My emotions ran in all different directions as I listened to this book being narrated by Joel Johnstone as Clay and Debra Wiseman. I probably wouldn’t have finished the book if 1) I wasn’t doing a group challenge on Good Reads and 2) I weren’t using the audible edition which I could continue with my life as a homemaker and mother that spends A LOT of time in lines for my 3 middle/ high school kids.
I had to remind myself several times that this was targeted for the teenage group of kids. I do believe it should be required reading for middle school because it deals with issues they struggle with and it could help them see how small actions can lead to greater ones. I do not believe it should be portrayed as a book about bullying, though, as it is more a rite of passage type. We have all been touched by mean kids and have had things such as being voted The Best Butt or Worst hair, and so on. I believe it should be prefaced with the idea this isn’t something that would probably cause someone to contemplate suicide unless there is a mental health issue or other more pressing issues that we aren’t privy too as a reader.
The book follows Clay as he listens to a set of cassette tapes that are left on his porch with a note that says the 13 listeners must listen and then pass them to the next name on the list. We listen as he begs Hannah to tell him why each instance of her “bullying” would cause her to commit suicide. He shows emotions of inner turmoil, anger at Hannah and at her tormentors. He shows disgust for the tormentors. He shows feelings of being a failure and how others failed Hannah. Hannah describes how each slight that was done to her was cause for her to have no other choices but to find a way out of her life and seeing no other choice but to end her life.
I find that Hannah is more of a bully as she uses these tapes to make each person feel the pain she felt without caring if it would totally destroy their life instead of maybe getting them to understand how they failed her and make their lives mean something. I spent a lot of that time being angry with Hannah and wanting to shake her back to life. The idea of having a backup plan to get the others to continue the cycle of tapes by using someone as a blackmailer. That poor boy that has to live with the pressure of having to make sure the tapes continue on course.
I don’t believe the younger audience should read without having an adult that can answer the questions there is a section that portrays a teacher / guidance counselor to be someone that didn’t do enough for Hannah even though he did do everything he could. Kids may not see that as they internalize this material.
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