Everything Affects Everything: Reviewing Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I was actually required to read this book for the Young Adult Literature class I’m currently taking. I was a bit skeptical about this book going in. I had heard mixed reviews about this novel so I was a bit hesitant to read it. It’s certainly a difficult book to read and review. Suicide is never a topic that comes up with ease. Most of the time, people have to pull the word out of themselves in order to talk about it. But it is something that needs to be talked about so now I will give you my review of Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher’s debut novel.

Clay Jensen’s life had just returned to normal when a package shows up that changes everything he knows. It contains tapes that were made by his deceased classmate, Hannah Baker, who tragically took her own life not too long ago. Clay decides to embark on a journey around his town with Hannah guiding him in order to learn why the reasons why she took her life. Asher’s unique and haunting narration provides an impactful look at teen suicide and how it affects others.

Like I said, I was skeptical about this novel going in but I now have a better understanding of it. Asher’s writing is breath-taking and suspenseful as he helps the reader (and Clay) understand how even small actions can have a huge impact on people’s lives. Hannah and Clay are unnervingly relatable as they both struggle with the consequences of their actions. Asher isn’t afraid to reveal the toxic environments that teenagers face as they struggle through high school. Thirteen Reasons Why is a hard pill to swallow but it’s worth it in order to understand the importance of being kind to others.

Note: I have not watched the Netflix series but I haven’t heard good reviews about it. If you have watched it, I would like to know what you think and how it compares to the book.

A New Kind of Ghost Story: Reviewing Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Ever since I was young, I have found ghost stories fascinating. No matter how far fetched they are, I still want to hear them. After a while, though, they begin to sound similar and the tropes wear out. Hollywood is still continuing to wring out as many horror movies focused on ghosts. The “creepypasta” phenomenon has swept through the Internet in a swift and it is hard to find something unique. Lauren Oliver, the author of the Delirium trilogy and Before I Fall, offers a fresh take on the idea of a ghost story. The ghosts, in this case, are not malevolent but sarcastic and friendly, while the living are the ones dealing with problems much darker than any haunted house.

Rooms is told from the perspective of two of the previous owners of the small ranch house in which the story takes place. Alice, the first deceased owner of the house, is as quiet and reserved in death as she was in life while Sandra, the second deceased former owner, is opinionated, stubborn, and talkative. Together, the two inhabit the house and reflect on their lives and deaths. When the current owner of the house dies, the two ghosts watch with anticipation as the estranged family comes back to deal with his death.   Secrets are revealed and relationships are further strained. The tension of the family drama and the backstories of Sandra and Alice make for an emotional and haunting (pun intended) read.

I love this particular novel for its unique story telling and intriguing characters. The tone offers a refreshing mix of realism and surrealism. It is definitely far from a horror story but more of a family drama. The story lines of the living and the dead are wonderfully interconnected through Oliver’s carefully thought out narratives. This novel provides chills and will keep you turning the pages in anticipation. Lauren Oliver’s Rooms is a unique, dark, and beautiful ghost story.

Beauty is Terror: Reviewing The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Note: This is all simply my opinion but I hope you find it helpful nonetheless. I am avoiding spoilers, as well.

The Secret History was the first novel by Donna Tartt I had read. I decided to pick it up again after finally finishing a rather generic but well written crime novel. (I had gotten that book for free so I couldn’t complain too much.) The Secret History, which was Tartt’s first novel, is elegant, cynical, dark, and gripping, It is told through the eyes of Richard Papen, who is reflecting on his years at Hampden College in New England (Connecticut, to be specific.) Richard moved from a boring life in California to start over at Hampden. While he is there, he is drawn to a private and elite professor who teaches a small group of secretive students about the intricacies of Greek and Latin. Richard soon finds himself in over his head in a world of murder, drugs, sex, ancient Greek rituals, and the private lives of upper class.

This novel is particularly unique in its writing style. Tartt, in Richard’s voice, describes rather mundane college happenings in a way that is Shakespearian. Richard, who is simply trying to reinvent himself, is relatable for anyone who has ever wished to get away from their hometown. Also, like other college students, he learns that looks are deceiving. While his experiences are a little more extreme than the average college students’, it is still easy to understand what he is going through. Tartt does an excellent job crafting characters who are complex, dangerous, and painfully human. Hubris is the word that comes to mind when describing the downfalls of the cast of characters in this novel. Anyone familiar with Greek tragedies can recognize the trademarks that Tartt weaves into her novel.

You don’t have to necessarily be interested in Homer or know Latin to enjoy this novel. While these drew me into the novel in the first place, anyone who is interested in dramas or thrillers will definitely enjoy Tartt’s novel. I highly recommend this book for those seeking an intelligent and well-crafted novel that keeps you wanting more. It’s combination of realism and drama is compelling and hard to stop reading. The Secret History is an engaging novel with a depth and eloquence that few can capture.

(Also for more images of Greek statues in modern clothing, check out this link: )