Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Read by Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone

After my last audiobook, which was violent and difficult to listen to, I decided to pick a cheerier subject for my next listen. I picked Thirteen Reasons Why, which is about a teenage girl who commits suicide. I'm awesome at picking books.

In Thirteen Reasons Why, our protagonist is Clay Jensen. Two weeks after one of his friends, Hannah Baker, commits suicide, he receives a package in the mail (no return address) with 7 cassette tapes. When he plays the first tape he is shocked to hear the voice of Hannah Baker. Hannah made these tapes as a sort of suicide note. Each side of each cassette is about one person who directly or indirectly contributed to her decision to shuffle off this mortal coil. The first person mentioned on the tapes was the first to receive them, and when he's done he sends them on to the next person. Basically, if you receive the tapes, it's partially your fault. Well, sort of. Clay receives the tapes, but he didn't really do anything bad to Hannah. I was wondering how Jay Asher was going to keep the protagonist of his novel sympathetic after we find out how he contributed to a teenage girl's suicide. But since this is a YA novel, I wasn't really surprised to find out that Clay is a super good guy instead of an anti-hero.

It's an interesting book that focuses a lot on bullying, rumors, peer pressure, that sort of thing. There's a short discussion about what is or isn't rape that I found interesting. The phrase "victim blamer" is used at one point, which was awesome. My biggest problem with the book was the performance of Debra Wiseman, who performs Hannah's tapes in the audiobook version.

I'm not sure how it comes across while reading the book, but for several discs I had myself convinced that Hannah was punking everyone and didn't really commit suicide. I mean, it's specifically mentioned that there wasn't a funeral, so it wasn't impossible for her to have faked her death. (Yes, I was raised on Soap Operas, why do you ask?) The whole theme of rumors getting out of control actually could have contributed to my version of the story. But, no, Hannah really did die. Debra performs Hannah as being damn near cheerful on the first few "tapes," which was disconcerting when you consider that you're supposed to be listening to the voice of a girl who commits suicide just after finishing the recordings. The performance just didn't fit into what I imagine a depressed, suicidal teen sounds like. Also, she sounds kind of old. Maybe they wanted Hannah to sound like an old soul, I don't know. And she says "repercussions" in a way that sounds weird to me, and as you can imagine in a novel like this, "repercussions" is said quite often.

In case you're wondering: Audiobooks are pretty much going to dominate my posts for the foreseeable future. I'm in grad school, so all my reading time is dominated by book-learnin'. But, since I have a little over an hour commute each way to class, I can use that time to power through audiobooks for fun. I can pretty much knock out one disc each way. It's great.

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