If you liked Thirteen Reasons Why but, like me, wished that such a powerful book would have ended on a more hopeful note, you should check out Jay Asher’s latest book. The cover and a more superficial summary might give the impression that this is a light and cheesy holiday romance, but I assure you there’s more than meets the eye. Yes, Sierra’s family owns a Christmas tree farm and she falls for a cute guy named Caleb during the month her family spends in California selling those trees… but there is SO much more to this story!
First of all, there is Sierra’s difficulty in balancing her friendships with her best friends back home (in Oregon), with whom she *never* gets to spend the holiday season, and her best friend in California, with whom she *only* ever gets to spend the holiday season. Secondly, there is the tension around the possibility that her parents might call it quits with the tree lot after this year. (Though she only overheard a conversation about the possibility, it still started her worrying about what it would mean for both the family business and life as she knows it.) The third conflict, of course, centers around Caleb. Not only does Sierra have to decide whether she wants to invest time and emotion in starting a relationship with a guy she might never see again, but her best friend also told her a story about something Caleb did in the past. Something pretty terrible. And Sierra doesn’t know how to broach the subject, let alone how she might/should react if there is any truth to the story.
Coming of age, dealing with changing family and friendship dynamics, falling in love, and confronting/forgiving mistakes people have made in the past?!? Yeah… This is definitely *not* just a light and cheesy holiday romance.
I never really thought of myself as being old enough to have historical fiction about my generation, but this book has changed my mind. Computers with high speed internet have become so ingrained in my life that I sometimes forget how painfully slow dial-up used to be. Kids today might not remember those AOL trial offer CD-ROMS that used to come in the mail and litter customer service counters, but I distinctly remember wondering what the internet would be like — then fighting with my parents about tying up the phone line when I started to use it! And although I was introduced to chat rooms, IMs, and email in much the same way as Emma and Josh, I was not able to peer into my future via a mystical connection with my [15-years-in-the-future] Facebook account.
Josh and Emma weren’t sure what to make of it at first. Sure, the picture looked a lot like an older version of Emma… but it had to be a prank. Right? Once they started to believe that this could possibly be a glimpse into the future, it became increasingly tempting for Emma to try and change the future. If Emma saw something indicating that she would become unhappy in the future, she tried to think of what she could change now. And while Josh thought his future self seemed pretty happy, he wasn’t so sure about how to handle some of the things he learned about other people. It reminded me a bit of Back to the Future 2 with ever-changing Facebook status updates instead of actual time travel. A fun read that makes you think? Awesome!
This book was so amazing, and I am guessing that the audiobook format definitely helped me to better appreciate the story. Why? Because the book is about a girl, Hannah Baker, who killed herself — but not before recording herself explain the 13 reasons why. She records the reasons on 7 cassettes and makes sure to create a copy so that the people she talks about will (1) have a chance to listen to said cassettes and (2) pass them on to the other people on the list. If they don’t, the second set of tapes will be leaked to the general public, and no on on the tapes would want that!
There were two voice actors for this audiobook. One for Hannah (of course), and one for Clay Jenson. Clay was, perhaps, one of the nicest people who ever knew Hannah, so he cannot understand why he would be getting the tapes. Did he really do something that pushed her closer to committing suicide? And who else was on the tapes? What did everyone do? And why was there time enough to record these tapes without Hannah changing her mind?
If you think you’re strong enough not to be haunted, or if you just don’t care that you may be, I highly recommend this audiobook. (I suppose I can recommend the actual book too, but I think the audiobook is definitely most appropriate in this case.)