Sunday, December 09, 2007
More than TWICE as many votes.
I don't know if it's just the virtual circles I run in, but it seemed to me that few books this year were met with the anticipation that Jay Asher's debut effort drummed up prior to its publication. Now, partially, I'm sure, this is because Asher is One Of Us out here in the kidlitosphere, but not entirely. Not entirely at all. Thirteen Reasons Why is, like Chris Crutcher said in his cover blurb, clever and suspenseful.
The basic (remember, clever) premise is that a teen boy receives a package containing cassette tapes from a classmate. The catch is that this classmate? She committed suicide and these tapes contain 13 reasons why she ended her life. One side per person who did her wrong.
Um. Holy crap, right? Like, can you just imagine? And here we've got poor, bewildered Clay frantically trying to figure out how he could possibly have ended up on the tapes when all he did was have a huge crush on Hannah and make out with her the one time. Meanwhile, Hannah's life unravels via audio diary as she enumerates each step, each person, each painful misconception.
And we get to go along on the... kind of appalling ride.
The funny thing is that really? Hannah isn't that likable a person. She's CLEARLY been wronged. The people on those tapes were not nice or fair to her. But Hannah, in what amounts to her revenge, doesn't really come off any better. It's painful, really painful to read. You have to love the sass and spunk of the girl, but you have to question her desire for spite; her need to give back the pain she receive; the compulsion to make sure the people she blames for her suicide know that they had a hand in it. Wow. Heavy stuff. And yet Asher is able to bring into Hannah's voice a wryness that amuses as it shocks.
Hannah actually kinda hijacks the novel. Ostensibly, it's about Clay, it's through his experience that we see Hannah, outside from her own presentation, but it's her novel, her story. Clay's just the vehicle. She's driving the car, and she's running over a lot of people on her way off the bridge. Clay is able to tell us how much debris is left behind.
This would be a great title for book clubs. Lots and lots to talk about, and such a quick read - if only because like Clay, who can't stop listening, we just can't stop reading.
Outside a Cat