Reading level: Young AdultAge of Main Character: 17
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Razorbill; Later Printing edition (October 18, 2007)
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers 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.
Guest Review by Janeth:
It's hard to know what to expect when you decide to read a book about teenage suicide. This is especially true when you have lived through raising teenagers and are the grandmother of one currently. Will the book be sympathetic to the dead teen's reasoning? Will it show the heartbreaking tragedy of a life lost too early? Will it explain that there were other options, other answers to the problems being dealt with? My answer to all of these when considering "Thirteen Reasons Why" is Yes. Clay Jensen, a high school junior, receives a package of 7 audio cassettes from an anonymous sender. Each cassette is labeled with a number on each side except for the final side. When Clay puts the first tape in the player he is shocked and stunned to hear the voice of Hannah Baker, a classmate and possible love interest, who committed suicide 2 weeks earlier. There are thirteen sides to the tapes, thirteen people who were directly involved with Hannah's decision to end her life and Clay spends the rest of the night listening, walking through town in Hannah's footsteps, reflecting on people and events and wondering why his name was on her list.
The book is separated into Hannah's words on the tapes and Clay's thoughts and actions regarding them. As Hannah relates certain events in her life, Clay recalls his perspective of these same events and tries to understand how they all fit together to compel Hannah to make that final decision to end her life. By listening to Hannah's story as it relates to each of these thirteen people, it is possible to see how one event, the false rumors of sexual activity, triggered another event, and so on until her life seemed trapped in hopeless negativity.
As Clay listens to the tapes, he feels frustrated that he did not see the signs of Hannah's despondency and react in a way that would change her depression. He is also frustrated by the fact that he was attracted to Hannah but allowed the rumors and opinions of others to hold him back from reaching out to her sooner. There are people who could have been encouraging and supportive of Hannah but she either failed to accept their help or refused to ask. By the end of Hannah's tapes, she has decided that there is no hope for her and even does things that verify this. She approaches her guidance counselor and talks to him about needing things to stop...like her life. But because he doesn't say the "right" words or ask the "right" questions she walks away from him.
This book was hard to put down once I started it. I wanted to know who was next on the tapes and how they had affected Hannah's life. I wanted to know why Clay's name was on the list. And, I wanted to know why Hannah decided to kill herself. The answer to that question is very unsatisfactory because for those left behind it seems that there is always another answer. What is ultimately more important is what Clay learns about himself and his relationships and responsibilities to other people in his life. I liked this book very much and would read it again.
5 out of 6
Parents should know: There's a decent amount of language and sexual content in this book. Including an incident of rape and a suicide. For more details go to Thirteen Reasons Why on Parental Book Reviews.
EXCERPT from Thirteenreasonswhy.com
A shoebox-sized package is propped against the front door at an angle. Our front door has a tiny slot to shove mail through, but anything thicker than a bar of soap gets left outside. A hurried scribble on the wrapping addresses the package to Clay Jensen, so I pick it up and head inside. I take the package into the kitchen and set it on the counter. I slide open the junk drawer and pull out a pair of scissors. Then I run a scissor blade around the package and lift off its top. Inside the shoebox is a rolled-up tube of bubble-wrap. I unroll that and discover seven loose audiotapes. Each tape has a dark blue number painted in the upper right-hand corner, possibly with nail polish. Each side has its own number. One and two on the first tape, three and four on the next, five and six, and so on. The last tape has a thirteen on one side, but nothing on the back. Who would send me a shoebox full of audiotapes? No one listens to tapes anymore. Do I even have a way to play them? The garage! The stereo on the workbench. My dad bought it at a yard sale for almost nothing. It's old, so he doesn't care if it gets coated with sawdust or splattered with paint. And best of all, it plays tapes. I drag a stool in front of the workbench, drop my backpack to the floor, then sit down. I press Eject on the player. A plastic door eases open and I slide in the first tape.