Wednesday, March 11, 2009

NYT and "Thirteen Reasons Why"

Thanks to Jay Asher's amusing and interesting blog, I was linked to this New York Time's article. I can't express particularly well how "Thirteen Reasons Why" made me feel. Some dismiss it as a "teen" book and I know many adults feel uncomfortable with the subject. Some people don't even like the book. That's okay. I encountered a review in which the reviewer complained of the at times whiny nature of the second narrator. And yet I feel there's something very important hiding in "Thirteen Reasons Why". The NYT article phrases it well (emphasis added by me):
With its thrillerlike pacing and scenes of sexual coercion and teenage backbiting, the novel appeals to young readers, who say the book also gives them insight into peers who might consider suicide. “I think the whole message of the book is to be careful what you do to people, because you never know what they’re going through,” said Christian Harvey, a 15-year-old sophomore at Port Charlotte High School in Port Charlotte, Fla. “You can really hurt somebody, even with the littlest thing.”
The NYT article is interesting to view also in terms of the difficulties authors must face in terms of publishing their books. Still, at its core, the article is about "Thirteen Reasons Why", a book that is finally perhaps getting the attention it deserves. The rise has been slow but steady. It's always interesting to see when schools adjust their reading lists to include new books (summer lists are most informative), but unlike simply good books which get a lot of rap, "Thirteen Reasons Why" is, in my mind, important. Yes, there are enough teen suicide stories out there, but none, I feel, reach the same level of clarity and importance that Asher's novel does. It's a book for boys and girls alike, teens and adults, readers and non-readers. Even as some don't appreciate it as I do, I think what's special about Asher's novel is that you leave it with a new understanding for a lot of things that you may never have thought of before. And that right there is why "Thirteen Reasons Why" deserves your attention.

UPDATE:
Commenter Caite raises a good point I belatedly realize I should have mentioned. Those who don't like "Thirteen Reasons Why" feel, for the most part, that aspects of the suicidal premise put far too much blame on others. It's a valid point. Still, I personally found that this "blame game" ultimately adds to the story, as strange as that may sound. This is not a book to make readers feel good about themselves or about people in general. It's very human in that sense. I view this blame, which some dislike for its moral implications, as human in the same way. There is to a certain extent and need for interpretation with the book which can pull either way - one can see it as a real flaw that hurts, or one can see it as a whiny flawed character. In this regard, I cannot promise if you'll be one or the other and thus enjoy the book. I simply know that I did.

4 comments:

  1. Interesting...and a very interesting premise from what I have read about it.
    But...I went and looked at the Amazon reviews, especially the 1 and 2 and three star ones. They all have the same concern. Not to give away spoilers...or maybe I am so don't anyone read on if that is a concern...but they all share the same negative concern...that the girl, and the book itself, blames all these other people for her actions and her ultimate action and that she recognizes no responsibility herself. Even her suicide is, as most of not all suicides are, is a hostile act...for which again she takes no responsibility.

    Now, of course, I have not read it, so I could be talking through my hat, but I am curious what your opinion on that feeling of these reviews is.

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  2. Thanks for all this--adults often get concerned about stuff like this, but I feel like kids aren't really traumatized. Or if they are affected, it's in a good way. Really admire adults who aren't afraid to pull the punches in their writing for kids.

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  3. 13 reasons why is one of the best books ive ever read- got 5 other people in my class to read it its great

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  4. THIRTEEN REASON WHY IS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS THAT I HAVE EVER READ. IT REALLY MADE ME THINK OF WHAT I WOULD DO IF I KNEW SOMEONE WHO WAS GOING THROUGH THAT. AND IT ALSO MADE ME THINK OF WHAT I WOULD DO IF I WERE IN ONE OF THE CHARACTERS SHOES. THIS BOOK IS REALLY VERY MEANINGFUL BECAUSE THERE ARE PEOPLE RIGHT NOW WHO FEEL THIS WAY AND THE IMPORTANT ASPECT OF THE BOOK IS TO CONSIDER OTHER PEOPLES FEELING BEFORE WE GO AROUND TALKING ABOUT THE BEHIND THEIR BACKS:)

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