Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Rating: 
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 297
Published by: Penguin
First Published: January 1st, 2007
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal Purchase

Goodreads Synopsis:

You can’t stop the future.

You can’t rewind the past.

The only way to learn the secret is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home to find a strange package with his name on it. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and first love – who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

Hannah’s voice explains there are thirteen reasons why she killed herself. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

All through the night, Clay keeps listening – and what he discovers changes his life… forever.

Plot Overview:

Trigger warning for suicide, depression, sexual assault. 

Basically, Hannah Baker committed suicide, but before that she arrange for a box of cassette tapes to be sent to thirteen people. Each person has cassette side dedicated to them where Hannah tells the story of how they tie in with her suicide. The tapes are to be passed on to those mentioned in the tapes or a second tape would be sent out to the public and with it their secrets.
Clay Jensen is on those tapes and he doesn’t know why.

My Thoughts:

I love the unique format of the book. The cassette tapes bring a whole lot more excitement to the story. And a little eeriness being that its a dead person talking to you (or the listener) in the present. The cassettes make the story.

I liked seeing Clay respond to the tapes. Hannah would say something and Clay would think a response; a type of conversation. And even when Clay was just listening it wasn’t completely silent on his end; he’d listen while walking or sipping coffee and observe his surrounding which readers read as descriptions. Every now and then he’d be interupted by someone who’d start a conversations before he returned to his tapes.

This all takes place in about a day (more like a night) which makes for a fast read.
I feel like this would be a good audiobook since Hannah’s messages were meant to be heard. (Maybe I’ll pick up the audiobook sometime.)

There are somethings that don’t sit well with me though.

In this book about suicide, I understand the moral of: the way you treat someone can have a much bigger affect on them than you think, and for Hannah those little instances built up. But I don’t understan some of her reasons; I don’t understand why those instances made the list. And maybe that’s why I didn’t connect with her. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but that’s how I felt for a couple of the reasons she mentioned on the tape. Is that to say that I’m siding with the jerk in those specific instances? No. Not at all. What they did in those instances was childish and juvenile. But I fail to see why those made it on the list of reasons to not only take her life but also to black mail them after she died. It must be horrible to live with the thought that you were someone’s reason not to live on.

I don’t understand why the last person on the list was included at all.

I don’t concider the identity of the last person a spoiler because it was mentioned in the prologue, but if you feel differently then feel free to skip the rest of ‘My Thoughts’.

 

Hannah said the last person on the list can take the cassettes straight to hell. I don't agree at all with this. The last person was Mr. Porter. He was Hannah's teacher who was also appoint the guidance councler position when the previous councler left. Why Hannah included him on the list, I don't know. Maybe she needed someone to be mad at. But he shouln't have to recieve those tapes . He shouldn't have to feel guilter about not being able to get through to her. He tried to help but she didn't give him much of anything and now he'll forever be haunted by the tapes.

 

On the Rating:

I enjoyed this book. It had a unique format which I always love seeing, but I also had some issues with it. Overall I though it was a good book.

Quotes from the book:

  • “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.”
  • “Sometimes we have thoughts that even we don’t understand. Thoughts that aren’t even true—that aren’t really how we feel—but they’re running through our heads anyway because they’re interesting to think about.”
  • “It’s hard to be disappointed when what you expected turns out to be true.”
  • “You can’t go back to how things were. How you thought they were. All you really have is…now.”
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12 thoughts on “Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

  1. You know, I never thought about listening to the audiobook of this! I think it would be a great.

    If it interesting that some people mention they don’t agree with the reasons. For me, I think suicide is a very personal option for a person. For someone looking in, I think it is hard to understand why they react the way they do. I’m not saying you aren’t justified to feel the way the you do because you are, I’m just intrigued that this is a common reaction to this book. At the same time, this is fiction (albeit realistic) and so I think there are some embellished devices at play.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I agree that suicide is very personal action for someone.Those around the person who commited suicide might never understand why she/he decided to take her/his own life. I just felt that if Hannah’s emotional state was fleshed out more, I would’ve been able to connect with her more. Because to me it just seemed like she would list the reasons she killed herself and not really delve into her emotional state. I read another book that deals with the topic of suicide and I really appreciated the author exploring the character’s state of mind. That’s what I was hoping to get from this.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I totally get that. I agree, it was hard to connect with Hannah as a character and I think that is because we are seeing her through Clay’s eyes (even though we do have her recordings). I suppose when I read this book, I expected to connect with Clay more to see how he dealt with the issue at hand and not necessarily Hannah. I was more curious to see how her suicide impacted the people around her and not why she chose to do what she did.

        My Heart and Other Black Holes is narrated by the character contemplating suicide and I think that book really forged a connection between you as a reader and her as the narrator. Here the focus is on her reaching her own decision and not so much on those around her. A very good read if you haven’t already read it.

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  2. I wasn’t a big fan of this book for the reasons you outlined too. I think one of the difficult things about this book is that it is centralized on suicide, which is understandably a very sensitive topic and one that needs a lot of discussion.

    I believe that authors have a right to write about suicide and discuss every facet of it, including motives, but what really concerned me was the tone of this novel. Personally, I thought Hannah was vindictive, and sending the cassette tapes to other people for them to bear the guilt for the rest of their life was a horrible thing to do. Any suicide is unfortunate and tragic, and a symptom of society’s problems, but I feel like it doesn’t free her of any criticism. Asher never acknowledges Hannah’s problematic actions, even in passing. So I agree with you – I had issues with the overall message that this book conveyed.

    Great review, meena!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. I felt it was a bit hypocritical for her to blackmail those kids. It like she became the bully on a whole different level. She might have made those kids feel so bad that they decided to kill themselves. (haha, I’m saying ‘kids’ when I’m basically their age)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while, ever since I read another book by this author, called The Future of Us!
    The format sounds so unique and I think it sounds like it definitely would do well to listen to as an audiobook. The idea of this book is great too but just like you, that idea of letting someone love the rest of their lives feeling responsible for someone’s death doesn’t sit right with me.
    Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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