Readers of Jay Asher’s, Thirteen Reasons Why, may be a little hesitant when turning the pages of a rather serious novel. This comment may seem a bit confusing for readers wondering whether or not they should read this book. However, my comment is in fact a compliment towards a story that has made me understand another world people in our society may deal with everyday, and I praise Asher for making me feel connected to a character so realistic and relatable.
The story follows Clay Jensen, a quiet, intelligent teenager who comes home one afternoon to find a package with no return address on his porch. Inside are seven cassette tapes, each side numbered until reaching 13, with the last one blank. When he puts the first tape in an old player in his garage, the voice that he hears is his secret crush Hannah Baker, a girl from his school who had taken her own life two weeks earlier. Hannah’s instructions are specific: Clay must listen to each tape, for each one is about a person whose actions had some bearing on her suicide. He must follow a map she has provided to locate events in where her story took place. When he’s done listening to all 13 tapes, he must send them on to the next person on the list.
The book was unique with a writing style and plot I have never read before. The story follows the perspective of Clay and his own development when he learns more about Hannah. His character was relatable in a sense that we were following him on a journey for answers and understanding. Clay’s decisions and actions made me wonder whether I would do the same thing if I was in his position. But the main focus is on Hannah’s story and the weight she had to carry before ending her life. Each tape is a chapter that introduces the reader to a new conflict that has an effect on Hannah’s life, which made me want to read more. I was so engrossed with Hannah’s character that I eventually began to sympathize with her. What I was intrigued most about in this book was how it wasn’t just one event that caused Hannah to commit suicide. It was small, realistic events that eventually caused Hannah to give up on everything. What this book tries to explain is that little things all build up, day after day, one small thing after another, until the little reasons all blend into a single feeling of hopelessness.
That is what this book is about. And it’s also about taking responsibility for your actions and understanding how your small selfish acts can affect someone else.
Thirteen Reasons Why tackles the issue of suicide head on, and doesn’t offer any easy answers, but it does offer hope. It helps readers understand more about what people might be going through and how our actions may have an impact on people’s lives. I have generally enjoyed reading this book and the story of Hannah. However, it’s a serious read, recommend for serious readers.