AUTHOR = JAY ASHER
GENRE = MENTAL HEALTH, DEATH, GRIEF
INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 1O AND UP
This is an absolutely compelling novel which has been very cleverly constructed. It is almost like reading a suspenseful mystery novel where we are trying to discover the murderer. We know at the beginning that a teenage girl (Hannah) has killed herself about 2 weeks ago. And we learn that prior to this she compiled 13 tapes, which explain the reasons why she died. Each of the 13 people whom Hannah felt was responsible for her death is meant to listen to the set of tapes and send it along to the next person on the list.
Hence the mystery. For as in any crime novel, the reader wants to unravel the causes of Hannah’s death. But there is a second layer of mystery, too. For the young man who opens the tapes at the opening of the novel, is Clay Jensen and he is both horrified and perplexed that he should be on Hannah’s list. He tells us that he loved Hannah from afar, too shy to ask her out – he meant her no harm. So why is he on the list?? This is a question for both Clay and the reader to unravel. Is he really a nice guy, as he says?
And so the novel unwinds: alternating between Hannah’s voice on the tapes and Clay’s reactions to her words. The blend of the 2 voices allows the reader to get a fuller picture of how events unfolded and the truth behind her story. We see both Hannah’s pain and the pain of those she left behind. And this allows the novel to end on an upbeat note, despite the circumstances behind the story. Suicide is never an easy topic for a YA novel but woven into this story is a central message about truth and honesty, about friendship and betrayal but most importantly about seeking help when we need it and about reaching out to those we think are in pain. A compelling novel for older teens.
Highly Recommended (dma) *****