**Shay will be on holidays for the month of July. Guest posts brought to you by Amelia. **
“I look at the shoebox hidden beneath the cloth. Hannah said she made a copy of each of these tapes. But what if she didn’t? Maybe if the tapes stop, if I don’t pass them on, that’s it. It’s over. Nothing happens.
But what if there’s something on these tapes that could hurt me? What if it’s not a trick? Then a second set of tapes will be released. That’s what she said. And everyone will hear what’s on them.
…Who’s willing to test her bluff?”
Clay Jensen receives a shoebox in the mail one day containing a handful of archaic cassette tapes. Recorded on them, it’s explained, are the thirteen reasons why Hannah Baker is now dead. The secrets Hannah shares on her tapes reveal a disheartening and uncomfortably realistic view of high school reputations and teenage rumours, and the long-term affects seemingly small actions, even meant in jest, can have. No punches are pulled when she talks about suicide, rape, and depression – and while the ending hints at being almost hopeful, it is by no means happy. While the narration is from Clay’s perspective, as he listens to the tapes, the story is completely driven by Hannah’s voice even though she herself as a character is not that compelling. Like Clay, I ripped through the story in a single night, but felt oddly detached when I realized that I wasn’t identifying with Hannah enough to mourn by his side.
Thirteen Reasons Why is a book not only about recognizing when those around are in desperate need of someone who cares, but also about realizing that there are people reaching out to you when you feel like you are beyond hope. What makes the last third of the book so wrenching is that the reader must sit with Clay as he listens to Hannah convince herself that her fate is inevitable, and as a result miss the connection that he tried to make because he, like her, went unheard. Because all the major events in the story leading up to Hannah’s death take place before the story as we see it even starts, readers walk into it aware of Clay’s helplessness to change the past, but unprepared for how devastating that helplessness can be.
The most interesting part about the Thirteen Reasons Why is the format. It can be read as plain text in book form, but you can in addition listen along to Hannah’s tapes on YouTube, complete with the clicking of the cassettes and every stop that occurs when Clay has to pause his own listening. The accompanying audio is essential not for capturing Hannah’s voice, but for really driving home the weight of her silence. Nearly all of the events in the book occur because no one involved was willing to speak up or speak out, and while the message is already clear, the added sound of nothing except a whirring tape makes you an uncomfortable accomplice to the same silence. Thirteen Reasons Why is not necessarily an enjoyable read, or even, to some extent, a good book to read, but it is a valuable book to read simply because it ensures none of its readers can comfortably ignore their own silence afterwards.