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One of my 8th grade study hall girls suggested this book – “I was obsessed. I read it all in one night.” I can certainly see why she got hooked – but I'm torn halfway between wanting to hide this book from and wanting to buy a copy for every young adult I know. Hannah Baker, a girl at Clay’s high school, is dead, having committed suicide weeks ago. So imagine Clay’s surprise when he opens a mystery package to find eight cassette tapes filled with her voice, explaining the people and circumstances at fault for her suicide. Clay listens dutifully to each tape, waiting with dread to find out why his name is on the list, and what role he played in her death. On one hand, Thirteen Reasons Why tells a captivating story that will have YA readers unable to close the book until they reach the resolution. It talks openly about the difficulties of depression, the importance of asking for help, and the warning signs for a teen contemplating ending their life. On the other, it romanticizes suicide, going into detail about Hannah's grand plan, how much she is missed, and how her scheme will make everyone who hurt her regret their actions in some sort of huge cosmic payoff. Just like everyone else, I thought every situation in high school was a dire emergency and never knew how I'd make it out alive – but now, as an adult, I see how limited my perspective was and how small those seemingly insurmountable obstacles really were. It scares me to think of my older readers sharing Hannah's story and commiserating that shameful rumors, rude peers, and troubled interactions with boys are worth contemplating suicide. I hope that the messages of hope in this book will resonate with readers more than the glamour of revenge. Be careful and know your audience before suggesting Thirteen Reasons Why. A perfect book to read along with your teen and discuss, discuss, discuss.
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