A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this bestselling novel is about a teen girl's reasons for committing suicide, which she articulates in audio tapes she sends to 13 people, mailing them on the day of her death. The book includes discussion of rape, voyeurism, underage drinking, sexism, revenge, and survivor's guilt. There are positive messages here about the importance of treating people with kindness -- and about the price of inaction -- that parents and teachers may want to help teen readers think and talk about. The 10th anniversary edition (cover pictured here) includes an introduction from the author, deleted scenes, the original ending, and more bonus material. The book has been adapted for a Netflix series, set to premiere March 31, 2017. A TV tie-in edition of the book (to be released March 7, 2017) includes interviews with the actors.
What's the story?
When Clay Jensen receives audio tapes in the mail, he's horrified to hear his dead crush's voice coming out of the stereo. Hannah lists 13 reasons why she killed herself and the 13 people responsible for it. Clay is racked with guilt as he waits to hear how he could have been involved in her tragic decision.
Is it any good?
Teens will identify with the sometimes-oppressive culture of high school. First-time author Jay Asher's story presents the dark side of teen life: drinking, sex, rumor mills, suicides, cries for help, inept or absent adults, and the mean spirit that surrounds the general high school student body. Here everyone's a victim, an enabler, or a perpetrator, and some of the characters are all three, including Hannah Baker. Her tapes and reasoning are, at times, just as selfish and mean as those she accuses. And, although we see some of the 13 characters not showing much remorse, the majority of them are already burdened with "should haves" when Hannah's tapes arrive.
For any teens who've had dark thoughts of their own, the aftermath of Hannah's decision and the conclusions Clay reaches hopefully will make them think again. But this book has messages that will reach all teens: Hannah warns that we must "be careful how you treat people, you never know how it will affect them." Readers also will realize that inaction -- whether to stop a crime or a rumor or talk to a troubled student, friend, or child -- can be just as damaging as deliberately inflicting pain.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about suicide. Do books and movies that tackle tough topics such as this one glamorize suicide and other dangerous behaviors, or do they provide an important outlet and opportunities for discussion?
Hannah warns her listeners to "be careful how you treat people, you never know how it will affect them." Is this something that teens need to be reminded of? Do you see a lot of bullying and indifference at your own high school?
Why do you think this book has remained a bestseller for so many years?
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