Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher Review

by Daniel Johnston on October 1, 2014 · 0 comments

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I’m always (usually :)) open to book recommendations, so when my cousin recommended to me the book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher I thought I might as well give it a shot.


This was a famous book several years ago when it came out in 2007, and I can see why. It’s young adult and deals with a lot of complicated themes, such as alcohol, rape, and most majorly suicide.

This book does some things cleverly well, especially in writing style. The story is centered around a girl named Hannah who committed suicide. A boy named Clay gets a package one day, and it turns out they are thirteen tapes detailing thirteen different people and the ways in which they made her commit suicide (except Clay, who she says is ok). Clay represents the model of how the author wants us to be, although is character is a little bit artificial.

Throughout the book, we follow Clay around as he visits the spots Hannah talks about, reliving her life since she moved to the town. The author does a very good job recreating those emotions and stories, and there is a lot to be learned from this style of writing.

Note: Here is my video review.

Basically, the gist of the story is that Hannah moved into town a new girl, but very soon gets labeled all kinds of bad things. There are rumors swirling around about her that she had sex with a boy, when all she did is kiss him. Following this, a whole series of bad things happen that eventually leads her into deeper and deeper despair and eventually she decides to leave the world. The thirteen reasons why are the thirteen people who she says made her kill herself.

Basically, the whole point of the book is that if people had reached out to Hannah more and helped her, then she may have not killed herself. So we should all go out of our way to be nicer and not label people like Hannah was.


However, there are also a lot of negative things about this book, and to me they outweigh the positives.

First, this whole book consists of people acting extremely wildly. There is a rapist and people who are allowing his actions. People are breaking each others windows, drinking a ton, spreading crazy lies. One boy even takes notes out of Hannah’s “good wishes” box or whatever it’s called just to get back at her. I don’t know if I’m naive, but that kind of stuff simply doesn’t happen. Not once have I ever witnessed people in real life acting so outrageously as in this book.

A more apt title for this book may be, “Thirteen reasons why not to act like animals.” This outlandish behavior makes the book very unrealistic and greatly reduces the power of its message. If it was able to show Hannah being effected by more common behavior that we might actually do, then it would make sense. It may actually be inspiring to try and view how you’re treating other people. But it’s not helpful to tell us to not act like a rapist.

Although we get in touch with Hannah’s emotions a lot, we never really can fully see the connection between those and suicide. The implicit connection is that feeling so alone and mistreated was what made her kill herself, but we never really get to so that. This is really not a book about suicide. The suicide is used as more of an attention-getter to get us to pay attention to what was causing Hannah pain. The main problem is seen as twofold: That she never asked for help, and that good people didn’t try hard enough to give her help.

The book also doesn’t hide the fact, however, that Hannah brought a lot of this on herself. She let herself be treated poorly, be cast as a person she’s not, and at the end of the book even lets somebody have sex with her who she absolutely doesn’t want to. The real problem is Hannah and everyone around her acting very stupidly.

Do I Recommend this Book?

This book is a crazy mess of all kinds of complicated themes that leaves us with no clear idea what is going on, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The message at the end of the book is to reach out and be nice to people because you don’t know what they’re going through, but this doesn’t really tie into the rest of the story super well. Also, it’s unrealistic because nobody is going to walk around trying to help people with their problems. It is good to be a nice person, but that isn’t going to save Hannah.

Thirteen Reasons Why does do a very good job of encouraging readers to look beyond what they normally thought of people as, and instead give them a fresh chance. In this book a gross misunderstanding of Hannah contributed to her misery and eventual suicide. This one of the things the book does best and it does a very good job driving this point home.

This book has vastly positive reviews, but I believe that is mainly because it deals with such emotional topics. Not many people have ventured to write a young adult book about things like suicide, and the author must be commended for trying. But I think a lot of people like the book just because it brings up deep topics that they haven’t really thought about or understood too much. The fact that there are many flaws in the way Asher deals with the subject matter is lost to them. They may be overwhelmed with the way the book throws the whole kitchen sink at them, or they think that any book that brings up emotional topics has to be a good one. I bet if my cousin were to read this book again, now that she’s older and more sophisticated, she wouldn’t be so impressed by it.

So in the end, there are many positives and also many negatives for this book. It is worth reading simply because it is written very well and the author manages to conjure up tremendous imagery that makes you feel like you are right in the story. Still, there are many flaws in the story that make it fall far short of the impactful book it could have been. I wouldn’t give it to anyone younger than 14, and would probably recommend waiting until 15 or 16 so they don’t get completely blown over by the book. In any case, it’s definitely one that will you get thinking.


7 Lessons Learned from 4 Months away From Blogging

by Daniel Johnston on September 28, 2014 · 3 comments

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Hi everyone, as you may have noticed, I haven’t posted anything on this site since I graduated high school back in May (yay!). I’ll share more about what’s going on later, but I’ll definitely be writing more regularly now. So I’d like to share some of the biggest things I learned from my four-month hiatus:

1. Getting Kids to Read Isn’t Enough to Help Them Become Readers

Over the summer, I volunteered for several weeks at a reading literacy program. I will write more extensively about my experience with that later, but it shocked me the level of illiteracy going on in this country. Even in my city, many people have absolutely no idea how to read.

Most of these kids have no ability to understand books at all. Nor are they trying to read because they want to actually understand the books. They have long since decided that reading is boring and something that they must do. If they come across a book they really enjoy one day, then they might become a reader. Maybe not; some people just aren’t. But if all they’ve been reading is books they have absolutely no interest in, then they’re only going to dislike books more and more, and may never know if they could’ve experienced great happiness from reading books they really did like.

That’s why book reviewers are so important, because you only have a certain amount of opportunities to sell a child on the idea of reading. They may trust you and read the first few times, but if the books you give them are boring, they’re never going to want to read again. But if you give them really interesting books that they love, then they’ll want to read as much as they can! That’s why “reluctant readers” will commonly love certain books. It’s not that they don’t like reading or their reading abilities are insufficient; it’s that they’ve never had a book they enjoyed that would make them want to read.

I already knew all that, but I guess I learned how many people still think that just by forcing kids to read any old book they are going to become great readers. It is not going to happen.  

2. Built to Last

This website has continued to grow in traffic since I stopped updating it. Several of my all-time best traffic days have been in the last couple of months, and I’ve still been getting feedback and questions. Part of this I believe has to do with recent Google updates, but it only goes to show that the important thing is that I have created a website of value that actually helps people and stands the test of time. Even though my traffic increases every time I take a break, it still amazes me. I have no doubt that even ten years from now someone could be looking up my reviews and stuff on this website and it would be just as relevant then as it is today.

3. Time Away Makes it More Important

I’ve always taken the information on this website very seriously, and being away for awhile makes me appreciate even more how great a website like this can be and motivate me to make sure everything I do here I always do with the greatest passion and make it the best that I can. I’m continually trying to make everything I do better and better, and I want this website to be the type that people will smile from having seen and known, and a magical place that I will always be proud of.

4. Connections

The purpose of this website is of course not to make money, like a lot of similar ventures out there are. Instead, I do it because I enjoy it and I like the idea of helping people. But I was again struck at how great this website is for developing connections and getting opportunities that I would never have gotten otherwise. I’ve gotten to know some great people because of it and gotten to do some great things and I can only hope that will continue in the future.

5. We Can’t Decide what Happens So We Should Just Do Our Best

This goes along with the last one. Nothing that has happened as a result of this blog could I have possibly foreseen when I started it back in 2009. Nor could I foresee now the great things that are going to happen. But in creating this website I’ve just done what has felt right and enjoyable to me, and I’ll keep doing exactly that and hope good things will happen!

6. What I Like about Books is Going into a Great World

Of course, even though I’ve taken a break from this blog, I haven’t taken a break from reading or writing; in fact, I’m reading more than ever before! I’ve learned, beyond anything I previously discovered, that there is a world that exists in my mind, a magical world of greatness, where things sparkle and everything is great forever. This is the world I’ve committed my writing from now on to try and express, and the judge of any book to me is how accurately they create that world.

7. I’m not a Kid Book Reviewer Anymore-and that’s ok!

When I first started this website, I was twelve years old and most certainly a kid book reviewer. Now I’m 17, going to college part-time, and am not really a kid book reviewer in the strictest sense. That’s ok, though, because I’ve only gotten smarter and learned more, and the meaning of a kid book reviewer to me is someone who understands kids, and therefore is able to give accurate advice about what books they like. I understand what books kids like these days now as much as ever, so I’m going to just keep calling myself a kid book reviewer. At least for now :)

Thanks for reading this and stay tuned for more!



Life’s Secret Weapon by Daniel Johnston (New Short Story!)

May 16, 2014

Hi everyone, I’m super excited to share a new story with all of you today. It’s yet another one about life, which I think will probably continue for a while. It’s my favorite subject these days! This one is about sticking through rough experiences and coming through them stronger, and it emphasizes feeling good about […]

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Everest by Gordon Korman Review

May 14, 2014
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Gordon Korman has written so many good books that it’s always been hard for me to decide which one is my favorite. Sometimes I’d think it was Swindle, sometimes MacDonald Hall, and other times Everest. Korman did three action trilogies (each book is about 150 pages, so they’re quick reads): Island, Dive, and Everest. In Island, a group of kids […]

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The Look of Life by Daniel Johnston (New Short Story!)

May 8, 2014

Hi everyone, I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately, and I’m super excited to share with you one of my new stories! I got the inspiration to write this story when I was having a tough couple of hours. I’ve been super happy lately so it made me think about how other people might […]

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The Last Shot by John Feinstein Review

May 5, 2014
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Everyone loves mysteries. Everyone loves sports books. What about a book that combines both? The Last Shot is the first in a series of sports thrillers written by John Feinstein. His writing is awesome and the books are entertaining and instructive about sports while also providing a lot of suspense and action. Summary At the beginning […]

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Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee Review

May 1, 2014
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After the school year of seventh grade ended, there was only one school thing left for me to do: Summer reading. You’d think this would be easy for me, of course. After all, I’m a great reader! The books on the list didn’t excite me, however. They all looked like some kind of weird romance […]

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I’m Stronger by Daniel Johnston

April 29, 2014
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Hi everyone, thank you so much for checking out my website. I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately, and today I’ve got a new short story to share with you. First, I wanted to announce that I’m working on a short story collection that will be released sometime during the summer. Many of my […]

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Cahills vs Vespers Book 6: Day of Doom by David Baldacci

April 28, 2014
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Here it is. The end. One way or another. Amy and Dan have been fighting against the evil Vespers for some time, but it wasn’t until the end of the last book that they realized the truth: Vesper One is trying to create a doomsday device to destroy the world. For those of you who don’t […]

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Writing Process Blog Tour

April 22, 2014
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Thanks so much to Erik from This Kid Reviews Books for tagging me for this writing process blog tour. It’s been going around the internet for a while and it looks impossible to know where it started, and I’m glad it came to me! Below are my answers to the four questions and then I […]

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