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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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| Tags: , , , , , 43 comments »

43 Responses to “Review – Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher”

  1. softdrink

    Wow. Best review ever? Thanks!

    And I’m glad you liked this one. If you’re ever in SLO I’ll take you to the real-life inspiration for Monet’s (the coffee place).


  2. Drea

    I loved this book, totally one of my favs. I adore how Asher shows just how one person can really affect another person…both good and bad.


  3. Kathy

    I enjoyed this book too. I would like to have seen a list of the warning signs of suicide somewhere in the book. This book would be great for parents and teens to read together and discuss.


  4. Jessica

    You know, every book club that I have joined I have given up on. Go figure!


  5. natalie @ book, line, and sinker

    i’ve seen this one around but think i’ll skip it–hits a bit too close to home for me. i work in a high school and pay close attention to the students (small, private school, so it’s easier than huge public!). the teenage years are fraught with pitfalls and peril and as adults we tend to gloss over the issues that kids face. honestly? their issues are just as important as ours and parents need to support their kids and LISTEN. sometimes you don’t have to say anything…


  6. Debbie

    Loved this book! I agree she did sound a little too adult but I still enjoyed it. It was sad that she did seem to call out for help and no one caught the signs.


  7. Meghan

    The only person I ever knew who committed suicide was an adult (and a Catholic priest, no less, which certainly added to the shock) but I knew plenty of teenagers who considered it and I know a few people my age who still struggle with acceptance and self-worth. I think this is a powerful book because it does show that people can have a huge influence on those who are suffering. I guess we can only hope that this book helps a few teens to call out to each other more.


  8. Kailana

    I have this book on my holds list at the library! I think it is a Dewey book, so it will count for that challenge. 🙂 I have seen a lot of good reviews, so I am looking forward to reading it!


  9. Lanyard

    I must admit this is the first time I heard about this book. I can see that people really love it so I’ll take it to read it.


  10. jennsbookshelf

    I have this book from the library. I’m going to bump it up in the stack and try to read it this weekend. Thanks, once again, for a great review!


  11. jennygirl

    Great review Trish. Hannah’s observation is definitely something we should remember daily. Just being nice to someone can have a huge impact, if they are having a crappy day.


  12. Heather

    Great review, Trish! I just finished this book (like, yesterday) and will be writing my own review soon. It definitely made an impact on me as well.


  13. jess

    Great review — I will have to put this on my TBR list.


  14. Janssen

    I listened to this book and thought the audio version was terrific. Just very very well done.


  15. Becky Workman

    I listened to the audio of this book earlier in the year. It is BY FAR my favorite book of 2009. I’ll admit I struggled with suicideal thoughts when I was that age just as I assume many do. It’s a tough time to go through. I wish I’d have had the opportunity to discuss it in a bookclub!


  16. sarah pekkanen

    I’d be interested in this book just to see how the author structured it. It seems incredibly ambitious. Sounds like there are two main characters in it, but one is absent except through the tapes and presumably through the narrator’s memory. I think it would be a hard read for me because of the subject matter, though.


  17. Beth F

    Great review, Trish. The book generated an amazing amount of discussion. And yes — everyone should read this and discuss this.

    I reviewed it too: 13 Reasons Why at Beth Fish Reads.


  18. Shelly Burns

    Great review! I enjoyed this one as well and would have to agree…must read, especially for parents w/teenagers. Thanks for linking to my review.


  19. bethany (Dreadlock Girl)

    I think suicide is such an important topic, especially among young people, but recently I have heard of several middle aged men who lost their jobs and then couldn’t handle finding another one. The reasons for committing suicide are so superficial, even if they seem disastrous in the moment. My husband’s dad committed suicide, the selfishness of the act is irrevocable. It even impacts me and I never knew him! (He died my husband’s senior year of high school)

    Because this is a topic in our family I have a hard time with books about it, however we must learn from history and not hide it, and really show the impact that this deed has on those around that person, or the hole that they would (or did) leave.

    Yeah, so that comment just wrote itself….didn’t have anything to do with the book, or maybe it did.


  20. bethany (Dreadlock Girl)

    ps. I never thought of committing suicide…I was cured by watching Its a Wonderful Life. We watched that since I was little every year, it really impacted me…the void that would have been left.


  21. Amy Reads Good Books

    Sounds like an excellent treatment of a difficult topic. As stepmom to a budding teenager, I’m re-discovering how tough these years can be!


  22. Jen - Devourer of Books

    This was a great review. You bumped me over the edge to finally put this on my list at the library.


  23. Jeanne

    I might read it, but the teenagers at my house are inundated with “teen suicide: don’t do it” messages at school. They still laugh about the one psychologist who came to give them a big talk about it, overly simplistic, they thought, and whose name was Sue. (So all the middle schoolers were making cracks about committing Sue-icide because she was so boring).


  24. S. Krishna

    GREAT review – I thought you summed up nicely and hit on a lot of the points we discussed!
    I, too, think being in a book club is addictive. It’s like a drug.


  25. gwendolyn b.

    I’m curious about this book and fully intend to read it. It’s interesting that you note the absence of parents. That’s one of my pet peeves with a lot of TV shows and movies geared toward kids these days. I don’t think adults are nearly as superfluous in real life!


  26. Alyce

    This is one that I’ve been wanting to read, but I’ve been waiting until I’m in the right mood for it (not to mention just finding the time to read it). I had one good friend and one acquaintance that attempted suicide when they were teenagers. Thankfully they weren’t successful. As far as I know they’ve gone on to live happy lives. This is definitely an important topic for teens and adults.


  27. Kim L

    Thanks for linking to my review. I enjoyed this book as well, although yeah, it was hard to come to terms with the fact that Hannah was already gone. The book built up some drama and tension, but no matter what, she wasn’t coming back. It kind of ticked me off in a way that she made the decision she made, but I suppose that means I was really affected by the characters in the book. I agree, sometimes Hannah’s voice seemed too adult.


  28. Amanda

    I just recently read/reviewed this book and was very touched by it. I think a lot of teenagers think more adult than we expect them to. Especially those that are very depressed. I think that was the thing that touched me most about this book, was how well Asher captured the real voice of depression.


  29. rebecca

    First time i’ve heard about this book. I will have to read it, because it received such a good review and comments:).


  30. Lisa

    I’ve noticed the parents are absent in most of the YA fiction I’ve read, either literally or “busy”- John Green does it, Twilight, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Wake, etc.

    I have a hard time saying I enjoyed this one, because it seems odd to enjoy a book about suicide, but I did. I thought about it for a long time after. The one sticking point for me was #13. That one just didn’t play out realistically for me.


  31. lilly

    I know what you mean with book clubs being addictive, I seriously need to stop :O. I have seen this book reviewed on a few blogs and you all guys agree that it’s a must read. I will surely follow your advice and have this book in my personal library for my daughter when she gets to be a teenager, which is unfortunately not that far away.


  32. zibilee

    Great review! I have read a couple other reviews of this book, and I do have to say that it looks very interesting, especially the the narration from different points of view. I will have to wait for the right mood to strike me to read it though, as depression and suicide are issues that hit close to home.


  33. amber

    Clay’s last name isn’t Baker… its Jensen.


  34. Lisamm

    Great review, Trish. And wow, there are so many reviews of this book out there, yet yours is the first one I’ve read. Having just finished a book about teen suicide I think I’ll wait a bit before reading another one, but this one sounds really good. One thing people normally ask in the wake of a suicide is why? and is there something I could have done? and it sounds like with her tapes she is answering that for the people left behind.


  35. Michelle

    You know I have been wanting to read this for a while now. Reading your reveiw reminded me of that. I am not sure if I can handle “heavy” right now, but I enjoyed the review!


  36. Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher | Flight into Fantasy

    […] Trish: mostly positive […]

  37. jess

    im a teen. i read this book thinking it was interesting. The thing was that many of my friends have been thinking suicidally and it affected how i felt because i felt the weight of their sadnes with me. it was like a burden and when i read that book i felt as tho i could see life from their eyes. Many of my friends who are suicidal claim to have been sexually abused, and hannah was as well. This book is quite accurate about how girls our age feel.


  38. chase

    it was a good book read it for two years and i love it i am a guy so idk if it matters and i go to a school were if someone died we wouldnt care so it helps me find sighns


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