Sunday, September 15, 2013

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.
My thoughts:
In each of Hannah's thirteen reasons she explains how her actions and those around her led her to conclude that her only option was suicide.  In the beginning of the tapes, thirteen sides of narrative, she has difficulty saying the word, but as time goes by and she becomes more comfortable and firm in her resolve she starts to be able to say it.
I've read a number of other bloggers reviews, since this book came out a few years ago there are a lot to read, and they seem to be divided.  Some loved it and felt the book really resonated with them and stayed with them while others felt it might be inappropriate for teen readers since Hannah has decided that she is going to end her life and that might give teens the idea that suicide is an option.  I think that teens are very aware of suicide and think about it a lot more than adults do, perhaps having more to do with immaturity and hormones and less security in being themselves.  Since teens know about and think about suicide, this book would not necessarily make them think that suicide is okay, but might show how there were options that Hannah didn't take and help she could have asked for that she did not, it might actually help them to see that even when things seem helpless, there is always the chance for a change for the better.
In reading this book I was reminded of a number of cases recently of teen girls who committed suicide due to rumors, bullying and rape.  This book is a window into what those teens might have been thinking and, in reading it, perhaps teens could be taught ways to change.  I am no longer a teenager, but I can easily remember how rumors traveled and how many of the rumors circulating at a school were not real.  How sad that when Hannah moved to a new school a boy started an untrue rumor about her that colored how everyone saw her.  How sad that the one rumor had ripple effects for the rest of her time at the school.  Even Clay, who had a crush on her, had qualms about spending time with her thinking that her reputation might rub off on him.  He waited too long to try to get to know her, not knowing that it was too long, but even he let that one rumor color the way he saw Hannah instead of believing his own instincts about her.
I wish there were a better way to teach teens that words can hurt.  The silly saying that, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me" is not true and has never been true.  We would like to think that names and rumors can't hurt us, but they do.  As adults we are more secure and can often move past a situation due to experience, but as a teen stuck in a school for four years with a lot of the same people, there is no where to go.  At the same time, Hannah had options for getting help that she did not explore.  She could have used her words better and she could have told someone before it was too late.  What I hope teens get from this story is that word can hurt and that if you need help you have to be proactive in asking for it, you can't expect people to read between the lines and give it to you, value yourself enough that you ask for help and keep asking for it until you get what you need because your life is more important than any kind of embarrassment.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595141880
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/14/2011
  • Pages: 336

Meet the Author

Jay Asher
Jay Asher is the author of the young adult novels The Future Of Us and Thirteen Reasons Why. Thirteen Reasons Why, his first novel, was published in hardcover in October 2007, going on to spend 65 weeks on the New York Times children's hardcover bestseller list, with foreign rights into 31 countries and 750,000 copies currently in print in the US alone. Visit his blog at and follow him on Twitter at

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