It’s a loaded topic, isn’t it? According to Statistic Brain, 4,600 youth suicides are reported annually in the US. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States for children ages 10-24. The number of teens who try to commit is astronomically high. But why?
Jay Asher’s devastatingly sad novel aims to answer the question of what motivates a teenager to take their own life. Was it from a horrible home life? Perhaps instead it from constant ostracizing and bullying? Could it be a combination of both?
The story follows Clay Jensen, a boy who hardly knew the late Hannah Baker. But when he finds a package on his front step and opens it, there’s no escaping from her past. Inside the box is a set of 13 cassettes–each one addressing every person responsible for her death. The rules are simple: you listen, and then pass them on to the next person on the list. The last person, according to Hannah, “can take the tapes straight to hell”.
Hearing a dead girl’s voice on a tape may seem eerie, and that’s because it is. She encloses a map in which the listeners may follow to get a visual of each of the thirteen stories. The story is powerful and gripping. Readers are driven with curiosity to discover why Hannah had taken her own life.
Clay is taken on Hannah’s journey narrated by her voice that transforms from spiteful to happy to absolutely heartbroken in the course of the tapes as she remembers her own life. Readers sob alongside Hannah as we see what her life came to. You’ll fall in love with her character and wish that you could resurrect her; that’s what makes the story so awfully tragic.
Each chapter is a cassette; Hannah’s words are italicized while Clay’s thoughts and actions are overlapping and intertwining with her story. He seems shaken and overwhelmed when he begins to listen, but begins to understand and emphasize with her near the end of the book. To me, it took a lot of courage to do what he did. He wasn’t afraid to find out what he did to be partly responsible for her death and he found out more about a girl he barely knew.
There’s nothing happy about this book. Trust me. If you’re looking for a smiles and sunshine story, I suggest perhaps a Dr. Seuss childrens’ story. This tale isn’t supposed to make the readers feel warm and fuzzy. It’s supposed to make you cry. It’s supposed to make you evaluate life and how you treat people. It’s supposed to make you take action and take a walk in someone else’s shoes for a day. It’s supposed to make you think.
Jay Asher creates such wonderful characters and writes with elegance, tackling such a difficult topic. It’s a book I 100% recommend for all teenagers, whether they’ve ever considered suicide or not. I was reading the reviews and a lot of anonymous sources confessed that this book saved their life. Others said it made them contemplate their actions towards others.
This book changed my life and I definitely believe it will change other teenagers’ as well.
“I’m listening to someone give up. Someone I knew. Someone I liked. I’m listening but I’m still too late.”