Asher, J. (2008). Th1rteen R3asons Why. New York, NY: Razorbill. ISBN: 159514188X. 336 pages.
Asher, J. (2008). Th1rteen R3asons Why (unabridged audio book). Wiseman, D. & Johnstone, J. (Readers). New York, NY: Listening Library. ISBN: 073935650X.
Plot Summary: When Clay Jenkins comes home to find a package that was mailed to him with no return address he is instantly curious. When he opens the package to find 13 cassette tapes recorded by his classmate Hannah Baker, his mind starts to race. Hannah recently committed suicide, and the cassette tapes list the thirteen reasons why she did it. Clay is one of the thirteen reasons, which confuses him, as he does not know what he might have done to contribute to her taking her life. Clay must listen to the tapes if he wants to know more, and part of him does not want to know more. But, part of him feels compelled, for himself and for Hannah, to listen to the tapes and hear the words she intended for him and the others who got the box the box before him and who would get the box after him.
So, he started listening. And once Clay started listening to the tapes he kept listening. Hanna’s words directed him on a zigzagging tour across their home town where he stood and listened in the places where significant things happened to Hannah.
Critical Evaluation: Dramatic and moving, Th1rteen R3asons Why brings readers into the depths of the mind of a girl who commits suicide BEFORE she commits suicide. Often, in the case of suicide, survivors are left with dozens of questions about why a person might have taken her/his own life. What those around her could have done to prevent it. Survivors also often feel guilt that they might have done something to cause the suicide or that they did not do enough to prevent it. Hannah Baker takes the control herself by recording cassette tapes prior to her suicide that answer many of the questions people who knew her asked. And the answers were not easy to hear. This book has an honesty and authenticity that is likely to create empathy in its readers. There is no one in the book who is blameless, even Hannah, and that is not the point. The point is that life, and death, are complicated. We all have a responsibility to stand up for what is right and speak for those who may not be able to at that moment. There is a strong and powerful message in this compelling and disturbing story.
The book’s text switches between Hannah’s voice on the cassette tapes (in italics) and Clay’s thoughts. This is an especially good option for listening to the audio book, because listening to Hannah on the audio book parallels Clay’s listening to Hannah’s cassette tapes. The audio book is well acted, with sincerity and feeling.
Th1rteen R3asons Why was highly praised by critics and was honored several times. In 2008 YALSA named Th1rteen R3asons Why on the following lists: Best Books for Young Adults, Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults.
Reader’s Annotation: When Clay Jenkins finds a package with cassette tapes in it he is stunned to find that they were recorded by Hannah Baker, a classmate of his who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
Information about the Author: Th1rteen R3asons Why was Jay Asher’s first published novel, and what a debut. His most recent novel, The Future of Us, with Carolyn Mackler, was released November 21, 2011.
Here is the entire biography of Jay Asher from the Th1rteen R3asons Why website
JAY ASHER has worked at an independent bookstore, an outlet bookstore, a chain bookstore, and two public libraries. He hopes, someday, to work for a used bookstore. When he is not writing, Jay plays guitar and goes camping.
Thirteen Reasons Why is his first published novel. (Asher, n.d.)
The Th1rteen R3asons Why website is a place for an ongoing dialogue about the book. It also provides suicide prevention resources.
Category: Issues: Physical, Mental, and Emotional Concerns: Mental, Emotional, Behavioral Problems
Curriculum Ties: Suicide
- If your classmate committed suicide and you were somehow involved in her decision, would you want to know why?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 19
Challenge Issues: Suicide. In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies. Also, there are several positive reviews of the book, and it has won several awards and honors.
Why is this book included? Based on recommendations from YALSA lists I listened to the audio book of Th1rteen R3asons Why. While it was very intense, it also feels very important.
Asher, J. (n.d.) Thirteen Reasons Why: The Author. Retrieved from http://www.thirteenreasonswhy.com/author.php
Plot Summary: Sam Jones loves to skate, that’s “skate” using a skateboard, in case you are not familiar with the term. His idol is Tony Hawk, shortened by Sam to T. H. Sam has a poster of T. H. on the wall of his bedroom and often speaks to T. H., asking for life advice. Here is how Sam tells it, “I talk to Tony Hawk, and Tony Hawk talks back,” (Hornby, 2007, p. 4). Sam’s home life is stable, his parents are divorced, and he is being raised by a single mother, who had him when she was 16. Sam is now 15 years old and has the youngest mother of all of his peers. Sam’s greatest passion is skating, which he does whenever he can fit in the time for it. And then, he meets Alicia Burns. Alicia is beautiful and funny and she and Sam fall head over heels in love. They want to spend every possible moment together, mostly in Alicia’s bedroom. Their relationship becomes sexual and intense and then something happens, and it changes, and Sam no longer wants to see Alicia every possible moment of every day. In fact, he does not think he wants to date her at all anymore. He is confused about his feelings, and while he is trying to sort them out, he gets the news: Alicia is pregnant. This sends Sam right to his advisor, T. H., who seems to send Sam – SLAM! – on a journey into the future complete with visions of himself, Alicia, and their baby. What is happening? Can he get back to the present? Does he want to?
Critical Evaluation: Slam is written in the first person from the perspective of Sam. Sam’s honest voice, through Hornby, comes across as a confused, insecure, and, mostly likable, 15 year old boy. Sam’s language and thoughts feel authentic for someone who is not quite yet an adult but is dealing with very adult circumstances. The path of the novel is interesting, as it takes a twist from realistic fiction to science fiction with the element of time travel woven into the story. At first, I found the time travel surprising and wondered if Sam was going to wake up and we would realize it had all been a dream, but then it seemed the time travel was really happening and it was up to Sam to figure out why he was being given this glimpse into his future. Sam assumed Tony Hawk was sending him into the future to teach him something, though that thing was not always obvious. This book contains a lot of humor. Sam’s dry wit and sarcasm will make readers smile and, possibly, chuckle. And Sam’s eye rolling-annoyance, at certain things adults say, feels just like what a teen would do. The text is accessible, and, as it is written from a boy’s perspective might be a great choice for male reluctant readers.
Reader’s Annotation: When 15-year-old Sam finds out he is going to be a father his life trajectory takes him into unchartered territory.
Information about the Author: British Writer, Nick Hornby has written other popular novels including Fever Pitch, About a Boy, High Fidelity, A Long way Down and How to Be Good. Fever Pitch, About a Boy, and High Fidelity, were all made into films (Hornby, n.d.). Though many of his novels would be interesting to young adults, Slam is Hornby’s only novel geared to young adults.
Hornby is very interested in music, and music often plays a significant role in his novels. For example , Sam and Alicia’s baby is named Rufus, because Rufus Wainwright’s music was playing in the delivery room. Hornby collaborates and performs with the rock band Marah (Nick Hornby, n.d.)
Genre: Issues, Science Fiction
Category: Issues: Pregnancy and Teen Parents; Science Fiction: Time Travel
Curriculum Ties: English and Health
- What if you spoke to a poster of your idol and he spoke back?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 19
Challenge Issues: Premarital Sex, Teen Sex, Sexuality, Teen Pregnancy. In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies. Also, there are several positive reviews of the book.
Why is this book included? I was familiar with Hornby from the book and movie About a Boy, and I wanted to see what he could do in his young adult novel.
Nick Hornby. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Hornby
Hornby, N. (n.d.) Nick Hornby: Biography. Retrieved from http://www.penguin.co.uk/static/cs/uk/0/minisites/nickhornby/aboutnick/index.html
Plot Summary: Since the death of her parents at age 13, Quincie Morris has been in the care of her uncle Davidson. With her parents gone, the place that has felt the most like home to her is Fat Lorenzo’s, the Italian restaurant that has been in her family for generations. And Fat Lorenzo’s chef, Vaggio, and the rest of the staff were like Quincie’s extended family. But there was a problem, competition, from other local Italian restaurants, was cutting into Fat Lorenzo’s business. Quincie, who, at 17, helped manage the restaurant, and Uncle Davidson came up with a plan: turn the restaurant into a Sanguini’s, an Italian restaurant, with a vampire theme. From the food to the décor to the wardrobe of the staff, everything had to be planned out perfectly. But, in Quincie’s world, in Austin, Texas, there really are vampires and werewolves. In fact, Kieren, her best friend since childhood, and current love obsession, is a hybrid werewolf. So, when Vaggio is literally torn apart in a brutal murder in the restaurant kitchen, while Quincie, unawares, watches a nature special in the break room, the spotlight turns to the non-humans around her, including Kieren. In the shadow of Viggio’s unsolved murder, Quincie must focus on Sanguini’s and get it up and running for the reopening in a few weeks. She also must deal with the fact that Kieren is just about at the age where he will be leaving Austin to join a wolf pack, and Sanguini’s new, young, and handsome, chef seems to have more than a fleeting interest in Quincie.
Critical Evaluation: Leitich Smith manages to take a vampire story with all the fantasy and darkness that comes with vampire novels and merge it with a young adult story that feels realistic and even relatable to many teens. After all, problems with love and attraction are universal themes, even if the one loved is not always a hybrid werewolf. Written in first person from Quincie’s perspective, readers learn information as Quincie does. Her voice is honest and down to earth, even while dealing with otherworldly topics. Adding to the immersive experience, that reading this book brings, are special pages sprinkled throughout. A restaurant critique looks like a clipping on the page, the restaurant’s menus are presented in menu style complete with fancy script. For those who can not get enough Tantalize, Leitich Smith has written others in the series: Eternal, Blessed, and Tantalize: Kieren’s Story.
Reader’s Annotation: When 17-year-old Quincie Morris and her uncle open a new vampire-themed restaurant, there are many changes afoot. With vampires and werewolves, new love and old, will Quincie make it?
Information about the Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith writes books for all ages, from young children to young adult and adult. She has published picture books, in addition to short stories, essays, and young adult novels. Leitich Smith’s website (http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/) is a wonder of resources for readers and writers. It includes recommended reading lists, advice for those interested in becoming writers, and extensive information about Leitich Smith and her writing.
Leitich Smith is genuinely interested in the world and people around her and generously shares her talents and insights. She is a tribal member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and some of her works include authentically portrayed American Indian characters, something that is unfortunately often lacking in books about American Indians. She currently lives in Austin, Texas, the setting for Tantalize, with her husband, also a writer, Greg Leitich Smith (http://gregleitichsmith.com/).
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy
Categories/Themes: Paranormal: Werefolk and Vampires, Fantasy: Myth and Legend
Curriculum Ties: Reading comparison between this novel and Stoker’s Dracula and ancient vampire legends
- How would you feel about your love interest being a hybrid werewolf?
- Would you go to Sanguini’s? Which menu would you pick?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 19
Challenge Issues: Underage drinking, sexuality, mythical creatures. In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies. Additionally, there are several positive reviews of the book.
Why is this book included? This book was assigned reading, which is how I learned about it, though I was already a fan of Leitich Smith. Also, I wanted to include some novels with vampires and werewolves, as they are currently very popular among young adults.
Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands by Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A., with Philippe CousteauPosted: December 4, 2011
Bibliographic Information: Berger, C. (2010). Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing and EarthEcho International. ISBN: 1575423480. 128 pages.
Plot/Content Summary: “71% of Earth’s surface is covered by oceans…Our bodies on average consist of 70% water.” From the planet to each one of our cells, water is important, essential, and under threat. Going Blue follows a “service learning” model to provide the information tweens and teens can use to make a difference in the movement to protect Earth’s waters. The service learning model of Going Blue is comprised of five “stages” that take its readers from where they are now to becoming stewards of the earth’s water. The stages are:
- Find Out & Investigate
- Dive In & Prepare
- Get Going & Act
- Think Back & Reflect
- Tell It & Demonstrate
Each stage contains a description of the state and true stories of young people making a difference and demonstrating the actions of that particular stage. The book is in full color and looks almost magazine-like in its design. It includes sidebars, bios of earth scientists, charts, illustrations, and beautiful photographs. How can we save Earth’s precious water resources? Can you make a difference?
Critical Evaluation: Beautiful, accessible and packed-full of information, Going Blue is an in-depth guide to Earth’s waters. Dense with facts, but accessible for teens, Going Blue provides ideas, resources, and, maybe most importantly, food for thought. The service learning model, that the book both explains and follows, creates a natural path for readers to take in order to actually be able to make a difference in their own way. Its magazine-like appearance and beautiful colorful images and spreads make it as visually appealing, as it is informative and empowering. Below is an example of the inside of the book.
Reader’s Annotation: Beautiful, accessible and packed-full of information, Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands is an in-depth guide to Earth’s waters.
Information about the Author: Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A. is an expert in service learning, civic responsibility, and student leadership. She consults internationally about service learning and is a former classroom teacher.
Themes: Science, Water, Environment, Environmental Stewardship, Service Learning
Topics Covered: Environmentalism, Water Pollution, Oceans, Rivers, Wetlands, Lakes, Trash, Habitats, Conservation, Wildlife
Curriculum Ties: Science, Earth Science, Earth’s water systems, Civic Responsibility
- “71% of Earth’s surface is covered by oceans…Our bodies on average consist of 70% water.” From the planet to each one of our cells, water is important, essential, and under threat.
- If you could maybe make a difference, would you try?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 19
Challenge Issues: No obvious challenge issues. In the event that the book is challenged, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.
Why is this book included? The environment is getting a lot of attention these days, and it is important that there are books accessible for teens that can give them some information and perspective on environmental issues. This book specifically talks about the various waters of the earth, an important topic within environmental discussions. Additionally, this book introduces the concept of civic responsibility and taking action to make the world a better place, something many teens are interested in, but may not necessarily know how to accomplish.
Plot Summary: Cait Irwin was no typical thirteen-year-old. Every minute of every day she had a constant companion — the beast – her name for her depression. At first, partially due to the nature of the disease, she kept it to herself. She isolated herself and “the beast” was able to exert a lot of influence over her. But, eventually she sought and received help, and fought the beast, and won. Part memoir, part self-help book, part how-to book, and part comic book, Irwin takes readers on her journey through her words as well as her cartoon-like drawing of the beast and his teen victim. Not only does Irwin give practical suggestions for steps to take for teens struggling with depression, she most decidedly wants to offer those teens hope. The book ends with letters to the reader from some of Irwin’s family members about how they supported her and, in some cases, how they would have behaved differently.
Critical Evaluation: Depression is a real disease, but sometimes we do not want to acknowledge it. We do not want to look at it. We do not want to deal with it. We want to pretend it is not there. People with depression as well as those around them are sometimes more comfortable pretending “the beast” is not there, BUT, Irwin warns us, when “the beast” is ignored he grows. Telling her story, while at the same time speaking in general terms, could really help a depressed teen both not feel so alone and find ways to cope with her/his illness. In a dramatic, but straightforward and not overly emotional, way, Irwin paints a picture of depression as an illness. In fact, Irwin compares depression to a broken leg, both takes a teen out of full functioning, they might miss school time, sports practices, afterschool activities, even socializing with friends, but when the healing begins, these things can start to come back into a teen’s life again. Wise beyond her years, Irwin clearly wants to help other teens battle the beast of depression.
Reader’s Annotation: Thirteen-year-old Cait Irwin fights and conquers, “the beast,” depression and wants others to learn from and be inspired by her journey.
Information about the Author: At 13, Cait Irwin’s life was devastated by depression, but she fought her way out and shared her story with the world in Conquering the Beast Within: How I Fought Depression and Won…and How You Can, Too. In 2006, Irwin co-wrote Monochrome Days: A First-Hand Account of One Teenager’s Experience With Depression with two psychology experts.
Cait Irwin, now 31, is a working artist who expresses herself in many ways, including painting, wall murals and stenciling an original piece of artwork the side of a barn silo. She continues to be a strong suicide prevention advocate.
Genre: Non-Fiction, Issue, Illness, Mental & Emotional Problems
Format: Graphic Book
Topics Covered: Depression, Suicide, Mental Health
Curriculum Ties: Health, Mental Health, Biology
- Use one of the graphics from the book
- Talk about just how down Irwin became
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13-19
Challenge Issues: There are no obvious challenge issues associated with this book. Preparation for any challenge can include the librarian’s: reading of the book, adhering to the library’s collection development department, and possessing reviews of the book from well-regarded sources
Why is this book included? Many teens suffer from depression. This book gives teens hope as well as concrete suggestions for fighting depression. As the author, when she wrote it, was a teen herself, teens (and their parents) reading the book will be able to feel its authenticity. This book’s unique format makes it a great choice, as providing books that speak directly to depressed teens would be an excellent service for the library to provide
Cait’s website: http://sites.google.com/site/realityimpairedartworks/Home