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.
Thirteen Reasons Why is definitely one of those novels that makes you think about your own life. As Hannah walks Clay, and twelve others through her life leading up to her suicide, you begin to see a full picture of how easy it can be to influence other people’s lives without realizing it.
While this was definitely an interesting and sad novel, I had some personal issues with it as well. I will probably get all sorts of grief for stating these issues, but it’s how I feel and my thoughts during the novel. I don’t want to at all put down or hurt those who have lost loved ones to suicide, but if you have you might want to stop reading my review right now because I may offend you. Of course, I hope I don’t either way, but just to give fair warning.
Suicide is definitely a problem and something that of course those who are experiencing thoughts of need help from those who are able. But the problem with helping those who are experiencing thoughts of suicide is that the “signs” are not really all that obvious. I can tell you when I was in high school, I went through most of the “signs” of apparently wanting to commit suicide — which I didn’t by the way. What I mean by these signs, which are defined in the book as well as in other places if you’ve ever read about suicide are “drastic changes in appearances”, “closing oneself off from others”, etc. These “signs” are things that most teenagers go through at one point or another so declaring them as the warning signs isn’t really fair because really the only way for someone to know that a loved one is thinking about committing suicide is for them to come out and tell them. Sure it may seem drastic and attention-grabbing. But no on can know how you feel inside unless you tell them. While Hannah did provide larger signs I suppose, I don’t feel like they were obvious enough to propose blame for her entire suicide on these thirteen people.
Which brings me to my next problem with the book. While reading, I couldn’t help but think that Hannah is really destroying lives by placing blame onto these thirteen people. I get why she did it. I do. She wanted these people (and anyone else who listened to these tapes) to understand how their actions can inadvertently (or directly) dramatically affect other people’s lives. I do understand that. But I find it a little selfish to blame other people for your giving up. She had multiple opportunities to confide in the right people, but it seemed like she always chose the wrong people to confide in (sometimes on purpose even). I feel like the lives of these thirteen people could be drastically affected (in bad ways) by Hannah’s actions. Some of the people on the tapes did some horrible things, but others didn’t even realize they were doing anything wrong. They were just being teenagers, and to blame them, even just partially, for her suicide could destroy their lives, and I don’t agree with that.
Finally, I want to say that although there were definitely some dramatic things that happened to Hannah, they were not by any means things that should have caused her to want to commit suicide. She made her own choices and caused her own path, and while some things happened that were definitely out of her control, unfortunately that’s what high school is about. I can tell you that I had an extremely horrible high school experience. I won’t get into the details, but I absolutely hated my life because of people around me throughout the majority of high school. But let me tell you something if you’re in high school and you’re thinking that the only way out is what Hannah did. It’s not. The way out is to push through and graduate — and get the hell out of there (high school that is). Let me be clear that you shouldn’t drop out though, that will make life worse for you later on, trust me. But push through and graduate, avoid the wrong people, and be careful of those you do put your trust in. If high school doesn’t teach you anything else, it teaches you that there are very cruel people in the world. But at the same time it can make you stronger once you’ve gotten through the tough times. Most people are at their worst in high school. Hormones are going crazy and everyone feels like high school is everything. But it’s not. Life goes on, and if your issues are dealing with bitchy teenage girls or overly-horny teenage boys, let me assure you, that if you push through, it will get better after high school.
Overall, this book is definitely one that will stir emotions inside you, whatever they may be. As far as the way it was written, I sometimes had trouble following the thought-process of Clay and/or Hannah when the author would jump back and forth between Clay’s straying thoughts (while listening to Hannah’s tapes) and whatever Hannah was saying on tape. If you can get past that though, it will definitely make you think twice about your actions and how they could affect others. It will definitely change your life in that sense. I know that I will be much more careful with what I say and do to others. Although I don’t think I’ve ever done anything terrible, I will definitely be more aware of how my choices can affect other people’s choices.
P.S. I’m sorry if I offended anyone with this review. That wasn’t my intention. My intention was simply to talk about the thoughts and emotions this book stirred in me and how it applies to my personal experiences.