Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I guess that's the point of it all. No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.

High school can be epic, amazing and rewarding, but not always. People, and teenagers especially, often forget that for some, high school is dark, disturbing, and ultimately devastating. Who were you in high school? The Breakfast Club comes to mind here, as it always does when discussing high school stereotypes. So which were you? Jock? Princess? Brain? Or were you the loner? The basket case? How did the other kids see you? How did you see yourself? Maybe more importantly, how did you see everyone else? Did you scoff at the jocks and laugh at the plastic princesses, imagining that they had everything, while you had nothing? Or were you popular, pitying and ridiculing those who didn't "fit in?" What if you didn't fit into any category at all? It is often those teens who find it hardest to survive the mayhem that is the high school world. They have no identity, nothing to cling to, nothing to be passionate about or to rail against.

In his debut novel Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher brings us into the world of Hannah Baker, a girl who didn't fit into any of the normal categories. She wasn't disliked, but she wasn't popular either. All she wanted was a few friends to make high school bearable, maybe even memorable. And was it too much to ask for a cute boy to be interested in her too? She wanted what everyone wants on some level: acceptance and friendship. The books opens, though, with Clay Jensen at the post office, mailing a package with no return address. And he mentions his dread of returning to school, where Hannah Baker's desk is. Empty.

The day before, Clay had received a package containing seven cassette tapes numbered 1-13. You know, the old fashioned kind with two sides? He digs out a cassette player and puts the first tape in, confused and nervous. The voice on the tape is chilling, like a haunting, because it is Hannah Baker's voice, and Hannah Baker is dead. Hannah Baker committed suicide.

"Hello, boys and girls. Hannah Baker here. Live and in stereo...No return engagements. No encore. And this time, absolutely no requests...I hope you're ready, because I'm about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you're listening to these tapes, you're one of the reasons why."

Intrigued? You should be. Everyone should read this book. In fact, if you read no other book this year (except for maybe The Hunger Games), this is the one book you want. And you're going to want to pass it on, trust me. It is the story of your actions and how they affect the people around you. All of the little things, the words and the insults and the slights that you don't remember or never meant to give. Jay Asher chose the right subject, the right emotion, the right everything for his debut novel, and I hope that it makes cracks in every person's existence.

Thirteen Reasons Why is dark, disturbing and ultimately devastating. It is the world that everyone is afraid to look too closely at, and the world that we have all touched in some way or another. Let this book impact you, let it open doors and encourage change. Let it teach you, and most of all, let Hannah Baker rest in your heart.

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