Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher + Book QnA


The rules are pretty simple. There are only two. Rule number one: You listen. Number two: You pass it on. Hopefully, neither one will be easy for you. (from Cassette 1: Side A)

Hannah Baker records the defining moments of the past few years of her life onto seven audiotapes. Thirteen stories involving several people at her school. She packs the tapes into a shoebox and mails them to the first person on the list. Then, she does home to kill herself.

Two weeks later, Clay Jensen comes home from school to find a box with no return address leaning against his front door. Inside are seven audiotapes, their sides labeled 1 through 13 in blue nail polish. He has no idea what’s on the tapes, which is kind of exciting…until he presses play.

With Hannah’s voice as his narrator, Clay spends the rest of the night wandering through town, visiting places mentioned on the tapes, unearthing the thirteen reasons why Hannah chose to kill herself.

And one reason belongs to him.

Grade: A+ - (at loss for words)

Never mind the fact this book has a gorgeous cover, 30-odd five star reviews, and a blurb from Chris Crutcher, a YA big-name. I picked Thirteen Reasons Why up solely because of its clever premise and wasn't disappointed. This is by far one of the most unique, innovative books I've read in a long, long time.

Clay Jensen comes home from school to find an anonymous box addressed to him. Curious, he opens it up and finds seven tapes with numbers written on them. So he sits down and pops tape 1, side A inside an old stereo. What he doesn't expect to hear is the voice of Hannah Baker, a girl he had a crush on who killed herself two weeks before, come out of the speakers. She's there to take him on a tour of her life and reveal the thirteen reasons she killed herself--one of which he's responsible for.

Quite a heavy novel, this one is. We're taken into an extensive account of little things we do, vanilla sins we commit, on a daily basis and how they impact the big picture. It forces you to think, grill yourself about all the times you've acted a certain way and wonder how the person took it. Sitting there, analyzing every gritty, itty-bitty detail about the past along with Clay was a huge wake up call--to me and, I suspect, to anyone who reads this.

I really, really liked this. The characters leap off the page with their development, the writing fits the mood perfectly, the voice is great, and the overall premise is just so interesting. Not once does Jay Asher get preachy or interfere. I think he handled this particular topic so very, very tastefully, and I honestly, unequivocably recommend this novel to any living, breathing being.

*Due to its big cast and many important details, I would suggest keeping a notebook nearby to jot down each characters and their role in Hannah's death.

Book QnA (with Jay!) **spoiler alert**

You said the idea behind Thirteen Reasons Why was those audio tours you get at the museum, with a speaker telling you what you're seeing without actually being there. Did you know from the start that it would be a suicide story?

Actually, I thought it would be a humorous story, since that's what I was interested in writing at the time. But I never, know matter how hard I tried over several years, found a funny story which needed to be told in that format.
You managed to make Hannah such a realistic character. What did you do for research in order to capture her voice so well?

Her voice wasn't a struggle, which is odd because I've always had trouble finding voices for my characters. This was the first manuscript I tried writing with a female lead character, and it just flowed. But to get the female high school experience right, I sat down many times with my wife and two female writing partners to discuss that time in their lives.

How long did it take for you to write Thirteen Reasons Why?

It took about three and half years from when I began writing it to when it sold. But there were huge chunks of time when I didn't work on it at all and instead worked on other manuscripts.

What message do you hope to convey to your readers through Thirteen Reasons Why?

I'm lucky that the main idea in my book is echoed in almost every e-mail I get from my readers. They say it made them more aware of the little things they say and do to other people. Even though they realize Hannah shouldn't have taken her life, they also understand how even small things can have a much bigger impact than intended.

Hannah's tape really affects Clay and change his life, for obvious reasons. Do you think the ending scene, when Clay calls after Skye, is an example of the change that's taken place in him?

That was my intent, yes. So I'm glad you picked up on it! But, like most personality changes, they take time to develop, so I didn't want it to be some huge display of change...just a small step forward.

Hannah left an extra copy of tapes for Tony for safekeeping. How did she know he'd make sure they'd keep moving down the list? Why was she able to trust him so readily?

Since almost all we know about Hannah is what she tells us on the tapes, we (just like Tony and Clay) have to guess about a lot of things. But I think Tony is correct that Hannah used him because of his small role in helping her make the tapes. I think she simply hoped he'd do what she asked. In the end, though, I don't know what he would've done had the tapes stopped moving on.

Some of the things that Hannah said led up to her death were innocent enough on their own, but in addition to everything else she'd been through became too much to bear. How is a person to know which of their actions will have such a negative impact on people? How do you think do we draw the line?

It's impossible to know specifically what impact we'll have on others. But we at least have to acknowledge that we don't live in a bubble where our actions have absolutely no effect. So just being aware of what we say and do is a step towards treating each other with more respect.

How has the fan response been on Thirteen Reasons Why?

It's been amazing! It's been the best part of this publishing experience. Sometimes they write to say that I got them in trouble at school for reading when they were supposed to be taking notes (and while I don't condone that, it does make me happy!). And I also feel so humbled and inspired when they share specifics about how the book has positively affected them. My fans are awesome!


I am quite please with this QnA and I hope everyone enjoys it! Tomorrow, I get to post up an interview with Jay! :)


Liv said...

I loved this book also. And I liked your Q and A with Jay. Very nice!

Amee said...

Wow, awesome Q&A. I loved the question about the character changing but just taking the small step forward instead of doing the 180 a lot of characters seem to complete in the last 10 pages of a novel. I'm moving this one up on my wishlist!

Anonymous said...

Loved this book! Great review, and QnA, and interview! You rock!! :)

Steph said...

Hey guys! Thanks for the awesome comments, and I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview :)


Unknown said...

I recently put this book on my TBR list and it's definitely moving up to the top now. I just get chills every time I read another review, and Jay seems like the coolest.guy.ever. Someone who can take on such a heavy topic, but still manage to see the light? I'm IN! xo

Anonymous said...

Very well written book. I enjoyed reading this all the way through! : )

Anonymous said...

this book sucked

Aiko said...

I love this book... its one of my favorites :)
btw, i was wondering...
would u think of Clay as a (dynamic/static) and (round/flat) charater/why?
(i need someone's opinion and help on this for an essay im doing and really want someone else to explain, bc i understand it better that way...)

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