book club

BOOK HUNGRY: 13 reasons why

who says you have to be crowded into the living room, kitchen, and/or dining room to hold a book club? we are ladies of the 21st century. we don’t need no stinkin’ couches. so pull up a blog and join in the conversation.

the members of the BOOK HUNGRY are (alphabetically): patty blount, kelly breakey, karla nellenbach, vanessa noble, alyson peterson, cynthia reese, elizabeth ryann, and myself. here’s the deal. we pick a book to read. we discuss via email. we post a review on our individual blogs on the same day (3rd thursday of the month). we link to each other. done. i know, genius. click on each one of their names (above) and it’ll take you to their review. browse. enjoy.

this month’s BOOK HUNGRY selection is:

13 REASONS WHY by jay asher

i originally read this book after i won it in a contest hosted by karla nellenbach. admittedly, i hadn’t heard of it until then, but considering she named it one of the five books that inspired her to be a better writer, i knew i was in for a treat.

this book is an odd little duck in that if you break down the parts, it’s not really anything that hasn’t been done before, but when all the pieces are put together, well, honestly, IT KNOCKED MY SOCKS OFF. and considering my apartment is at a constant 58 degrees and i wear slippers over those socks, it takes a lot to knock them off.

the premise is this: When Clay Jenson plays the casette tapes he received in a mysterious package, he’s surprised to hear the voice of dead classmate Hannah Baker. He’s one of 13 people who receive Hannah’s story, which details the circumstances that led to her suicide. Clay spends the rest of the day and long into the night listening to Hannah’s voice and going to the locations she wants him to visit. The text alternates, sometimes quickly, between Hannah’s voice and Clay’s thoughts as he listens to her words, which illuminate betrayals and secrets that demonstrate the consequences of even small actions. Hannah, herself, is not free from guilt, her own inaction having played a part in an accidental auto death and a rape. The message about how we treat one another, although sometimes heavy, makes for compelling reading.

it came out in 2007, but it’s particularly timely with all of the bullying in the headlines these days. high school is hard and the students don’t make it any easier for themselves or each other. we may learn it in class, but this book really shows us how each action has an opposite and equal reaction.

unfortunately, all of those events pile up on hannah and it becomes too much for her to bear. she creates a set of tapes (yes, tapes) as a suicide note/type of revenge, and on them, she points out how certain individuals’ actions drove her to despair. this in turn reveals/reminds us just how interwoven our actions and our lives are, especially in high school when every class, project, and party feels oh so important. hannah is self-aware enough to realize that she is as guilty as everyone else she names, so she doesn’t leave herself or her actions out of the tapes. it’s brave, and in a weird twist, it’s the very plotting of her death that reveals the true strength of her character. she is crafty, organized, stubborn and smart. if only she could see herself as the readers do, maybe then she wouldn’t have gone through with it.

and clay, oh clay. he’s sweet and quiet and had almost worked up the nerve to spill his feelings for hannah to hannah. he’s exactly the kind of guy you wish had a crush on you.

the structure of this book adds to the overall haunting feeling. hannah and clay are both the narrators and their alternating viewpoints transition continuously and seamlessly from one to another. hannah’s words are eerie and vengeful while clay’s voice is honest, sad, hurting, and yet, romantic. the combination of hannah’s version of events plus clay’s own memories is terrifying and nerve-wracking and you can’t help but wish you didn’t already know the end result.

verdict: read this book and be prepared to be stunned in a way that educates, uplifts, and ultimately, inspires you.

p.s. join us next month as we read kelly’s pick:  NATURAL BORN CHARMER by Susan Elizabeth Philips.


14 thoughts on “BOOK HUNGRY: 13 reasons why”

  1. I loved this book. I even won a balloon debate arguing that it was a must read for everyone. You’re right, it’s very important and very different.

    1. i’m so happy you crushed that debate, or well, won it because this book is important and i hope you were able to bring it to more people’s attention. keep spreading the word. and thanks for visiting!

      p.s. is that a digestive i see on your blog banner? those cookies are made of win!

    1. i am grateful i won the book because i can see now why it inspired you to become a better writer. all doom and gloom and right up your alley. :)

  2. Great review Abbs…

    I think you are right, if Hannah could see herself the way the reader saw her maybe her path would have been dramatically different.

    1. that comment was exactly the reason why i love this book club. because a review was due and because a discussion was forthcoming, i had to sit and think through the book and it provided me with a clarity about hannah’s character. it also gave me the opportunity to talk about the characters as if they were real and hannah’s character, as controversial as she is, rang true for me. it is a fascinating thing to think about her and i can almost imagine the path she would have taken had she survived.

    1. that’s hard to say because he doesn’t use flowery prose like maggie or jandy, but it’s an interesting premise. i liked it more than i expected to. it certainly makes you think, as even today, when i was reading my fellow book clubbers reviews, my opinion of the book was ever changing… you’re welcome to borrow my copy.

  3. I always love reading your reviews, Abby. You’re always so generous with your understanding, that it makes me glad we’re friends. And yes, I’m not sure how reading a review just makes me like you more, but it does. :)

    1. what’s odd is that i basically feel the same about your reviews. they make me want to pinch your cheeks and ask how your day was, you know, in that cross-coastal friendship sort of way.

  4. I’ve been going back through your blog tonight counting pebbsie’s “garbage” monikers (will explain another time), and just reread your review. I did like this book a lot! I listened to it as an audiobook, which worked great with the narrators switching all the time. I would definitely recommend it to others.

    It’s definitely more serious than the usual teen romance story. It tackles some pretty heavy stuff… but in an understated way. It’s not preachy at all, yet it hits you pretty hard with some painful truths…

    And Clay — yes. He is definitely the kind of guy you’d want to have a crush on you :)

    1. i am so curious as to why you were counting pebbsie’s garbage names — tell me NOW. please and thank you. and also, even if you started out as looking for something else, thanks for re-reading my posts! i heart you!

      and yes, i bet this book is awesome in audio. i’ll have to give it a listen!

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