Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
320 pages
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Razorbill; 1st edition (October 18, 2007)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My thoughts:
Thirteen Reasons is the story of Hannah Baker and as the book title suggests, 13 reasons why she died. All these reasons are in fact related to 13 people who helped her reach the state she did-the state where she felt like she had no other choice but to take her own life. Before she commits suicide, all the people who were somehow responsible for it were sent a set of tapes so that the person knows how much his/ her actions affected Hannah.

Whenever I hear somebody committed suicide, my first thought is obviously “Why?”, followed by thoughts like how can something this trivial force someone to take his/ her own life and leave so many unanswered questions and blame games behind. But it’s almost never one thing; it’s never “just” or “trivial”. It’s a culmination of many incidents and as Hannah says “A snowball effect”. Thirteen Reasons Why shows exactly that, the other side of suicide, something which we would probably never get to see or should see.

Hannah Baker is the new girl in town and like everyone else she finds it difficult to fit in. Hannah has left her own town and with that her old life which was filled with rumors and she hopes to start with a fresh slate. But things don’t turn out how she wants them to. Rumors follow her in the new town as well, trusts are broken, games are played and at one point Hannah doesn’t feel safe anymore, neither in her school nor at home.

Clay Jensen is one of the guys who gets the set of tapes. The book is an intermingled narrative between Hannah’s voice in the tape and Clay’s thought process or rather his reactions to it. It helps the reader get a different perspective on Hannah’s story. It also made it difficult for me to get into the story. The moment I felt I was getting involved in what Hannah was saying Clay would come up with totally unrelated things to say, not always unrelated, but many times. I know Clay’s perspective was important too, but it wasn’t done as well as it could have.

The writing was okay. In fact I really didn’t think I was going to like this book at all. Some where after the first 100 pages, the book really picks up pace. But I feel the power of the book lies in the story, in the message. To some people it will help realize how even their smallest of actions could affect someone’s psyche if it was fragile enough. Teenagers usually tend to be insensitive and wrapped up in their own world, it would hopefully make them realize that everyone’s worlds are overlapped and some things could have greater consequences than they realized. But on the other hand, it does not provide any hope to people who are probably thinking of giving up on the world like Hannah.

I would say it’s a good book which would probably be great for teenagers and adults as well.

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21 thoughts on “Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

  1. What a different and yet pertinent idea. It’s such a hard subject to write about, but this definitely hits on something that I’ve not seen written before. I feel like it’s one of those books that would make me angry though. :/

  2. I have only heard great things about this book, so it is interesting to hear that you think the writing is only OK. I can’t decide whether or not to read it or not – perhaps that will depend on whether I happen to find a copy!

  3. Brilliant reivew. I’ve just added it to my wishlist now. 🙂

    I’d be interested to see the different perspective in this. I always used to have a “How selfish can one person be to do that?” attitude towards suicide but then had some personal experience with it. My opinion has completely changed because I now know that when you’re driven to that point, you’re completely blind to those around you who love you – your mind tricks you into thinking that there’s nobody and nothing for you.

  4. You make a good point that this book gives no hope. We read this one for book club, and while we all agreed it was a suspenseful novel that sucked you in, we had problems with the premise. Great review.

  5. I enjoyed reading this book; I thought the premise is refreshing though it sounds bleak. You’ve made a good point about the ending which I haven’t thought of before.

  6. Great review! I have this one on my TBR and picked it up exactly for the reason you said : the story looks powerful. Suicide is a touchy subject, but I’ve heard a lot of good on this one.

  7. I have this on my wish list and I’ve marked that someone recommended the audio book. One of these days I’ll get to it because it does sound powerful. Great review.

    • I know what you mean, but I’ve read and heard of so many people commit suicide because of reasons far less minor in this book, so you’ll never know. I guess it depends on how fragile your state is.

  8. I just finished Thirteen Reasons Why also, and I definitely agree with your opinion on the flip-flopping back and forth in the narrative. I found it confusing (until about 50 pg. when I finally got used to it) and I kept having to go back and re-read paragraphs to remember who was talking about what. I actually didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, unfortunately, but it wasn’t the worst. I’m putting my review up soon too.

    By the way the author is Asher: you said Usher. Just thought I’d help you fix it 😉

    Found you through Cym :]

  9. I just finished this one–listened to it–and felt it was really well done. Clay and Hannah both have their own narrators so the juxtaposition between their thoughts flows really well in the audio. I often wondered how it would work for me if I was reading the written version–I think I might have had the same reaction you did.

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