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.
Although I was really put off by the premise of the book, I ended up reading it for our book club at school. I’m not a big fan of tragedies, and if someone’s committing suicide then it sure sounds like one to me. I’m one of those people who will cry at almost anything, be it movies, books, or a compelling scene in a coffee shop. Surprise, surprise! No tears throughout this book. It wasn’t really what I expected… and not in a good way. The blurb says that it “… will deeply affect teen readers,” but all I got from this book was Thirteen Ways An Author Can Misrepresent A Serious Condition.
Thirteen Reasons Why takes place over about – 16 hours? More or less. We start out with our narrator Clay sending the tapes he received to the next person – or reason – that made Hannah commit suicide. Flash back from the previous night, when he first receives and starts listening to those tapes. This part of the book was really interesting, especially since the story was told from the girl who has died before the book started. However, there were some problems I found while reading, and here’s A Couple (not 13 thank god) Reasons Why This Book Just Did Not Work Out:
1. It was hard to follow Hannah’s story when we were constantly interrupted by Clay.
Like Clay, take a chill pill once in a way, ‘kay? You don’t have to cut every single description of a character Hannah is giving with “Oh, I saw him in the locker room the other day” or “Oh, here’s a little anecdote on my life.” You can tell when Hannah is talking because her words are italicized in the book, and Clay’s are not. Sometimes we’ll be reading Hannah’s account and all of the sudden Clay is doing something, or thinking something, and you’re just thrown off by it. The story really loses its flow, especially when readers like me have to backtrack a little and reread paragraphs to make sure we’re getting all this.
However, I also think this would be great in a movie. A little narration on the side while the screen shows a boy go through various locations that all accounted for a girl’s death. In a book though, it does not really work. Constantly switching places just made me confused and irritable. (Good thing they are making a movie out of this, huh? Gonna keep an eye out on Selenerr, who will be starring Hannah.)
2. Hannah and Clay’s relationship had no substance.
Hannah waxes on a lot about not having people help her, when she rejects one of the few people who could have. Even in the book, Clay realizes that.
“I’m giving life one more chance. And this time, I’m getting help. I’m asking for help because I cannot do this alone. I’ve tried that.
You didn’t, Hannah. I was there for you and you told me to leave.”
EVEN CLAY REALIZES THAT. Obviously Hannah was just not up for dealing with Clay, despite his intense crush on her. Clay has been crushing on Hannah for a looong time. They had one considerable moment together at a party, and that’s it. If she were really interested in him, we all know that Hannah would have tried to trust Clay, or at least befriend him.
3. Hannah’s suicide was just too unrealistic.
We know that Hannah has had a tough life. As readers, we’re introduced to the “reasons” why Hannah died and it shows the things that lead up to her event. All I can say while one thing is happening after another (the “snowball effect,” as Hannah likes to say), is that if every girl committed suicide after she gets victimized, there would be a lot of deaths out there.
The “reasons” Hannah dies is just not compelling. It’s your basic, most generalized situation of teenage drama and “wrong friends in wrong places” scenario. Depression is when you’re at a point where nothing and no one can help you. Going through Hannah’s thoughts in the book makes me think – her depression could have been easily cured.
While I appreciate the author trying to insert adult help, it’s just too unnatural. Guidance counselors are paid, and it’s realistic that they don’t work out. BUT – if you were really seeking help, you could have gone to a lot of other places. Heck, you could have easily gone to your parents and confessed all.Where are Hannah’s parents throughout this book? Oh, forever absent, as is so popular with young adult books. We have a vague mention of them being short on money and busy with going against building a new mall, but I’m sure if your parents care about you enough to ground you, they care about you enough to listen to your worries. Hannah, baby, your problems would’ve been solved so much more easily if you didn’t stay in the social groups you stayed in. I’m sure there are many more people who could have helped in your public school.
4. If you’re gonna commit suicide and send a tape of people who made it happen, don’t send it to an innocent person, and don’t send it to a bystander, okay?
This point is for Hannah! Maybe if you could stop blaming other people, you would realize just what you were doing. In the book, Hannah admits to hiding from herself, which is good. Realizing that is one of the first steps in helping yourself.
Does she start that, though? No!
“But you were right. And I felt scared, and sad, by my own words.
You told me I wrote the poem because I was afraid of dealing myself. And I used my mom as an excuse, accusing her of not appreciating or accepting me, when I should have been saying those words into a mirror.”
It’s really great that Hannah realizes this, but two pages later there she goes, blaming someone again. Sure, what they did was wrong. Does that give her the excuse to literally haunt them after her death? Um, no.
Speaking of haunting, I would have condoned this if it were only aimed at those people. Why involve people that would have helped, but you never gave them the chance? That is totally unfair and who knows, you could have started a snowball effect with those people too.
I think one of the lessons this book was getting at was to watch your actions – what you don’t do may be as considerable as what you do. This was actually pretty resonant and the ending was nicely done; it definitely corresponded to that message. However, as a book that deals with suicide, I do not believe that the character Hannah painted an accurate representation on the topic and her story was just not realistic. I didn’t shed a tear on a book that has to do with suicide, and that may be because I couldn’t connect with the whiny, sarcastic character who committed suicide, or the lonesome, lugubrious narrator that gets haunted by her. I do give props to wonderful idea, though.