Tag Archives: teenage angst

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, paperback novel, 288 pages, first published 2007, this edition published by Razorbill in 2011.

When Clay receives an anonymous package containing a series of cassette tapes, he is startled to discover they contain the voice of his friend and love interest, Hannah Baker. Her voice comes to him from the grave, describing and explaining the reasons behind her decision to end her own life.

Thirteen Reasons Why had been on my to read list for quite a while. But I have a confession to make; I actually watched the Netflix series before reading the book! I know, I know, I do usually read the book first, but I was sick, and sad, and the series looked interesting…. Anyway, I watched it, and I loved it.

I also liked the book, but this is one of those rare occasions where I preferred the screen version. The acting, casting and soundtrack were all good, but it was the emotiveness of the story that stuck with me. I felt Hannah becoming isolated, I felt her sadness, her resignation, and her acceptance. I also felt her parents’ devastation and the repercussions her death had on her family, on Clay and on Tony, and the ripples that moved through the wider school community. It is those left behind that are also victims of suicide, but it is rare that they have a chance to understand the reasons behind the final act.

Knowing the outcome from the start, knowing that Hannah takes her life before we even get a feel for her, made this novel an haunting memoir of a life at risk. It explored the many facets that can intertwine and connect leading to depression and suicide in teens. Even a small act can change the course of a life forever, and you can never predict what consequences will be wrought.

The Netflix series had thirteen parts; an episode for each side of each tape. That was an hour dedicated to each story Hannah tells. This allowed the characters to be fleshed out and explained in a way not usually encountered in a film or TV adaptation. There was so much more to the characters, we got to see them not only through Hannah’s eyes, but as the teens they were, and those they became. We saw how listening to the tapes affected them, and changed the course of their own lives. There was such depth to each person that the book could not explore fully since we only heard about them through Hannah’s voice on the tapes.

Inevitably there were some changes made, such as the type of store Hannah’s parents owned, the secret that Courtney wanted to keep, Clay’s relationship to the car crash victim, much bigger roles for both Hannah’s and Clay’s parents. However, I felt that the biggest change from book to screen was the timeline that Clay followed whilst listening to the tapes; in the books it’s all over in one night and told mostly in the past, in the series the story is played out over days, with interactions with all the other students involved in both the present and the past. Threads were added, exploring the way that Clay dealt not only with Hannah’s death, but also the actions that he undertakes in reaction to the other students’ stories. I found all these differences only enhanced the story and made it even more poignant.

Whether you read it or watch the series (I recommend you do both!), Thirteen Reasons Why is a story that will stay with you forever.

Thirteen Reasons Why is suitable for middle to upper high school students and above. It contains themes of depression, suicide, bullying, rape and sexual assault. It may be overly upsetting to some readers.

 

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Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

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angusAngus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, paperback, 239 pages, first published by Piccadilly Press Ltd in 1999, this edition published by HarperCollins Childrens Books in 2005.

Georgia Nicolson is a teenager, and as such, her life is full of problems. Nose size, kissing, school, family, friends, frenemies, boyfriends; Georgia tackles it all. Along for the ride is her best friend, Jas, her little sister Libby, and her unusually large and vicious cat, Angus.

Written in diary style, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, chronicles Georgia’s life in all its glory (and missteps). It is a rollicking ride through teenage angst and innovation that had me laughing. It exposes many of the realities that teenagers face, though I think Georgia often tries to solve her problems in an especially unique way. Her poor eyebrows! And kissing lessons, oh my. I was left shaking my head at her solutions, but also chuckling at the outcomes. I don’t remember being that crazy as a teenager, but then, I also didn’t have a giant half-Scottish-wildcat as a pet either!

Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging is a pretty relaxed read that I flew through. Most of the diary entries are short, so there are plenty of logical places to stop for a break, which also makes it more accessible for slower or struggling readers. Georgia provides a glossary of terms at the end of the book, in case you don’t speak English teenager. Though I didn’t have an issue with any of the words or phrases in the story, Georgia’s explanations were worth reading for their humour.

As a character, Georgia, was well written and developed. She is reasonably self-centred, like many adolescents, I suppose, but likeable enough. Her obsession over the size of her nose was amusing, and a refreshing change from teens that think they are just “too fat”. Georgia’s friends, aside from Jas, were all pretty generic, and I couldn’t really tell them apart. Everything about Georgia’s sister, Libby, however, was hilarious. Three year olds are really very special, especially when they have the opportunity to speak to your crush!

Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging contains references to sex, sexuality and sexual development, which lend it to a more mature audience. I think it is most suitable for high school students, though kids in upper primary school might also enjoy it.