Tag Archives: Young Adult

Book Report – Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

13 Aug

So far, the book reports I’ve written haven’t exactly been raves.

That’s about to change. Welcome to Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

image via barnesandnoble.com

image via barnesandnoble.com

Hannah Baker has killed herself (don’t worry, I’m not spoiling anything). However, before her suicide, she sat down and recorded a series of tape cassettes, each detailing a particular event that led her to the decision to take her own life. These tapes were mailed out to the individuals involved in said events, one of whom is Clay Jensen. Clay had a crush on Hannah, and cannot figure out how he could have possibly contributed to her death.

The story is told from two perspectives: The transcript of Hannah’s tapes, and Clay’s reactions to them. It’s a very unique format, in that these trade-offs in perspective do not happen from chapter to chapter (a la Nick and Norah… yeah, it was a book first), but rather from paragraph to paragraph, or even within the same paragraph. It’s a very natural flow. I think it was very smart of Jay Asher to use this format, as well, because had he devoted full chapters to Hannah’s thoughts, I think it would have read too much like a suicide note. Because he got the details so right.

There are people in the world who only read nonfiction, because they don’t feel like there’s anything to be learned from reading fiction. Those people should really read this book. Toward the end, it’s made quite clear that Hannah feels like nobody cares if she’s dead because she made it quite clear what her intentions were, and nobody stopped her. However, from Clay’s perspective, her intentions are only clear in hindsight, and the hints that Hannah considered to be obvious were in actuality quite subtle. I think this reflects reality for a lot of people. When you’re depressed, it can be hard to actually use terms like “depressed,” because there’s still a lot of stigma attached to it, or you might feel like you’re just overreacting to a given situation, or any number of things… but at the same time, you can feel like you’re practically screaming for help without actually saying the words “I need help.” Hannah’s perspective gives the reader insight into the feelings and experiences that a suicidal person may be living through, while Clay’s perspective reminds us not to take seemingly insignificant details for granted.

I also appreciated the fact that Jay Asher cleverly educates the reader about some of the lesser known signs of an impending suicide attempt. For example, he references Hannah giving away a prized possession (her bike), as well as her demeanor improving just before her suicide.

I’m not meaning for this to turn into some creepy rant about how to recognize the signs of a suicidal mentality… I just really want to bring home the point that this book is both highly readable and highly enriching at the same time. It’s one of those books that makes me sad at the end, because I didn’t write it. So it should come as no surprise that I think you should definitely buy it, buy it, buy it.

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Book Report – Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

13 Aug

I think a lot of people will agree with me, summertime is the best time for light reads. I think we’re conditioned for this by the public school system. After being forced to plow our way through thick, dry volumes throughout the school year, we naturally begin to crave something a little more irreverent. For a lot of “grown-ups” like myself, this can boil down to romance novels or fluffy “beach reads”… but for me, it means only one thing: Young Adult fiction.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of truly horrible YA novels out there. I don’t care how well-written it is, I won’t go near the Gossip Girl books, even though I kind of love the show. And although I’m generally against censorship, I do think every copy of Twilight (and all its sequels) should be rounded up and burned straight to hell. But then, there are some novels that are classified as YA, and I can’t really figure out why. To be honest, it seems like the major criteria for calling these books YA is their lack of explicit sexual intercourse. Such are the books of Maureen Johnson.

image via barnesandnoble.com

image via barnesandnoble.com

I put off reading Suite Scarlett for a good, long time, because the plot summary sounded kind of… stupid. Essentially, it’s about a family (the Martins) that owns and lives in a failing hotel in New York. Upon reaching a certain age, each Martin child is given a particular room in the hotel that they, exclusively, are responsible for maintaining. A dramatic guest comes to stay in the room that Scarlett Martin is responsible for, and a slew of wacky hijinks ensue. Oh yeah, and there’s a boy.

With Maureen Johnson books, there’s always a boy.

There are a few drawbacks to Maureen Johnson’s stories in general. For example, they tend to rely a little heavily on the sappy loveydove plot lines. I cringe a little whenever her protagonists get kissed… and they always get kissed… because the descriptions of said kissing tend to go on just a leeeeettle too long for my taste. Also, the conflicts are usually pretty tame (unrequited crushes, family squabbles, etc.), so her books aren’t always page-turners. Lastly… they don’t ever really have endings. Her books just sort of stop.

All of this being said, I definitely still recommend Maureen Johnson’s books. Mostly because she’s funny, and she’s not shy about provocative subject matter (read The Bermudez Triangle for a little taste of that). And while I don’t like every element of her style, her writing is certainly good enough to get me through to the end of the book. Essentially what it comes down to with Suite Scarlett is that I enjoyed reading it… I just wouldn’t read it again. But theĀ other great thing about YA novels? They tend to be cheap, so if even you hate this one, at least you’re only out about 10 bucks, instead of 20 or 30.

Still, 10 bucks is 10 bucks, so I say: borrow it.