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13 Reasons Why | A Book Review of a Banned Book
September 22, 2016
This month in LOLHS, the library is participating in “Banned Books Week,” which goes from September 25th through October 1st. “Banned Books Week” is all about being able to read what we want to read without having to worry about censorship. I couldn’t see a better way to start off my book reviews here on The Osprey than with a book that I really enjoyed and was fortunate enough to read, as many other teenagers my age are not able to. I chose the book 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher out of our school library.
To start off, once I heard about the general plot of 13 Reasons Why and especially as I got a a few chapters into it, I could see why a book like this would be banned. To be frank, if you are triggered by bullying, depression, suicide, or sexual harassment, then this book is not one that I would recommend for you. However, I do like books about pretty much anything, even the depressing ones, because it makes the story seem more realistic and personal and always makes me think, as its messages seem to stay with me.
I had heard about 13 Reasons Why a few years ago from another girl in my class who said that she absolutely loved the book, and I told myself that I would check it out but forgot about it until the title caught my eye while browsing through the library.
13 Reasons Why starts off the main character, Clay Jensen, receiving a strange package at his doorstep. When he finally reaches inside, he discovers several cassette tapes and a map. As he slips the first tape in, he is shocked to hear the voice that belonged to Hannah Baker, the girl in his high school who had just recently committed suicide. Hannah’s voice tells Clay that these tapes are explaining why she chose to end her life, and who she blames. There are 13 reasons, them being 13 people, that caused Hannah to overdose, and she left tapes to be sent to all of the people who are to blame, so they can know what happened and what they did to her. 13 Reasons Why follows Clay through a long night when he listens to these tapes and discovers the dark story of of Hannah Baker.
The structure of 13 Reasons Why is obviously very different than an average YA novel as it is mostly the audio of Hannah Baker from the cassette tapes and the reactions of Clay in between as he journeys through town, reliving Hannah’s story. If you aren’t a big fan of the orthodox structure of novels or just want a break from the normal format, then 13 Reasons Why is a good choice to get out of a “readers block” also known as the period of time when you are never in the mood to read and can’t bring yourself to pick up a new book.
Overall, the book was a quick read due to the structure and it was a fairly easy to understand although there are moments when you needed to spend some time connecting the dots between names and stories. It took me under a week to read, even with my many hours of homework every night, and I am a medium paced-reader.
The writing style was very creative, and although it wasn’t my all-time favorite book, I am glad that I picked it up. I didn’t feel that close to the characters, and the daring structure of the book did make me feel disconnected as it was mostly dialogue from Hannah. I do wish that there was more character development, which I always feel is a necessity in any novel to be able to fall deeper into a book, but again, I do applaud Asher for thinking outside of the box in his creative execution of 13 Reasons Why. The best part of the book, however was how I was always wondering what could happen next and how each of the stories on the tapes would connect, and each time I sat down to read, I tried my best to finish one tape (chapter) at a time.
The story idea had to be a 6/10 overall because of the unique story line and style which I did not expect and will probably never see again; and in addition I loved how the book tackled hard issues and conveyed them in a way that resonated with me. However, I felt like there could have been more to the plot than there was, and there was also the issue of getting to know the main character, Clay, more personally.
13 Reasons Why did more than what most novels do, as it showed me how every action you make can have a huge affect on other people’s lives and how you need to reach out and show strugglers that you care, and it might just save their life.