Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Read By: Joel Johnstone and Debra Wiseman
Length: 6 hours and 24 minutes
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen 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.
Warning: This review and my thoughts on this book may be a little controversial. I’m sorry if you disagree with me on any of this. Viewer discretion is advised.
Let’s talk about suicide. It’s is an uncomfortable topic for me. I’m sure it’s an uncomfortable topic for almost everyone, really. Unfortunately, when it comes to this book we aren’t going to get around that, so here I am, tackling it first. To be perfectly honest, suicide really upsets me. It upsets me in an angry way because I don’t understand it, I don’t agree that it’s a solution to a problem, and I believe it to be one of the most selfish acts that a person can take. It upsets me in a sad way because I know firsthand the impacts that it can have, and the scars that it can leave behind. I was hesitant to pick this book up because of how I feel about suicide, I didn’t want to just be angry the whole time because of the topic. What I found was that although this book revolves around a suicide, it wasn’t overpowering like suicide can tend to be. The way the story is laid out, it’s a little easy to forget that Hannah committed suicide. She is telling her own story, we aren’t just reading about everyone dealing with the aftermath of her death, so it wasn’t quite as difficult to swallow as I thought it would be. So if anyone is like me, and is a little leery of this book because of the suicide topic, I would say don’t write it off completely.
Let’s talk about the overall story (forgetting the suicide part). It was interesting to see how Hannah’s story unraveled. Though not immediately transparent, the events in Hannah’s life were intertwined in the most intricate way. Seemingly unrelated people and events were tied together, and nobody realized it until they were told so, until they knew the full story. I enjoyed this aspect of the book a great deal, because I find unknown ties and odd coincidences to be one of the world’s greatest games. Kind of like when you meet someone, only to find out months or years down the road that you have a common acquaintance. This happened to me recently, I found out that my cousin worked with the fiancé of my college roommate, and none of us had any idea until my cousin met my roommate, friended her on Facebook, and saw that I was the common thread. Small world, this world we live in.
Let’s talk about what I learned from this book. The thing I think people should walk away from this book knowing is that you can’t possibly know everything that someone is dealing with and how what you say or what you do is going to impact that person in the short term or long term. It could be something seemingly harmless like pretending to shoot yourself in the head when you’re bored or annoyed about something, but how do you know that the person who saw you make that gesture didn’t know someone who committed suicide by shooting themselves or know someone who was shot and killed? I’ve dealt with more loss than any person my age should, and I can say first hand that the “innocent” comments that people make about suicide, drugs, and death are beyond painful, dredge up horrible memories and feelings, and are most definitely not funny when you’ve dealt with that shit first hand.
Let’s talk about my final thoughts. It has been quite some time since a book had me as hooked as this one did. It consumed my brain in that “this is so terrible but I can’t stop” kind of way. I would recommend that everyone pick it up, just for its thought provokeyness (totally a word).
Did you find what Hannah did with the tapes to be cruel or somewhat necessary?