Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why

Jay Asher


320 pages

I’ve known a few people throughout my life that have chosen to end things by way of suicide.  It’s always something that leaves you wondering–what was so awful that this person felt they had to take thir own life?  Some times you get an explanation via something like a suicide note, but I don’t think the reasoning is ever as involved as it was in Thirteen Reasons Why.

Hannah Baker was your typical high schooler, until she didn’t show up at school one day.  Only later did her peers discover she’d killed herself.  Clay Jensen, the narrator of Thirteen Reasons Why, had worked with Hannah at the local movie complex.  The two were friendly with one another and even made out at a party one night, but it’s been weeks since Hannah’s suicide and Clay has been getting back to his normal routine.  All that changes when he comes home from school one day to find a package waiting for him.  What he discovers are a bunch of cassette tapes–recordings Hannah made before her death to explain why she felt suicide was the only way out.

Clay can’t tear himself away from the tapes.  It becomes clear from the beginning that only those who are mentioned as one of the thirteen reasons why Hannah chose her fate are the ones being given these tapes, and Clay is anxious to know what role he played in her death.  As he listens to the tapes on a walkman, he wanders around the neighborhood following a map that locates all the areas that Hannah references in the tapes.

I said in my Sunday Salon post this past week that I found this book slow going at first.  I know that it’s had rave reviews and I expected to be drawn in right away–maybe that was the problem, in fact.  My expectations were too high.  I found myself getting more and more involved though as the story progressed.  By the end, I was intrigued.  I liked how the story weaved together to a climax, which wasn’t obvious at first.  I didn’t necessarily expect there to be a cusp–more just a laundry list of reasons why Hannah chose death.

I will admit Hannah was a character I didn’t really like.  That seems heartless really, given the circumstances, but it’s true.  For one, I thought she seemed entitled and whiny.  Yes, she had some really difficult things happen to her–who doesn’t?  And then she felt the need to involve people after the fact.  There were some people on the list that deserved a guilt trip–that I won’t deny.  There were others though, such as Clay, who really shouldn’t have had to deal with the heartbreak all over again, now made to be a million times more personal.  In the end, I felt that Hannah took the easy way out and tried to bring others down with her.  As a whole, I appreciated the story and the intent, but I had a hard time sympathizing with Hannah personally.

Overall, Thirteen Reasons Why is a great book, although it has many triggers.  I think that it would be something that teenagers could empathize with.

Other Reviews:

Becky’s Book Reviews

Beth Fish Reads

Hey Lady, Watcha’ Readin?

S Krishna’s Books

BermudaOnion’s Weblog

A Striped Armchair

Tales of a Capricious Reader

Medieval Bookworm

Booking Mama

Fizzy Thoughts

The Zen Leaf

I borrowed this book from my local library.


6 Responses

  1. You are so right about Hannah! She was whiny. She created some of her problems and them blamed them on other people. I still enjoyed the book. Thanks for the link love.

  2. I remember being really intrigued by this when it was published a few years ago but then I picked it up and it just didn’t grab me; I abandoned it without finishing. I think that, like you, my expectations for it might have been too high.

  3. I really liked this book. I do think Hannah was very selfish. I think that was part of her narrowness in the suicide, in the making of those tapes. It was a realistic selfishness, brought on by depression. I understood it. She was trying to work out what was happening to her, and at the same time that enabled her to blame others instead of herself for her actions, which made it easier to actually kill herself. The book certainly made me think.

  4. I didn’t like Hannah, either. I think Amanda is right, she was selfish and pointing fingers.

  5. I didn’t like Hannah, but I did feel sorry for her. I think people hurt her and she took it out on them. But then I’ve heard people say that all suicides are selfish, because they willingly hurt everyone who loves them by killing themselves. I don’t think it’s that simple, and I think this book went a long way towards insight.

  6. Think I will have to have my daughter read this one.

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