Clay Jenkins returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers 13 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.
Thirteen Reasons Why is the story of Hannah, a high school girl who committed suicide, but Hannah has decided to stay alive even after death. She has recorded herself on cassette tapes telling about the 13 reasons why she had done what she did. Her 13 things are actually people she knows, and in order to comply with her wishes each person must listen to all the tapes and then pass them on to the next person.
Although each of her reasons is a person, Hannah is clear in stating that the people themselves are not responsible for her suicide. It is everything combined. It seems as though she is using her death in order to make these people realize that the smallest things can have a huge impact on a person. The term “snow ball effect” is mentioned many times throughout the novel, and it seems to fit the situation perfectly.
All of the characters in this novel fit together in a way that is reminiscent of six degrees of separation, which I thought to be a very engaging technique. Clay, is the main character and the one whom the reader follows along on Hannah’s retelling of her story. Clay is a wonderfully drawn character who I immediately emphasized with. He is falling apart because of Hannah’s suicide, both because he had a crush on her and because he tried to help her many times, only to have her push him away.
On the other hand, I felt Hannah to be a unsatisfactory character. I thought she was horrible for not accepting any help that was offered, she appeared to be testing those around her to see if they would force her to accept help. Even though she did have a hard time with school and friends, I felt that she was not going through anything that was much harsher than most teenagers. When all the instances were combined, the “snow ball effect” does seem relevant, but much of her problems could have been solved if she asked for or allowed help.
Even with my dislike of Hannah this was a compelling read that held my interest, with a ingenious plot involving the passing on of the cassette tapes, but in the end I still felt more empathy for what Hannah put Clay through. If the author had intended for the reader to feel more emotionally toward Hannah, I think Clay should not have been targeted as one of the 13 people involved. This just made Hannah seem more self-involved and manipulative. Throughout Hannah’s story it is clear she was contemplating suicide, but I think she was also trying to figure out how her suicide would affect others. Although many of the characters didn’t help her properly, I think Hannah could have tried harder also.
Thirteen Reasons Why was a fantastic read for me, that stuck with me and really made me consider the situations that teenagers may find themselves in. I think this would be a great read for anyone who wants to learn more about the symptoms of a suicidal individual. Although it is always helpful to remember that many people contemplating suicide display no obvious signs or symptoms.
About The Author
Jay Asher has worked at an independent bookstore, an outlet bookstore, a chain bookstore, and two public libraries. He hopes, someday, to work for a used bookstore. When he is not writing, Jay plays guitar and goes camping. Thirteen Reasons Why is his first published novel. He blogs with his friends Eve and Robin at discomermaids.blogspot.com
Published by Razorbill