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13 Reasons Why

A contentious handling of teen suicide in the novel of the much hyped Netflix series

Hannah Baker is dead. She committed suicide two weeks ago, shocking her local community. But there are thirteen reasons why she died, and she wants Clay Jensen to know what they are. Her secrets call to him from beyond the grave, and what they reveal blows his world apart. The buzz around 13 Reasons Why has been huge. First published a decade ago, public interest has been reignited by the recent 13-part Netflix series, rocketing it into the bestseller charts.

The premise is intriguing. Clay receives a box in the post containing seven audio tapes, a curiously outmoded choice of medium. Hannah’s enclosed note instructs him to listen to them all, to unravel the mystery of her suicide, and consider his own role in it. An incredulous Clay will uncover a truth that damns him and his school community.

For the longest time, from almost day one at this school, it seemed that I was the only one who cared about me.

13 Reasons Why is a compelling and suspenseful read. The clever dual narrative switches between Clay, and Hannah’s recorded voice, each tape drawing us further into Hannah’s fragile mind. The damage wreaked on Hannah by casual high school humiliations, is compounded by later shocking events.

Some reviewers have complained that the book glamorises suicide, or depicts it as being a reasonable response to events. At the least, Hannah’s suicide appears to have an element of revenge to it. Despite this, the prompting of discussion of this often taboo subject has got to be beneficial. I’ll take fierce debate over fearful silence any day.

I also appreciated the highlighting of the silent majority. Those who are not exactly the bully, but that person on the sidelines who could have spoken up but didn’t. We’ve maybe all been that person at one time or another.

A valuable book for kick-starting a difficult conversation with your teenagers.

PS. There has been quite a lot of controversy around the Netflix TV-series based on this book. Only you know your child and we suggest you use your personal discretion in determining whether the TV-series is appropriate for your child. 

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