Tuesday, February 1, 2011


This is book is about a girl who commits suicide in highschool.  But before she does she records cassette tapes telling all the stories that led to her feelings of hopelessness that led to her choice.  Then she makes a list of the people on the tapes, and insists they listen to and pass on the box full of tapes. It is very sad, but also captivating.  Just as the narrator is sucked in and listens to the tapes continuously, even though he wants to stop, I couldn't put the book down. This is a book I would have really liked in highschool.  Just like I liked Go Ask Alice, or Goodbye Paper Doll, or any number of YA books that deal with difficult dark topics.  I might even put it with A Separate Peace or Catcher in the Rye.  (In topic and style, not necessarily quality),  I think this book does a good job of showing highschool dynamics.   I think it is realistic.  Sadly, it made me think of a few teenagers that I know.

The first time I ever heard of suicide I was 9, and a girl at the junior high up the hill killed herself.  Everyone was talking about it for awhile, and I remember hearing it was because of a mean note some girls gave her.  My mom helped me understand a bit more by explaining that there was probably a lot more to it than that.  The note might have just been the final thing that made her do it.  Everytime I hear tragic stories like these, I want to know why.  Maybe so I can make sure they don't happen, or couldn't happen to people I know, but also just because.  I think we all do.  So I liked the premise of the book.  All these students are stunned by the suicide, then they get their chance to really know why.  BUT since they are all "on the tapes,"  they are somehow connected.  Either a reason why, or someone who didn't stop her.

The writing switches back and forth between the narrator's, Clay's, thoughts, and Hannah's recorded voice on the tapes.  There are parts where this is done really well, switching rapidly.

Here are some well-written phrases I marked:

"Hitting PLAY that first time was easy...I had no idea what I was about to hear.  But this time, it's one of the most frightening things I've ever done.  I turn the volume down and press PLAY."

"This tape isn't about why you did what you did, Alex.  It's about the repercussions of what you did.  More specifically, it's about the repercussions to me.  It's about those things you didn't plan--things you couldn't plan."  This is a recurring theme.  One person does something, and it affects others' opinions of Hannah, and then they act accordingly.  So maybe what someone does isn't as bad as the series of events that occur because of what they did.

"Right then, in that office, with the realization that no one knew the truth about my life, my thoughts about the world were shaken."

I was annoyed by the endingn when she drags a teacher into it.  It felt tacked on, and not as developed as the rest.  Almost like a poorly done afterthought.  Also, she alludes to her parents being overwhelmed by other issues, and also to her life before moving here, but both are just casually mentioned.  I kept waiting for either topic to be explored further, and I think it's kind of weird that they weren't. 

So who would I recommend this too?  It's hard to say.  If you are intrigued by my review, read it.  I think that the right highschool student would like it, but it addresses some tough topics so I might not put it in their hands.  Only a couple of swear words, and the more graphic scenes are in sinuated instead of spelled out word for word.  Chris Crutcher is quoted on the cover.  It's been years since I read anything by him, but I think this book would fall in the same category as his books.

1 comment:

Sharlene, Mom, Grammy said...

Thanks for another great review. Just reading it has made me feel somewhat somber this morning.

Any suicide of a teen is tragic and so unnecessary. And we all play a part in making sure it doesn't happen.