Tag Archives: Razorbill

Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher (Razorbill, 2007)

The snowball effect. It starts with something small, something that seems insignificant at the time, but little by little those small somethings pile up. They gain momentum, and before you know it, isolated incidents that to others  may seem harmless work together and just steamroll you. That’s what happens to Hannah Baker in Jay Asher’s heart-breaking and intense debut, Thirteen Reasons Why.

The novel starts with Clay Jensen arriving home from school to find a package, addressed to him, on his front porch. Inside the package are seven cassette tapes, and not until he plays tape #1 does he find out what, or who, is on them. The tapes are from Hannah baker, a classmate on whom he has always had a crush; a girl he was always afraid to talk to for fear that she was out of his league; a girl who committed suicide two weeks ago. The tapes, along with a map, chronicle the events and people that lead Hannah to make her decision. Each person mentioned on the tapes is obligated to pass the tapes to whoever comes next. Clay is not #1 on the tapes, and he has no idea why is on them. So he listens and follows along with the map to untangle the series of events that lead to Hannah taking her own life.

I listened to this book on Audible, and the performers, Debra Wiseman as Hannah and Joel Johnstone as Clay, are outstanding. Listening to the book allows the reader entirely into Clay’s experience. I was constantly on edge waiting for Clay to push play again so I could hear Hannah, hear how it all started and why it ended.

I was a teen once (and only once, thank goodness), but I’ve spent the past eleven years working in a high school. The difference is that now, as an adult, I can look back on all that made me miserable in my teen years and know that there is so much more to life than the volatile ecosystem that is the American high school. Many adults expect teens to just get this, but how can they? They have not lived beyond this experience yet, and without a guarantee that life will get better, some teens make the same decision that Hannah makes.

Hannah’s tapes are not merely to blame others for her death. On the contrary, the tapes serve the purpose of showing those involved how, as Hannah says, “Everything affects everything.” One boy turning Hannah’s first kiss into an undeniable reputation doesn’t sound like much at first, but when the listener (in this case, us and Clay) begins to understand how Hannah continually put her trust in people who turned around to betray it,  we see the snowball grow. This is not to say that Hannah does not include herself in the blame game. As the events pile up, they culminate at a party, where Hannah is involved with two incidents for which she cannot forgive herself.

Even as the snowball gains momentum and begins to steamroll, Hannah still asks for help on more than one occasion. As a reader, just as it is for Clay as he listens, I was enraged, begging for those who should have to see the signs, but we know they don’t because Clay wouldn’t have these tapes if Hannah wasn’t gone.

Jay Asher does a phenomenal job this tragically moving work, educating the reader as we see Hannah exhibiting many symptoms of suicidal tendencies, all of them overlooked. Read this book. Understand. There is always more beyond what you think you know about a person. And finally, remember Hannah’s words. “Everything affects everything.”

The Friend Zone-The Future of Us, by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler (Razorbill, 2011)

It seems a popular trend in young adult literature is the boy and girl who grow up together as best friends and then don’t know what to do when they become teens and start dating…other people. Can the friendship withstand the outside crushes and romances, or does jealousy ensue, in which case the boundaries of the friendship are tested? Once in the friend zone, always in the friend zone?

Without giving too much away, this issue weaves it’s way through The Future of Us, by Jay  Asher and Carolyn Mackler. This book was recommended by my colleague, Kristy, and I immediately fell for the premise. It’s 1996, and Josh brings over the AOL cd he got in the mail, with 100 hours free, to install on his neighbor Emma’s new computer. But here’s the thing. When Emma logs on to AOL, she somehow also logs on to her Facebook page, fifteen years in the future. Once Emma and Josh realize it is not some hoax and they really are seeing their futures, they realize that every decision they make can have an effect on the outcome, and every time Emma refreshes her Facebook page, she can see the results of their current decisions. In the midst of all this is the awkwardness between Emma and Josh because of an incident that happened six months ago.

In all honesty, I knew how this book was going to end when I started reading it, but I didn’t care, because I enjoyed the journey getting there. To quote from the book jacket, “As they [Josh and Emma] grapple with the ups and downs of what their lives hold, they’re forced to confront what they’re doing right–and wrong–in the present.” Navigating relationships is not easy, and when do we first learn how to do it? As teens! It’s so cliche to say it, but if I knew then what I know now…well, Josh and Emma get a glimpse into that, and as Josh tries to make sure his future does, in fact, happen, Emma does everything to try to prevent hers until both are forced to deal with the here and now.

Between the throwbacks to the 90s (early DMB, bootleg cassettes, Wayne’s World, etc.) and a look at Facebook through the eyes of two teens seeing it for the first time, I enjoyed some nostalgic chuckles. It wasn’t that long ago that I first joined Facebook and got sucked in to its vortex. I’m a proponent of social media and believe it can bring us together in ways we never imagined, but it can also cut us off from our immediate surroundings if we aren’t careful. The status update doesn’t tell the whole story, and Josh and Emma show us the importance of face-to-face honesty in any relationship.

Thanks again for the rec, Kristy! This one is fun!