Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Publication Date: October 18th, 2007
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 304
ISBN13: 978-1595141712
Source: Purchased eBook
Awards: New York Times Best Seller Publishers Weekly Best Seller, California Book Award Winner, Best Books for Young Adults (YALSA), Quick Picks for Reluctant YA Readers (YALSA), Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults (YALSA), Borders Original Voices finalist, Barnes & Noble - Top 10 Best for Teens, International Reading Assoc. - Young Adults' Choices, Kirkus Reviews Editor's Choice, Book Sense Pick - Winter, Chicago Public Library Best Books, Association of Booksellers for Children - Best Books, State Awards - Winner (voted on by students): Florida, Kansas, Kentucky

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen 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.
A | B&N | Gr

Jay Asher was born in Arcadia, California on September 30, 1975. He grew up in a family that encouraged all of his interests, from playing the guitar to his writing. He attended Cuesta College right after graduating from high school. It was here where he wrote his first two children’s books for a class called Children’s Literature Appreciation. At this point in his life, he had decided he wanted to become an elementary school teacher. He then transferred to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo where he left his senior year in order to pursue his career as a serious writer. Throughout his life he worked in various establishments, including as a salesman in a shoe store and in libraries and bookstores. Many of his work experiences had an impact on some aspect of his writing.

He has published only one book to date, Thirteen Reasons Why, which was published in October 2007. He is currently working on his second Young Adult novel, and has written several picture books and screenplays. Thirteen Reasons Why has won several awards and has received five stars from Teen Book Review. It also has received high reviews from fellow authors such as Ellen Hopkins, Chris Crutcher, and Gordon Kormon.

      Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher's first published book, should probably be read in every High School in America at least once. Is it the absolute best book out there tackling the topic of teenage suicide? No. And I'm sure there are others like it that I have yet to read, but until that happens, I think this could be a very useful tool in our High Schools. There are also Anti-Bullying tours and resources on the website, but I'll get to that later.

     In the book, Hannah had committed suicide two weeks ago. Before she died, she recorded a series of tapes explaining 13 reasons why she did it. Each person the reasons are about has to send the tapes along to the next person. The reader enters into the story when the tapes arrive into the hands of another unlucky person whom Hannah blames for her choices, Clay Jensen. 

     When I was in High School, my school went through a year where we had about 5 suicides. This was really uncommon for us, so it was really shocking for our entire community. After I graduated, at least 3 more of my classmates had committed suicide. I wish we had a book like this as a required reading in English (of course, this wasn't published until a year after I graduated).The way the book was written makes it easily readable and relatable for teens. Although it's not the best developed plot I've read, I think it could keep the attention of High Schoolers of different reading levels if it was brought into the school system. It introduces the topic of teenage suicide for discussion and just may open some eyes to see that although their negative actions toward others may seem small to them, the person on the receiving end may be blowing it up 5 times bigger.

     Did I feel like Hannah fully justified her reasons? Honestly, no. At first, I didn't really like her. She sounded self-centered and bratty, and like she had taken normal everyday things that people do to each other way too seriously. I had to stop and tell myself "this girl is obviously sick. There's a reason why all these things added up in her head to being so big that she felt she needed to kill herself." I was then reminded of a few articles I had read in 2012 about a teenage girl from Canada who committed suicide as a result of bullying. To her, the things her peers were saying about her and the way they treated her were maximized, and the good things in her life (including friends she spent time with often) were minimized. It was like there was a voice in her head that kept feeding her insecurities and weakening her will to live. But also, the rumors going around about her also made her a target for the boys just like in Thirteen Reasons Why. In the book, the character of Hannah mentions briefly that many other things were going on in her life, but they weren't important enough to put on the tapes. I think this can easily be identified as the things she minimized because that voice in her head was speaking too loudly for her to hear them.

     I think some of the reasons could have been better ones. There are plenty of examples you can pull up in articles on the internet about different horrible ways that kids bully each other. Some of them are pretty terrible, but unfortunately are very common. Granted, this book is a few years old so it wasn't as common in 2007 for people to post YouTube videos and whatnot before committing suicide like they do now. However, I felt like the story was slightly underdeveloped and could've gone so much further than it did to bring the reality of this issue even more to readers.

     I would recommend picking up this book and reading it at least once. It had a good anti-bullying message and could be used as a good introduction to suicide awareness. However, if you're a teen and you look deeper into the context, you can probably see that Hannah's decision was a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Sometimes, the feelings of hopelessness caused by peers traps people into thinking they're inadequate and unloved, and that their lives will never be anything more than what it is at that moment. But that isn't the case. I remember feeling like that sometimes, and I've been graduated for about 8 years now...and I'll tell you, none of the negative people or situations from High School have followed me. I don't even know who that girl is anymore, and I'm so glad I pushed through any bullying I experienced.

Check out these websites based off the book for more resources and info about Jay Asher's Anti-Bullying Tours in schools:

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