Thirteen Reasons Why (also written as Th1rteen R3asons Why) by Jay Asher, copy from publisher, Penguin/Razorbill.
The Plot: Clay Jenkins spends the longest night of his life listening to a set of tapes he received in the mail. The tapes were made by his classmate and crush Hannah Baker, who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Clay doesn't know where on the tapes Hannah will talk about his role in her life. All he can do is listen to Hannah's voice, follow the map of the town she left in his locker, and learn how his classmates, some of whom he barely knows, factor into life-altering (and life-taking) events. Hannah's tapes shatter reputations and reveal secrets that could ruin people's lives. Those who are mentioned on the tapes are instructed to listen and pass the tapes on to the next person on the list, thirteen people in all. In the course of the night, Clay learns the profound effect that rumors and reputations can have on a person...and that not all good (or bad) reputations are deserved.
The Good: Convergence.
I'd really like to leave it at just that, because I can think of no better word to describe what goes on in this book. I think the only book I've ever read that illustrated the concept of convergence as well as Thirteen Reasons Why does is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I also loved the idea that the protagonist of this book is not the narrator. To me, there's no such thing as a reliable first-person narrator and Asher uses Hannah's unreliability brilliantly. Clay cannot argue with Hannah, cannot present an alternate viewpoint of Hannah's stories. All he can do is hear her side and try to reconcile her thoughts and actions with what he knows about himself and his classmates. Hannah is not the most likable of protagonists; I often found her grating, obnoxious, and proud of her victim status. At the same time, though, I found her, as Clay does, hypnotic. As Hannah ties seemingly unrelated people together, the larger picture of what led her to commit suicide grows more horrific. She knew many dark secrets but chose to keep them to herself, only revealing them on the tapes. The idea that one person could be in so many places at just the wrong...or maybe the right...times and gain the knowledge to destroy a lot of other people makes for a fascinating and bleak read. You're never sure who to root for, but that's half the joy of reading this book.
Thirteen Reasons Why
Jay Asher's MySpace
Author profile @ Random House
(crossposted at A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy)