Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher Audiobook, Unabridged read by Debra Wiseman & Joel Johnstone

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher ISBN: 978-0739356500, Listening Library (Audio); Unabridged edition (October 23, 2007)

Plot Summary:

Clay Jensen arrives home from school to find that he has received a shoe box containing seven audio tapes. The box has no return address and is anonymous. Upon listening to the first tape, he discovers that it is a recording that Hannah Baker, a girl that has recently committed suicide, mailed out before her death. According to Hannah, there are thirteen people whose actions caused a snowball effect that caused her to kill herself. These thirteen people must listen to the tapes and then pass them on to the next person in the tapes. The last person will be able to destroy them. Someone has a second set of the tapes, and if the tapes are not passed on, that person will release them so that everyone knows what kind of a person they really are. Clay is confused because he never did anything to hurt Hannah, whom he liked and had a crush on. According to the tapes, it starts with a rumor. An innocent first kiss that one of the thirteen lied about to turn into a sexual encounter. The rumor causes a chain reaction of other hurtful actions that resulted in Heather feeling totally alone and losing the will to live.

Critical Evaluation: 

The audio version of Thirteen Reasons Why is a chilling listening experience. The book alternates between Clay’s experiences in real time and Hannah’s voice on the tape. In the audio book, this is accomplished by two different readers, both of whom do an excellent job of portraying the pain of these characters. The act of listening to Hannah’s recorded voice also allows the listener to feel closer to Clay’s experience. This story, while many may find it morbid, is actually a lesson to teens on the consequences of actions. None of the thirteen could have predicted what would eventually happen. They only saw their actions as it affected them with no care for the repercussions to another human being. Only posthumously is Heather able to reveal to them how their actions hurt her. Another theme that is prevalent in the book is that we can never really know what is going on in another person’s head, but that we should make the effort to try. Clay is the only one that Heather considers to be blameless, but even he feels the guilt of not having reached out to her and of being too self-involved to see the signs of her impending suicide.

Information about the author:

Jay Asher was born in ArcadiaCalifornia on September 30, 1975. He grew up in a family that encouraged all of his interests, from playing the guitarto his writing. He attended College right after graduating from San Luis Obispo High School. It was here where he wrote his first two children’s books for a class called Children’s Literature Appreciation. After high school, he decided he wanted to become an elementary school teacher. He then transferred to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo where he left his senior year in order to pursue his career as a serious writer. He is married. Throughout his life he worked in various establishments, including as a salesman in a shoe store and in libraries and bookstores.[1]Many of his work experiences had an impact on some aspect of his writing.

Reader’s Annotation:

Clay Jensen is about to embark on a journey through the mind of a dead girl. Teen suicide, Hannah Baker, mailed out tapes to the thirteen people that she felt were implicated in her decision to kill herself. Someone has a second set of tapes, and all thirteen people must listen to the tapes and pass them on to the next person or the second set of tapes will receive a general release.

Genre:

Realistic Fiction. 

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

This book is about the consequences of actions

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 8 and up

Challenge Issues:

Suicide, sexual situations, rape.

I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

This book is a good way for teens to explore the consequences of actions.

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