This book has a great pedigree ... from SCBWI grant winner to a fabulous agent to a great publisher, and it's a New York Times bestseller. The protagonist is a girl who commits suicide; but before she dies, she makes 7 cassette tapes (13 sides, one is blank), explaining the thirteen reasons why she did it--as in, the thirteen people who hurt her through spreading nasty rumors, letting her down cruelly, and not catching on to how unhappy she was. She sends the box of tapes out and they circulate among the people, so her voice speaks from behind the grave (a variation of the fantasy: if I killed myself, those people would feel bad and cry at my funeral ... the catch of course always being that the victim can't be there to enjoy the spectacle). The narrator, Chad, who seems like a genuinely nice boy, is somewhere in the middle of the receivers. So we get her voice in italics interspersed with his thoughts.
The plot reminds me of that haunting play, An Inspector Calls, in which a working-class girl kills herself and Inspector Goole (what a name) uncovers how every member of a middle-class family played a part in driving her to do it.
Teenage suicide is horrifying, and my heart goes out to kids who are so full of despair; but (here's my ugly confession) I just could not warm up to this girl. Maybe I kept my distance because I knew she was dead from the beginning? Or because once she decided that most of the world was hurtful, she couldn't give anyone a chance (including the reader ... the 14th side of the cassettes, in a way)? Or maybe because she didn't strike me as despairing and sad ... just very angry. I know despair and anger are related; despair is often thought of as anger turned toward the self. I guess someone who is this angry is willing to play the ultimate trump card to drive her point home. Maybe I kept my distance because this book scares me for my own kids.
Has anybody out there read this yet?