05 March 2009


by Jay Asher

Razor Bill/The Penguin Group. Young Adult. Hardback rrp $19.95
Guest Reviewer - Jo Burnell

Clay receives a shoebox in the post and his worst nightmare begins. Inside are seven audiotapes made by Hannah Baker, but she died two weeks before. She sent the tapes to explain why she committed suicide. There are strict instructions that every tape must be listened to, then passed on to the next person implicated in her story. If anyone doesn’t comply, a copy of the tapes will be released to the public and some very dark secrets will be exposed.

This should be a depressing read. Instead, Hannah’s voice alternates with Clay’s thoughts to create a lively interaction between two vibrant characters. Hannah only reveals what she chooses. Clay remembers many of the situations that Hannah describes and fills the gaps with his own uniquely adolescent male perspective. I
caught myself laughing aloud (snorting, actually) more than once when I least expected. It was difficult to believe that Hannah was dead. I expected her to jump out from behind a door at any time and shout, ‘Gotcha!’

Hannah’s story is compelling, the suspense perfectly timed. Just when I thought I couldn’t stand not knowing something anymore, the waiting was over. Some of the truths revealed are hard to take, as are the decisions Hannah makes, but she answers my questions. TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY explores how our actions always have consequences, whether we are aware of them or not. We watch those consequences reverberate through Clay’s community.

I walk away from TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY somehow liberated. The crossroads where Hannah makes those life-ending choices are sign-posted. Maybe she could have chosen differently, but she didn’t. Perhaps people could have recognised the tell-tale danger signs and saved her, but they didn’t. At least I can understand the steps that led down Hannah’s chosen path.


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