were about the size of a matchbook. Mine had "Manic Monday" and "Locomotion" by Kylie Minogue. Good times.

Casting Call:

Mandy Moore as Hannah Baker

Um, I love Mandy Moore, alright? And if I'm going to feel sympathetic about a girl who does spend an entire book talking about her problems, I'm going to need Mandy Moore's effortless charm.

Zach Gilford as Clay Jenson

I wonder if I can manage to cast an FNL actor for every book report I do. I BET I CAN. Also, I'm not sure how I feel about seeing that little patch of skin on Gilford's tummy in this picture. Matt Saracen, put some clothes on!

Relationship Status: That Ex You Still Sort Of Have Feelings For

After reading this book, I gave it to my friend Meredith with the instructions, "Give this to Poshdeluxe. I don't know what to think of it." Losing a loved one to suicide is something I wish I could say I have never experienced, but my very good friend took her life a few years ago. My feelings about that, and her, are at best unresolved, and I found as I was reading this book that my thoughts naturally strayed to my friend. Eventually, it became too difficult to judge the book on its own merits - were the flaws I found it to have actually relevant, or was I just judging it, and the characters, based on my own experience? I'm still not sure, except to say that even with my personal feelings removed, I still didn't completely buy the story and I'm not sure I liked the book.

That said, one thing I did like about the book was the message (dumbed down though it may have been). Hannah Baker did not suffer from clinical depression, or some other disease which we may often attribute to suicide, but rather from a million pointed barbs or looks, a million turned-away faces or dashed dreams, until, in the end, there was nothing left to hope for. I often make a (tactless) joke about my inability to be rude to strangers, even when they deserve it, by saying that all people are two mean comments away from offing themselves on any given day and I don't want to be the one who makes the second comment. The thing is, it's true. You never know when compassion and understanding and the patience to really listen will save someone's life, and you certainly don't want to learn the hard way.

But, apart from all that, who the heck names their book with numbers replacing letters? I really hate that. Se7en got away with it, because that movie is awesome. You, Th1rteen R3asons Why, are no Se7en.

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.
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