Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dialogue about 13 reason why by Jay Asher


A few weeks ago I read Jay Asher's 13 reasons why (2007). I bought the book after reading several dynamic reviews about it and when my friend V sent me money to buy a birthday book (thanks V) I chose this one. I like psychoanalyzing and 13 reasons why is one of those perfect books to scrutinize the who, what, and why of the characters. After I read the book I slipped it into a manila envelope and sent it off to V for her to read and then pass on, in the same method, to our friend A. Then we set up a wiki-space account and had a chat about the book. The wiki space was not a good communication tool but I was able to record our collective thoughts.

The synopsis: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list. (from Jay Asher's website)

Here are parts of our discussion on 13 reasons why:

A: Loved how it was sent to me (in keeping with the theme), loved the use of alternating characters to tell the story. -(all three of us loved the dual pt. of view and the map around town on the bus)
The fact that he (Asher) chose to inter-splice the two main characters to create the story added more depth and mystery. Sadly, I kept waiting for Hanna to be alive.

V: I liked how the book flowed - very easy to read. I was anxious for Clay - stressed out but relieved that he hadn't done anything major –I was afraid that he had unknowingly blown her off or something. Clay was open, honest and trustworthy. I guess he is the one in the story to look up to

A: I thought Clay was a little hidden himself. He lied to his mother, his friends, himself about Hannah........

V: I didn't get the sense that he lied all the time - that's why his mother trusted him and I think consciously gave him space. I don't think he had true "friends" stereotypical high school boy.

PR: I agree, I don’t think he was your typical high school boy; he seemed to walk his own path, which is what we would like for our own children. He lies only to get past this moment in his life. This is not something a teenager would just share at the dinner table. I think Clay lies because he is nervous about what the tapes might reveal even though he doesn't think he's done wrong.

Are either of you surprised that it was written by a guy??

A: You know, I have major issues with voice and if the opposite sex can pull it off; I think he did a great job.....and yes, it felt very female throughout. I bought both Clay and Hannah completely. In a very sick way, I wanted Clay to have done something. I wanted ALL of them to have done SOMETHING to her...I felt it was all her perspective of various situations.......and if she had more of a voice or more stability in her life, she could have worked many of them out.

V: You thought these things were small??

A: Yes, some of them, in my mind were very small and based on hearsay and perspective.For example, she didn't know for a FACT that the one chick was "using" her for her own popularity...she just thought she was...and the boy that lied about her first kiss.....she could have stood up to him, called him out. It seemed to be things that could be taken care of with self -power, self-belief, a stronger ego. She fell into a world that was based on hearsay...

PR: I thought a few of the things were hearsay but that is how easily reputations get trashed; and someone’s high school life can be ruined. I would have liked Hannah to have a stronger voice for her own good but high school students often don’t speak up when they should.

A: The things that happened to her made me mad; nobody deserves to be treated casually but at some point you do have to take a stand and she never did.

PR: She seemed to be looking for reasons to be let down. If she had confided with the counselor, or Clay, there could have been a different outcome. Why did Asher choose to have such non-entity parents?? I "micro-manage" my teenager. I pretty much want to know the where, why and with who at all times. It doesn’t work out that way but he knows we care, always.
A: I think it is a completely different world from our knowledge of teen world....i am frightened to think that such small things in such a fast paced world could cause a child to kill. It seems that everything is moving so quickly there is no time to process yourself.

PR: At what age will you want your children to experience this story?

A: great question.I am constantly thinking about that anytime i read YA books in general. I read all the twilight books and thought H***L NO not at 13, but i think i am clueless.I think this would be an amazing teaching tool for them. A great discussion book.......but i think the age would depend on the maturity of the kid.

V: It depends. I know 10 year-olds that could handle it and 12 year-olds that could not. Great for discussion with our kids though.
PR: I would love to be a bug on the wall while a group of teens discussed Clay and Hannah. Would this be an accurate description? Would they feel Hannah coped out or would they empathize with her? Asher, for me, did a great job of portraying the difficulties of high school.

We concluded with the hopes that my 14-year-old would be our teenage trial-he is going to read 13 reasons why and give us his thoughts. He is finishing an alternate history book and then he’ll begin. Our next long distance book conversation will be about Liar by Justine Larbalestier.

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