*Spoilers are contained in this review*
Thirteen Reasons Why is narrated by Clay Jensen as he follows the tapes that Hannah Baker left after her suicide. The narration flips between his thoughts in the first person and Hannah Bakers in the first person as he listens to the tapes she left to the people that caused her to commit suicide. Clay was in love with Hannah while she was alive and wasn’t sure how to tell her. He spends the first half of the story wondering why he of all people, caused her death.
At the beginning of the story Clay receives a mysterious package containing 7 cassette tapes. He listens to the first part of the first one in his parents’ garage and is surprised to hear Hannah’s voice on the tape. When his mother walks out into the garage he realizes he cannot listen to these tapes at home. He goes to his friend Tony’s house and steals Tony’s cassette Walkman to listen. He then continues to listen to the stories on Hannah’s tapes while traveling to the places Hannah mentions on her tapes. Clay soon learns the secrets of several of his classmates. When he comes to his tape (#9) Hannah tells him that he shouldn’t even be a reason, but his story is important to understanding the last couple reasons on the tapes. The last tape targets their high school counselor. Hannah takes the tape recorder into a meeting with him and Clay listens as their counselor does nothing to stop Hannah when she tells him how depressed she is, how she has nothing worth living for. At the end of the novel Clay sends the tapes on to the next person and reaches out to an old friend who shows a lot of the same qualities of loneliness that Hannah did.
The book takes place in the places that Hannah has marked on the map as places that were part of her story including a coffee shop, her stalker’s home, the house of an infamous party, and her own home. Clay spends the story listening to the tapes and travels as Hannah refers to places on the map. He narrates his own feelings about the setting when he arrives and as Hannah’s story unravels.
The message in this book is to really look at the people around you, and to think about how even the smallest of actions can cause a person a lot of pain. Hannah refers to the butterfly effect in the novel: the idea that the beat of a butterfly’s wings can cause a tsunami on the other side of the world.
This book is part of the Young Adult genre and is aimed at high school students.
Jay Asher wrote Thirteen Reasons Why as well as three other novels: What Light, The Future of Us, and Piper (a graphic novel to be released in October of 2017). Jay Asher used a controversial way to promote Thirteen Reasons Why by releasing Hannah’s side of the story on “tapes” through Youtube. The website set up for Thirteen Reasons Why has many resources for teens who need to talk, who are depressed, or who are suicidal.
Thirteen Reasons Why was one of my favorite YA novels I have read in the last year. Jay Asher does a good job switching from Hannah to Clay’s stories and paralleling what is happening in each of their stories. You can really feel both characters’ depression, worry, frustration, and loneliness throughout the novel. There are not many stories that can portray teen emotions in a truly beautiful and terrifying light at the same time. After reading this novel I know I will be checking out Jay Asher’s other novels especially What Light, as this is his newest release and has some amazing reviews online. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good YA read. I also think that this book should be read by every teenager in high school. The story of Hannah Baker is devastating, but realistic, which should be known to all teens.