13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Clay Jenson was hit pretty hard by the death of Hannah Baker, the suicide of Hannah Baker. They worked together, they had class together, but the real reason he was hurting was because he had always liked her but had been too afraid to do anything about it. When a shoebox-sized package arrives at Clay's front door, he has no idea what he is about to get himself into. The package contains seven audiotapes, each tape has a dark blue number painted in the upper right-hand corner. The tapes are numbered 1 to 13. As he begins listening to the first tape, Clay hears Hannah Baker's voice telling him that she made these thirteen tapes about thirteen different people and if you're on the tapes, you are somehow responsible for her death, her suicide. Once you finish listening to the tapes, you are supposed to pass them on to the next person on the list. If you don't, she made a second set of tapes, which she threatens will be released to everyone if the chain is broken. Clay definitely does not want to be a part of this, but he feels compelled to know what he did to make her want to kill herself. So the journey begins, Clay follows her story all around town, tape by tape. What he discovers will change him and his view of the people around him forever.

Make sure you have ample time to read this book before you pick it up because once the tapes start, you can't stop. It was painful to put this book down. Every fiber in my soul wanted to continue reading to find out what made poor Hannah kill herself. Jay Asher does an excellent job of making the reader sympathize with Clay. Every feeling of confusion, of guilt, or of sorrow that Clay experiences is not only felt by Clay. The reader can not help but feel it too. I cried when Clay did and when Clay was furious and wanted to throw a rock, so did I (only I threw a capped pen at a wall instead because I figured it would do less damage). Stories about death, especially suicide, bring out strong emotions in all of us, whether those emotions are grief, anger, or indifference. It's interesting to see what characters have reactions similar to our own. Are we like Clay, who regrets not trying harder to help her with a passion that burns stronger than a thousand wildfires. Or, are we like certain other characters, who just wish they could move on with their lives with out having to worry about Hannah's tapes trashing their reputations. It is enlightening to observe our reactions to the handful grievances that, unfortunately, led to Hannah's death.

All in all, this book is a thrill ride from start to finish. I don't mean like roller coaster thrills or scary movie thrills, more like intense events that make the reader want/need to continue reading. The book, unfortunately, seems to blow by in a heart beat, but it is totally worth all of our time. It is insightful, it is eloquently written, and its message will never be forgotten.

I give 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher a killer (No pun intended. Well... maybe a little pun)

5 out of 5 daggers

Questionably yours,
Gabriel Gethin


The Crucible by Arthur Miller

A group of girls are playing, laughing, dancing in the woods. They are caught, and as their village is strictly Puritan, they are to be chastised and shamed for doing something so forbidden and taboo as dancing. The only way to evade punishment is to place the blame on someone else, so they concoct a tale that involved them being possessed and influenced by a witch who was in contract with the devil. Intended as a onetime way to get out of trouble, the accusation of witchery worked all too well, and it soon became a trend that took a life of its own, and, over the course of a year, destroyed the trust and shattered the foundation of a run-of-the-mill pre-American Puritan town.

These were real events, portrayed in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. And yes, I understand that this is far from a new book, but it is such a wonderful classic that I think it deserves to be reviewed and read and read and read.

It is pretty widely understood that those prosecuted in the witch trials of 1692 were far from magical or devilish. But in a way, the Crucible shows the devil as a facet of personality, showing itself in times of great distress and pain, such as the witch trials. The ironic part is, the devil is more seen in those who did the accusing than the ones who had been accused.

While The Crucible never comes out and is explicit in its meaning, it is written in such a way that is open to dozens of different interpretations, all centered around the idea of human nature and what being frightened and pressured can do to a person

If one is about to be hung for witchery and the only way to save oneself is to “confess” and accuse another, isn’t it the natural thing to do? At the same time, one is struggling between their faith and their life, because the Ten Commandments are clear in their message to never, ever lie.

Psychology of a sort comes into play as well, when one considers the idea that if people are constantly acting possessed and placing blame on others, they begin to believe what they are saying and that they are truly being hurt and targeted.

I loved having the opportunity to explore these questions and ideas, and The Crucible provided me with a perfect reason.

In short, it is about a group of girls caught dancing in the woods, who use witchery to evade trouble, and the aftermath that shattered an entire town. It is not a novel, it is a popularly performed play, but still provides an amazing read—perhaps even more striking because it is all in dialogue. It provides a chance to see what tremendous power an accusation can have, and the effects of power on everyday people. It is a quick read, but the experience of having read it stays with you a long time.

The Crucible goes beyond ratings, but if asked, I would have to say five daggers.



Unwind by Neal Shusterman

It's not every day you read a book that officially makes it to the top of the list of "best books I've ever read." But for me, Unwind by Neal Shusterman did just that.

The sci fi-slash-horror story-slash-adventure-slash-romance tale takes place a few generations in the future, after a second civil war in which Pro-Life and Pro-Choice armies battled over the abortion issue. The war ended in a stalemate, and a new compromise was made: All babies had to be delivered and raised to age 13. However, between the ages of 13 and 17, parents could choose to "abort" their children by having them "unwound"--a process in which all of the organs are harvested and donated to hospital patients. In other words, 100% of the "unwind" stays technically alive, just in a divided state.

And although the process sounds shocking and unbelievable, in the story, it has become a common and accepted part of American society. Unwind follows three runaway "unwinds": Conner (who's being unwound because his parents think he's a troublemaker), Risa (a ward-of-the-state who's being unwound to cut costs), and Lev (who was promised to be an unwind at birth as a part of his family's religion, and who has been brainwashed to believe that unwinding is okay because it helps people). And when the government is desperate for organ donors, they will stop at nothing to find runaway unwinds and make sure they don't escape their fate. Lucky for Conner, Lev, and Risa, a secret society of runaway unwinds is just around the corner...if they can only survive to make it there.

Although Unwind is thoroughly packed with action from start to finish, that's not the only reason I loved it so much. In a YA room full of Cliques and Gossip Girls. Unwind really makes the reader think about deep, life-or-death issues. Like, who has the right to say when someone's life is going to end? Is it really okay to commit an act like murder in the name of religion? How far can you go in order to "protect the greater good?" And which is better: aborting thousands of babies that someone could have loved, or having an orphanage full of thousands of babies that no one loves? Unwind explores all of these and many more. Throughout the main story, Neal Shusterman intertwines many different subplots that get you thinking about the values in America and the value of your own life. There's even some laughworthy satire thrown in here and there. I'm warning you now, it's extremely intense, and many of the ideas suggested in the book may upset you. But if you're looking for some meaningful, thought-provoking reading that really changes the way you look at life, death, and your place in the world, then I strongly consider Unwind.

I definitely give this book the full 5 out of 5 daggers.



Everything is Fine by Ann Dee Ellis

Young Mazzy is living with her mother while her dad is on a week long business trip. Everything is fine... except that Dad left about a month ago and Mom never gets out of bed. Mazzy thinks she can handle it. She takes care of her mom and people bring them food too, but when the government gets involved, Mazzy is forced to talk to her dad. Mazzy knows everything is fine, but when the government disagrees, everything is not fine. 

Mazzy, as a character, is very human and believable. Her denial of her family's problem is completely normal and human nature. What makes this book intriguing is watching the story of her family unravel. At first, the reader only knows that Mom is sick and Dad's never home. The reader has no idea why or how things got this way. Throughout the book, flashbacks as well as Mazzy's thoughts and encounters slowly enlighten the reader to the truly dark and dismal family past. Since this revelation encompasses most of the book, it is exciting to slowly, but surely, figure out what led to such a dreadful situation.
Another interesting thing about this book is that it is written in what I like to call "mini chapter things." They are usually Mazzy's thoughts, a conversation between Mazzy and someone else, or a flashback. They can be as short as a single sentence and as long as two or more pages in length. These "mini chapter things" make the book especially easy to pick up and read. You can pick it up and easily read a whole "mini chapter thing" in between all the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Another attractive aspect of this book includes the way conversations are written. When Mazzy talks to someone, Ann Dee Ellis exposes the reader to not only the words coming out of Mazzy's mouth, but also the thoughts in her head. This creates an entertaining discord between what Mazzy says and what she thinks. Unfortunately, it also makes conversations choppy and slightly awkward because Mazzy's thoughts interrupt the conversation's rhythm. This setback is completely worth it though because Mazzy tends to say either nothing at all, or the actual word, "nothing" when she responds to simple everyday questions. 

I give Everything is Fine by Ann Dee Ellis a slightly less than deadly 3.5 daggers out of 5.

All in all, the book is entertaining and pretty unique in the way it was written but, it's really short and the ending is rather unsatisfying.

Yours truly (but only in mini chapter things),
Gabriel Gethin