Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review of Kathryn Stockett's "The Help"

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In her debut novel, Stockett paints the picture of a racially divided, not-so-equal Jackson, Mississippi. Every few chapters of the novel is told from a different perspective, alternating between maids Aibileen and Minny and the white daughter of a farm owner, Miss Skeeter. One of the best aspects of this novel is that it helps illustrate how historical events are connected and not merely isolated incidents. Beginning in 1962, the novel primarily follows the path of Miss Skeeter after she returns from college (husbandless) and finds that her maid Constantine has been fired by her mother. When Skeeter’s friend Holly begins to stir up racial tensions, Skeeter begins a dangerous mission to expose the truth of race relations in the South. Enlisting the help of neighborhood maids, Skeeter pens the maids’ stories as well as her own, showing how both kindness and hatred can simultaneously exist.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thirteen Reasons Why You Should Read "Thirteen Reasons Why"

For those of you unfamiliar with Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why, it is his debut novel in which he fictionally depicts the thirteen reasons why his character Hannah Baker commits suicide. When high school student Clay Jensen receives cassette tapes in the mail, on which Hannah records her reasons for committing suicide, Clay doesn't want to listen but at the same time can't put the tapes down.

Here are my thirteen reasons why I think you should read Thirteen Reasons Why:

13. The multi-faceted narration: We get the perspectives of Hannah and Clay intertwined at the same time. He provides details that Hannah doesn't always include and vice versa.
12. The intricately woven plot: Each of the thirteen reasons why Hannah commits suicide correspond with thirteen people and incidents. And guess what...every one of these is connected...the classic snowball effect.
11. The play/pause/stop buttons: Whenever Clay plays a tape, a little "play" button is printed in the novel. As readers we "watch" Clay push the pause and stop buttons, knowing he needs a break to process the information.
10. The map: Hannah had slipped a map into each person's locker who she mentions on the tapes. On this map she puts a pink star on various locations that the plans on referencing in her tapes. Clay goes on a journey to each location, as he attempts to cope with what he's hearing. A copy of the map is printed in the inside cover of the novel.
9. Peer Communications class: A class in the high school where students are supposed to be able to discuss any topics. But when someone drops a note about suicide in the discussion box, suddenly the class is not so open and friendly. This class provides a real lesson to teachers and other students that they need to be more receptive to serious issues.
8. The online tapes: If you go to www.youtube.com/Hannahsfriend13 you can listen to portions of the tapes, narrated by an actress. Remember this is a fictional story, but based on real issues.
7. Each chapter is a different side of the tape: As each person's story runs out, the end of the chapter signifies this end of the story, while also beginning to implicate the next person.
6. Clay Jensen: Throughout the whole novel Clay metaphorically beats himself up for not helping Hannah or realizing what she was going through. And for that, I find him admirable.
5. Small town life: As indicated by the map, this whole novel takes place in a small, nondescript American town. I like the fact that not too many details about the setting are given, because then each reader can visualize the town for themselves.
4. The novel takes place over the course of one day (or should I say night): Clay begins listening to the tapes when he finds them after school one day, and he doesn't stop listening until well into the night. He travels from location to location pretty much without being bothered.
3. The fast pace: Since the novel takes place in only one night, and since each chapter is a different side of the tape, the novel is quite fast-paced. I couldn't put the book down and read the entire thing in one sitting.
2. The suspense: As the story unfolds, my brain tried to put the pieces o
f the story together, but I simply couldn't forget the connections myself. I needed Hannah to tell me the story.
1. Teen suicide can be prevented, and this book will emotionally charge people into action...or at least into being aware what some of the signs of suicide are. As Ha
nnah says in the novel, "When you mess with one part of a person's life, you're messing with their entire life." People need to be aware that bullying or teasing or anything of that nature affect others.

You can view the book trailer that I created for the novel at the following link:

Also, check out Jay Asher's website for the book: