Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

thirteen Reasons why


Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Razorbill

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 doesn’t want anything to do with the tapes Hannah Baker made. Hannah is dead. Her secrets should be buried with her.

Then Hannah’s voice tells Clay that his name is on her tapes– and that he is, in some way, responsible for her death.

All through the night, Clay keeps listening. He follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his small town. . .

. . .and what he discovers changes his life forever.

Trigger Warning: depression, suicide

Thirteen Reasons Why is one of those novels that create polarizing opinions. These differing opinions are seen in the five star vs. one star reviews all over Goodreads. Reading a novel is always a deeply personal experience. Each scene, each moment, and each character will elicit something different from each reader. These differing opinions have never been so dividing when it comes to this novel.

It’s easy to forget what your high school experience was like the further away from it you grow. Recalling those memories then placing them back in your long-term memory distorts it in some fashion. I’ve come to realize that each modification to my memories of high school lessens their impact or diminishes the emotions associated. I enjoyed Thirteen Reasons Why because it reminded me that high school isn’t always the carefree exploratory phase we remember it to be. Figuring out who you are as a person while trying to be liked by everyone, make friends, and decide the path your life is going to take is stressful. This stress is made worse by every little slight or rumor compounding until there’s nowhere for it to go but out. Some have healthy outlets while others do not. Thirteen Reasons Why is an in depth look at how these small slights build upon each other until they have nowhere else to go.

At its core, Thirteen Reasons Why is a snapshot of Hannah’s life. An explanation, if you will, of her thoughts and feelings that led her to her decision to take her own life told through an almost impartial third party, Clay. Clay is the all around good guy. He’s liked by everyone and can fit in with almost every clique. He also acts as the voice of the reader’s thoughts about Hannah’s narrative. There are times when he’s supportive, judgmental, confused, and reasonable. What makes him the perfect vessel for Hannah’s story is that he’s not innocent. He often wonders why he didn’t act a certain way or intervene in certain situations when he knew what was happening was wrong. Clay is not innocent and that’s what makes Thirteen Reasons Why such a difficult novel to read. The all around good, almost perfect guy made mistakes that may or may not have made a difference in the end, but made them he did just like every other person when confronted with similar situations.

I rated the novel four stars instead of five because I felt like the television adaptation expanded on some aspects of the novel I thought should have been expanded upon: Clay as a character and Hannah’s narration.
Clay as character in the novel is a means to an end. He receives the tapes, listens to them, and then passes them along. The reader receives little to no information to backstory on who is as a person outside of his interactions in relation to Hannah. That isn’t necessarily a criticism because the novel, at is core, is Hannah’s story, not Clay’s. But having more of a connection to Clay as a character would have been beneficial to my understanding of his role.
Hannah’s narration of the tapes in the novel reflected the thought process of teenage girl more accurately than the television adaptation. In the television show her narration felt more structured and mature thereby pulling me out of the story and questioning Hannah’s actions when I should NOT have been.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s