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Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

The Bookworm | 15 January 2012 | Novel Reviews, The Book Den | , , | 3 Comments   

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Published: October 18th 2007 by Razorbill
Genre: Young Adult/Realistic Fiction
Reviewed By: Nicole Raines
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Even though suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens, the topic is still somewhat of a taboo in open discussions.  Differences of opinion can lead to heated debates and people who are considering suicide often keep it to themselves for fear of being judged. However, ignoring the issue doesnt make it go away. Several young people continue to take their own lives each year, while loved ones are left behind, trying to make sense of the tragedy, questioning “Why?”

Plot: High School student Clay Jensen comes home to find a package left on his doorstep. Inside are seven cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, a fellow student and crush of Clay’s that has recently committed suicide. Within the audio tapes, Hannah lists 13 people who she felt has played a role in her suicide. She also reveals that, if the audio tapes arent passed to each person named next on the tape, a second set of tapes will be leaked to the entire school, which could have serious consequences for some of the people she has named.

My thoughts: Thirteen Reasons Why takes us inside the mind of fictional character Hannah Baker, as she recalls events that led her to the decision to take her own life. The book offers a unique look on the subject with it’s dual narrative: Even though we are hearing Hannah’s story through her own words, we are also experiencing it through Clay Jensen thoughts, the main narrator of the story. I think the narration style of the book was bold to say the least. Jay Asher did a fine job keeping the flow of the story going in his debut novel.

As I listened along with Clay, I often found myself having the same reaction’s to Hannah’s story as he did. Some of her “reason’s why” were easier for me to understand than others. All of Hannah’s choices seemed to stem from the first reason on the list, which was a rumor started by the first boy she kissed. She made it very clear that every bad thing that happened to her could be linked back to his lie that -she felt – destroyed her reputation. Things seemed to keep happening after the rumor and Hannah soon spiraled down into depression.

I’ve read a lot of different thoughts on this book and some people dont consider Hannah’s reasons to be realistic enough to drive a person to commit suicide. I’ll agree that, for me personally, none of the things she listed would be enough of a reason to make me take my own life, but I dont think that’s the point of this book. Hearing Hannah tell her story, I could believe that she felt that they were enough of a reason. I think that once she fell into a depression, that every bad thing that happened to her, no matter how big or small, was magnified by her bleak outlook on life. Once somebody is depressed, any small thing that goes wrong in their life can feel ten times worse than it actually is. I feel that was Hannah’s case. Even when people were trying to be nice to her, she pushed them away because she expected – maybe even wanted – more bad things to happen. She built a wall and she made it impossible for anybody to come in.

I also think it’s unfair to judge Hannah’s reasons by ones own. Everybody is different and some people can deal with emotional scarring better than others. While some people have thick skin and can shrug rumors off as nothing more than that, others can be left emotionally damaged for life because they don’t know how to cope with the stress of them properly. I’m not sure if there’s ever a good enough reason to commit suicide, but Hannah’s reasons were good enough for her.

The best thing about the book is that the author never made Hannah out to be blameless even though she played the victim in her recordings. Even though I could feel bad for Hannah at times, I also felt that her last act in recording the audio tapes were a bit spiteful towards some of the people on the list, especially person number 13. Sometimes I was left questioning why Hannah would allow herself to be put in certain situations and I was even left feeling distaste for some of the things she stood by and “allowed” to happen. There’s a few on the list that I could see why she would want to make them realize their mistakes, but even the author strayed away from actually holding them accountable for her death. A person is accountable for their own actions in the end. Hannah knew that and I think Clay saw that too by the time he got to the end of the recordings. Clay also realized that every nice act can go a long way. I think Hannah taught him that a person in need of help must be willing to accept help. A person has to want to be saved and I feel like Hannah did not, but every small gesture of kindness can make a difference to someone, even if it doesnt save them.

I think the main point of the book is to make a person THINK about the consequences of their actions when it comes to things like spreading rumors or taking advantage of someone. It’s not about Hannah being right or the people on her list being wrong. Hannah’s story is meant to show us the importance of being aware of how we treat others in our daily lives, because we never know what another person might be dealing with on the inside.

Thirteen Reasons Why was one of best books I’ve read in a long time. It was hard for me to put down because I needed to know all the events that lead to Heather’s end. Not only would I highly recommend this book to be a part of everyone’s reading list, I think it should be “Required Reading” for junior/high school. It’s a book that could open up a discussion that could possibly lead to saving a life or at least open a persons eyes to the fact that every action -no matter how small – has an impact on someone.


  1. Annette Foster on 18 January 12, 9:44pm

    Great review, Nicole! I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    • Nicole on 20 January 12, 5:48am

      Thank you so much Annette 🙂 I’m glad you liked my review and enjoyed the book as much as I did!

    • Dayro on 05 March 12, 9:52pm

      She wouldn’t have cell phone that could txt at 14 in my house. And if she has a cell phone at all, which dbuotful, I’d know who she is calling and how long she is on the phone with them. Hopefully, that would help prevent this hypothetical from happening That said, life happens and children make bad decisions, so if I found myself in that situation:First, tell her we love her, and nothing she will ever do will change that. And explain that what we are about to do will seem unfair and cruel, but we are doing because we want the best for her. Actions have consequences.Second, explain that God meant for sex to be between a man and a woman who are in the confines of marriage. While she might feel the urge and desire to have sex now, that she should show maturity and postpone sexual activity until after marriage. I’d also reiterate that sex is never just sex. It is something emotional, it is something spiritual and every time you have sex your sharing a piece of your heart. When she have casual sex, she is giving pieces of herself away, and to continue down this path will leave her feeling bad about who she is, hollow and depressed. Tell her to wait, save herself for someone who is worthy to have the whole of who she is. Let her know what she is worthy of waiting. A special beautiful miracle of God. That she should expect so much more from the person she will spend the rest of her life with, then these boys.Third, I’d let her know about the dangers of STDs, pregnancy and that no contraception is 100% effective. Yeah, it’s a scare tactic, but casual sex is drastic offence. I’d try to be careful not to put it on too strong, but in the heat of the moment, I might not be thinking so clearly.Fourth, I’d likely take her in to be tested for STDs or pregnancy. One, because early treatment is important, and making sure she is healthy is important. Two, it also adds the the scare tactic. Fifth, forbid her from having any contact with the boys in question, ever. She violated our trust by sneaking around, by lying to us and disobeying the rules of the house. Until we can trust her again, she is to come home immediately after school and won’t be going out with friends for a very long time. I might allow the girl who informed us of the issue to come over after a few months into the grounding hoping that girl’s seemingly better judgement would rub off on her.Sixth, ask why she felt she had to have sex. See if there is something we weren’t doing that we should have. Is her self esteem this damaged, or was she not getting enough attention, etc.? (My wife would likely jump into this earlier than I’d get there, but it would in the list) This wouldn’t change any of the above, but would likely add a change in our behavior or add something else to the mix.

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