Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

February 3, 2013

Thirteen Reasons WhyTitle: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: October 18, 2007

Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Rating: 4.5 of 5 
Amazon Goodreads
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a package with his name on it. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and crush - who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and what he discovers changes his life... Forever.
Thirteen Reasons Why
is an unrelenting modern classic. It has won several awards and hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.
“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything.”
I’ll tell you this up front – Thirteen Reasons Why is dark and emotional, and deals with several heavy issues, few of which are taboo. Nevertheless, it is one of the best books around for young adults.

Hannah’s reasons, when taken apart and examined individually do not seem all that worthy of suicide. However, when they are put together, they create a devastatingly real snowball effect, which in the end, mows Hannah down.

Rumours, assault, betrayal, stalking and rape are few of the issues the book deals with. There is so much negativity, that after a point, you start suspecting every new character that props up. All that occurs in the book has become everyday instances in today's world, but when put together back-to-back, they pack quite a punch.

It all starts from something as simple as a kiss. A rumour. “A rumour based on a kiss ruined a memory that I hoped would be special. A rumour based on a kiss started a reputation that other people believed in and reacted to. And sometimes, a rumour based on a kiss has a snowball effect. A rumour, based on a kiss, is just the beginning.”

The author paints a lovely contrast, between Hannah’s false reputation, which starts in someone’ imagination, and Clay’s reputation, of a studious boy with an excellent image. Two very similar people, but one of them has a stellar reputation, while the other has a no-so-stellar one. Oh, the mysterious ways of the rumour mill.

Hannah is not the depressing character that we would expect. She is very likable, with a sardonic sense of humour. She goes through some very horrible experiences that are bound to leave any person scarred for life. But that’s what I would expect – being scarred for life – not suicide. There are some reasons which I felt were unwarranted and simply a case of being oversensitive. For instance, Courtney Crimsen, one of Hannah’s reasons, is a girl who everyone thinks is a darling, but in truth is a fake who only cares about presenting the perfect image. That, I felt was taking it a bit too far. People, especially young people, can be immense self-serving jerks. We all know that.

I think, after a point, Hannah became so depressed and psychologically messed up that she had her mind set on committing suicide and no longer wanted any help. It think that is how the snowball formed in the first place. She took all these actions too hard, and in her fragility, it pushed her over the edge. She, and in turn, we can almost precisely record her downward spiral.

I used the word ‘fragile’, but Hannah is also weak. She sees totally wrong things happening around her, and does nothing to stop it. And there are times when she can so easily fight back, but she is simply passive and takes it. Even rape. Or should I say ‘consensual’ rape? Because she said not one word, did not one thing to stop it. It was almost like she was looking for reasons to justify suicide.

But I will say one thing. Hannah owns up to her faults too. It was not simply a set of tapes in which she places blame. She accepts her part in taking the blame.This is not some impulsive decision, but well thought out and reasoned. She conscious of everything she is doing and its consequences. She admits that probably no one could have helped her. She says, “And that, more than anything else, is what this all comes down to. Me... giving up... on me.”

Thirteen Resons Why is a thought provoking book that really drives home the message for the average reader. But I wonder if, for those with suicidal thoughts, does it not condone suicide?

Thirteen Reason Why is an emotional roller coaster. The book puts you through an emotional wringer that gets you depressed, sad, thoughtful, angry, makes you cry, and, unexpectedly, even laugh! For such a complex subject, with its intricate reasoning, the author has done a remarkable job of keeping everything straight and not emotionally sluggish. With its face pace, and hard truths, Thirteen Reasons Why is a gritty, suspenseful thriller that I would recommend to anyone.


  1. I read this last month, and I very strongly agree that while it is dark it's a must read. For all ages

  2. i did not like this book at all :( but it seems like i'm the only one!

    1. Nah, you're not the only one. One of my friends didn't like it as well. She felt Hannah was playing a blame game.


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