Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Browsing around on Amazon one day, this book came up as one of the “Recommended for You” picks.  I don’t tend to pay much attention to book summaries because after I received the book in the mail, I realized that it was a Young Adult novel.  But that’s okay – I still think some Young Adult books are entertaining and interesting.  I also took a YA literature class in college to fulfill my lit course requirement and I really liked the class (plus I got an opportunity to read some books that I never got a chance to in high school).

Thirteen Reasons Why” is about a pretty serious subject – teen suicide.  Although it’s a little different than you may think… Hannah Baker has already taken her life.  One day soon after the incident, one of her high school classmates, Clay Jensen, receives a mysterious package on his doorstep.  When he opens it, he’s shocked to find what’s inside.  Inside are seven cassette tapes, each numbered front and back written in blue nail polish.  When Clay pops the first tape into the cassette player in his garage, he can’t believe that he’s hearing Hannah’s voice speaking to him.  Hannah has very strict instructions for the listener of these tapes and they must be followed through with or else.  What are the tapes about?  On each tape, Hannah talks about one of the thirteen people who drove her to end her own life.

As Clay starts hearing about things that his classmates did to ruin Hannah’s life, he’s wondering what he could have possibly done to hurt her.  They had worked together at the movie theater and Clay actually had a crush on her but was afraid to ask her out.  As he switches each tape, he is curious as to which tape is his.  As Hannah speaks, she also refers to a map and certain locations that relate to parts of her stories.  Clay had found this map in his locker several weeks before, when Hannah was still alive, but didn’t understand what it was and just had shoved it into his backpack.  Clay continues to listen, tape by tape, learning secrets about his classmates that only the other twelve people on the tape plus Hannah will ever know.   He also realizes that he may have been the only one who could have saved her.

Even though I mentioned that this was a YA book, I didn’t think it was inappropriate for an adult to read.  I actually liked it (for it being about a very serious and sad subject).  The way it was written, the story would be told from Clay’s perspective but then the transcripts from Hannah’s tapes were also incorporated as Clay was listening to them.  It really also makes you think about how your actions may effect someone else, even when you think it’s no big deal.  Some of the things that happened to Hannah didn’t seem like something to end your life over, but to her, obviously they were.  For someone who has a child that is high school age (not me!), it also may open up your eyes to see what goes on in their lives and maybe they need some support or someone to talk to.

This is Jay Asher‘s first published novel.  The official website for “Thirteen Reasons Why” is pretty cool – it includes an interactive map that Clay follows in the book (Clay’s was a real paper map, not interactive – just to clarify) and videos of each of Hannah’s tapes.

  • Tarrant

    I find myself reading more and more young adult. I think I have read more YA in the past 6 months than I did during my entire teens. The quality and the diversity of the story lines has improved so much.

    That said, I tend to avoid overt “problem novels” like these. This one sounds rather like another recent read–Paper Towns.

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