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Compass Book Ratings

Publisher's Note:  

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package 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. Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why. Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah's pain, and learns the truth about himself-a truth he never wanted to face.

Thirteen Reasons Why is the gripping, addictive international bestseller that has changed lives the world over. It's an unrelenting modern classic.

Thirteen Reasons Why

by Jay Asher

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Overall Review:  

Thirteen Reasons Why is not a cautionary tale about the ways our actions affect others and can lead to disastrous consequences. That's how it bills itself, but it's absolutely not. It's a book about a severely disturbed young woman. It might be a cautionary tale about how pushing people away causes us to lose hope, but I don't think that fits that bill either. From the very first chapters, I felt increasingly irritated by the fact that this book is being recommended to young people for the former reasons--even being taught in schools in some areas. I fail to see how anyone can take away an uplifting message from the book.


After reading the end notes and gaining a little more insight into Jay Asher's motivation to write the book, I believe his intentions were honorable and he really was trying to help kids. Unfortunately, the book fails in that regard. Asher is a good writer. The book is suspenseful and intriguing, but that is all. The characters are unrealistic and often act in ridiculous ways that are totally unbelievable, which gives the intended lesson a lot less power. 


The protagonist in the story is a good person, but is way too dramatic for my tastes--constantly clenching fists, closing eyes, vomiting, screaming, pressing hands to head, etc. He's sad, sure, but I don't buy the dramatic responses. The character whose message he's listening to is completely unsympathetic. She's sadistic, petty, unreasonable, reactionary, and makes an unthinkable choice, not because others have driven her to it, but because she simply chooses to do it. She has an almost supernatural ability to assess others' motives, is able to stand up for herself when she wants to, and has absolutely no capacity to recognize the true motives for her own actions.


(Spoiler alert:) The story is a slap in the face to children who struggle mightily with mental illness and true bullying--who feel they have no other way out but suicide. This girl has every possible way out, and willfully chooses not to take any of them. If you're looking for a decent suspense novel, this might be worth your time. If you want insight into the issue of suicide, don't bother. 

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  27 religious exclamations; 13 mild obscenities; 6 derogatory names; 8 scatological words; 17 anatomical terms.


Violence/Gore:  A character commits suicide (others speculate about how); a character pushes another character, causing him to fall down; a character is raped (no detail) while unconscious; a character is raped (no details); a character accidentally cuts his hands with some blood; a fatal car accident is witnessed (no details).


Sex/Nudity:  Characters "make out" (3 times, few details); characters kiss (4 times); characters hold hands; rumors are spread about a character who allows boys to take physical liberties--hands under shirt, etc.; rumors are spread about a character who tries to take someone else's pants off; slang term for erection is used; a character's buttocks are slapped in a flirtatious way; masturbation is vaguely referred to; a character claims that most of her acquaintances are having sex; touching under the bra; a character slides his hand up a girl's leg (unwelcome); characters kiss and hug while reclining; a character touches another character under clothing; a character's breasts are exposed; two characters are raped with no detail.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Suicide, family problems, bullying, abortion is mentioned in passing, rape.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Underage characters party and drink alcohol.

Reviewed By Leslie
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