Thirteen Reasons Why - by Jay Asher
"our impact on others can have disastrous results"
I hope you’re ready, because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.” In Jay Asher’s debut novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah Baker sets the plot in motion by sending out tapes that reveal why she committed suicide the week before. There are thirteen sides, a side for each person Hannah blames for her suicide. Clay Jenson, the boy who has a crush on Hannah, receives the tapes, but is mystified as to why. He listens, journeying through Crestmont, visiting the places Hannah describes, all the while reflecting on her words, and what he could have done to help her. Through Hannah’s suicide tapes, Asher demonstrates just how much one person impacts another, and often with disastrous results.
It is an extremely well written tale, in an unusual style. Instead of alternating chapters, even numbered belonging to Clay and odd numbered to Hannah, Asher combines the stories, meshing them so they’re not separate, but the same - Hannah’s, as she presents events to Clay in an unseen light, and Clay’s, as he reflects on Hannah’s life told through her voice.
Both the protagonists, Hannah and Clay, were likeable and interesting. Hannah’s story was rigid and distant, which seems suitable, since hers is presented as being recorded on tapes. I sincerely felt for Hannah, a fairly strong statement considering she’s complaining during the entire novel. I couldn’t put it down; I needed to see why Hannah wanted to die. I had to know, and, in some part, help. In my mind, I found I was working out what I would say if I knew her, how I would say it, delving through any and every way I could help her. Also, I just wanted the reassurance that she did not end her life for something trivial. Like Clay, I was longing to figure out why he was included in Hannah’s tapes. He rarely lied, was easygoing and a good kid, and, like me, sincerely wanted to help Hannah. But why was Hannah dead?
Clay is a very strong character, a foil to the other twelve people appearing on those tapes. He stood strong, and while despairing, listened to all the tapes. He grows from this experience, realizing that though Hannah is dead, he can learn from all that she had to tell him. Asher brings the novel to a beautiful and full circle, demonstrating Clay’s growth in his last action of the novel.
Asher deals with a subject most avoid: teen suicide. And, fortunately for readers, he has done his research. He knows the statistics, the warning signs, and other cold hard facts. But, most impressive, Asher knows the feelings, of the suicidal Hannah and of her classmates when presented with suicide as a class discussion, whose general disgust and unease is reflected on by Hannah: “In the past, Mrs. Bradley had notes dropped in her bag suggesting group discussion on abortion, family violence, cheating—on boyfriends, girlfriends, as well as tests. No one insisted on knowing who wrote those topics. But for some reason, they refused to have a discussion on suicide without specifics.” He does a remarkable job delving inside Hannah’s mind, inside her depression and the base of her suicidal feelings.
I would recommend this book for all mature audiences. If someone is not willing to recognize that teens do have problems, if they think we are “angsty,” “emo,” or “spoiled,” they should definitely read it. Teen suicide is a problem, and constant interrogations and reprimands of “why are you not happy?” and “you have no reason to be sad” are not going to fix it. Asher deals with the subject beautifully, and though Hannah does give in, Asher presents her in a positive light. So many events that happened to her just snowballed out of proportion; it was a feat of Herculean strength to stand tall for as long as she did. Teens and adults alike should read this book.
- Review by Lanie
"She was considered another weird outcast and pushed aside like trash."
Thirteen Reasons Why is a heart wrenching tale about a set of eight casket tapes and thirteen stories. Each tape has two sides that involve different classmates who pushed Hannah Baker to her death by suicide at age sixteen. Before she died she mailed a box of tapes and a list of everyone who must receive them. If the package, for any reason, was not able to make it all of the way through the list, she had a backup plan that frightened the lucky few who received the tapes and encouraged them to continue passing them down the line.
During the book we are placed inside the head of Clay Jensen, one of the several classmates who got to enjoy the torture of Hannah explaining why they are included on these suicide tapes. Clay had only met Hannah once. They often ran into each other in the halls, but never actually talked. Fearing that the many rumors that were being spread around school were true, he never told Hannah his true feelings for her. Later he regretted not taking the opportunity he was given.
Jay Asher wrote this book in an open way that allowed us to share the deep sorrow, frustration, and confusion that Clay and the other classmates on the list were forced to go through. It was shocking how many signs Hannah put up that no one noticed. All of her cries for help were silenced by the unjust ways of high school drama. She was considered just another weird outcast and pushed aside like trash. It was proven true that everyone’s actions are connected. As she says it creates a “snowball effect.” One thing that one person says or has does either leads to another action or is being altered slightly by a rumor to create something far worse. By the time anyone noticed the signs, it was too late. She had taken her life. They now have to live with her accusing words forever lodged in their heads, a constant reminder that in the end someone’s actions not only affect that individual, but everyone around.
- Review by Jordan R.
"You'll think twice before making fun of someone or spreading rumors."
This book really needs to be required for high schoolers, though this site is for books that are NOT required. Jay Asher's compelling first novel, Thirteen Reasons Why is about a boy named Clay who receives audio cassette tapes(old school, right?) in a package in the mail. No return address, just his name and address. He discovers the voice behind the recordings is Hannah Baker's, a classmate he never got to know, but wanted to.
Hannah Baker killed herself, and these seven tapes(two stories each, except tape seven, which has only one story, and a surprise) explain her reasons why she took her life. This book will make you think twice before playing a prank on anyone. You don't know how affected someone could be, or how seriously they could take a joke. Hannah is the victim of scarring rumors throughout her high school career, backstabbing so-called friends, and the thirst for someone to reach out to her, only to have it all taken away. In high school today, pranks and rumors are almost a given. They're gonna happen to someone someday, and this book really tears deep into your heart for Clay and Hannah when she tells her heart wrenching stories. I promise if you read this amazing novel, you will most likely think twice before making fun of or spreading rumors about someone you don't even know.
- Review by Bryan G.
"a fast read and an outstanding book"
13 Reasons Why is the story of a boy name Clay and a girl named Hannah. Clay comes home from school one day to find a box of cassette tapes with recordings from Hannah, who committed suicide a week before. Each tape is dedicated to a person who played a role in Hannah’s decision to end her life. The story follows Clay through one night as he listens to Hannah tell him her story.
This book was eye opening and makes you think about the decisions and things you say to people everyday. It makes you contemplate how that one comment can change another person’s world. It also shows excellently the grief involved with loosing a friend so young and the confusion that surrounds it. This book is written through a male protagonist but I would recommend to boys and girls alike. It is a fast read and I thought an outstanding book.
- Review by Alica D.
"Her stories will leave you outraged and longing to dive into the story to comfort Hannah."
Every reader longs for the feeling of sitting down to read a new novel and finding they are drawn into the stor. We all want to experience the extreme emotion of the narrator as we cheer for some characters and despise others. If you are searching for this kind of story that is impossible to put down, except maybe when your eyes droop from exhaustion, then Jay Asher's novel Thirteen Reasons Why is the story for you. Asher masterfully crafts the intricate world of high school and does a magnificent job of demonstrating how an individual's actions can harm another person. His novel really makes you take a step back to examine your life and how you treat your peers.
As Hannah Baker describes in audiotapes the events that led to her decision to take her own life, she explains, "I guess that's the point of it all. No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same." Many of her stories will leave you outraged and longing to dive into the story to comfort Hannah as you turn pages at record speed to find out the unfortunate correlation each character has to her death. You will join Clay Jensen in his tormenting journey as he uses Hannah's map to retrace traumatic events in her past while listening to her soft voice narrate the route. If he had known the inner working of Hannah's thoughts, could he have saved her?
The tone of the novel is eerie because of the impact of listening to the voice of a girl who killed herself just days earlier. Though many aspects of the novel are depressing, I strongly recommend it to any teenager or adult. It will change the way you speak and act toward other people as you read Asher's brilliant demonstration of the damaging effects of the rumors, the lies, the false friends, the alchohol, and the sex that contribute to Hannah's death.
- Review by Ashley S.
"Both boys and girls can relate, so the book's not for just one gender."
The tapes Clay Jensen receives tell what Hannah Baker couldn’t, and expose her reasons behind why she killed herself. Each tape is dedicated to one person, one influence on why Hannah took her own life. Included on some of the tapes are the ex-boyfriend, the popular cheerleader, and Clay himself. The main conflict of the book is Clay’s struggle to get through the tapes to finally reach the one concerning him. On Clay’s journey to get to his tape, other stories are revealed. Some of the secrets revealed really give perspective to the reader as to the torment Hannah was going through. The one Clay is most disturbed by is the reason for why a fatal car accident occurred, and who is really responsible. The tapes allow Clay to fill in blanks for Hannah’s peculiar behavior, and solve many of the questions he had about their relationship.
The tapes include maps to places Hannah describes so the listeners can follow in her footsteps. Clay travels to almost all the destinations on Hannah’s map, and follows her instruction on what to do at each stop. The map eventually leads him to the school hangout, where he meets another person who knows about the tapes. In the beginning, Hannah threatens that an inside source will release a second set of tapes if the tapes don’t reach everyone on the list, but Clay is skeptical. The person that he meets causes his worst nightmare to be realized. By the end of the book, Clay discovers why he was put on the tapes and confronts his guilt. But I still felt there were questions that needed to be solved.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to read. This book has material that both boys and girls can relate to so its not necessarily for just one gender. "13 Reasons Why" may be based around tragedy, but it has moments of comedy as well. On one tape Hannah describes how she caught a Peeping Tom that was taking pictures of her in her room. That part of the story is probably more of a guy scene, and I will leave it at that.
One of the things that I liked about the style of "13 Reasons Why" is how the reader hears inside Clay’s mind and knows his inner thoughts throughout the story. This allows the reader to have an insight that the other characters don’t have, and makes Clay more relatable. I really love when stories have a meaning to them, and I feel this novel had meaning. Everyone knows that gossip is "bad", but this book depicts how someone can be effected by rumors to the most severe degree. I will always think twice before I am tempted to gossip or speak of someone else behind their back. Once I picked up "13 Reasons Why", I could not put it down, I know it sounds cliche but its true!