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Review – Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher


Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher
288 pages
Published October 18, 2007
Fiction, young adult

Thirteen Reasons Why  by Jay Asher was picked by a new book club I’m in. Someone may need to tell me to “step away from the book clubs” because if I was asked to be in another book club (assuming they read books I was interested in), I would say yes. I can’t seem to help myself! Getting to discuss a book like Thirteen Reasons Why  with other people who’ve read the book is ridiculously addicting.

Thirteen Reasons Why  is about a girl, Hannah Baker, who recorded on cassette tapes the reasons she was killing herself, and then sent the tapes to the first person on her list who she mentioned in the tapes. After the person had listened to the tapes, they were to send the tapes to the next person on the list. The story is narrated by the ninth person on the list, Clay Jensen, while he listens to the tapes. The troubling thing about Clay is that he never did anything wrong to Hannah. Instead, he was there for her but she pushed him away. It’s hard to say why she may have sent the tapes to Clay, other than to finally tell him that she did like him and she knew he tried, but she was beyond saving.

The narration alternates between Hannah dictating her story and Clay trying to figure out how he ties into the story. Clay wanders around with a walkman, checking out the various places that Hannah mentions as she tells her story. It’s painful to see Hannah’s story through Clay’s eyes. Clay has a lot of guilt surrounding Hannah’s suicide and wonders what might have been. The narration was a little difficult to get used to, and in the beginning I was wondering how it could have been done different, but by the end I thought the narration was done the best way it could have been done: alternating Hannah’s story with Clay’s commentary.

Reading about suicide is very sobering. I think teenage years are so difficult and teenagers don’t have the perspective that adults have, shrinking their world and making acceptance extremely important. I don’t know any teenagers who’ve committed suicide, but I’ll admit that it crossed my mind a few times when I was 13 or 14. That’s what I find most difficult about this book: what makes Hannah different from me or any other teenager? Why does Hannah think killing herself solves her problems, when *most* people make it out of their teenage years alive?

Jay Asher brings up excellent issues related to suicide. Clay notes:

I would’ve answered any question, Hannah. But you never asked.

Hannah makes an observation that I try to remember daily:

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.

Do we realize how much impact we can have on another human being? A kind word, an encouraging note, a listening ear…those things can make a difference in someone’s day, in someone’s life. Are we ultimately responsible for the actions (such as suicide) of others? Obviously not, but that doesn’t change the fact that we have the ability to lift someone up or bring someone down. Which will we choose today?

I thought this book was great and I loved that the path Hannah chose was clearly the wrong path. However, it wasn’t without its flaws. Hannah’s parents are noticably absent, but she glosses over this by saying they were working all the time. I was surprised that they factored in so little to Hannah’s life, though I know there are parents out there like that. Still, it was almost a too convenient and tidy part of the story to be believable, when the rest of Hannah’s life is filled with such drama.

Also, Hannah seemed a little too introspective full of insight for her age. I thought her voice was a little too  adult.

With all that said, I’d recommend not only that you read this book (yes, YOU!), but that you have any teenager in your life read this book. The one thing that Hannah didn’t do was discuss the word suicide with anyone. If she had, I believe she would have found another answer.

Rating: 90 out of 100

Buy Thirteen Reasons Why  from Powell’s | Buy Thirteen Reasons Why from Amazon

Watch the trailer for Thirteen Reasons Why  by Jay Asher:


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