Sunday, October 07, 2007

Thirteen Reasons Why

Asher, Jay. 2007. Thirteen Reasons Why.

Hello, boys and girls. Hannah Baker here. Live and in stereo...No return engagements. No encore. And this time absolutely no requests...I hope you're ready, because I'm about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you're listening to these tapes, you're one of the reasons why....I'm not saying which tape brings you into the story. But fear not, if you received this lovely little box, your name will pop up...I promise. (7)
Before Hannah Baker ended her life with an overdose of pills, she wanted to leave behind a message. She recorded seven tapes--thirteen sides--that revealed bit by bit her drama and why she, in the end, felt like she had no other options. Clay Jensen is one of the tape's recipients. He is our narrator or guide through this listening experience. We hear Hannah's words alongside his thoughts and words. Hers are italicized. His aren't. He came home from school one day to find this package--a shoebox wrapped in paper and mailed--on his front porch. And from the time he first hits play...his life will already never be the same.
I wish I'd never seen that box or the seven tapes inside it. Hitting play that first time was easy. A piece of cake. I had no idea what I was about to hear. But this time, it's one of the most frightening things I've ever done. I turn the volume down and hit play. (9)
Clay Jensen at first feels like it's some kind of mistake. He never did anything to Hannah. He worked side by side with her at the movies. They made small talk. And one night--at a party--they made out. That's it. Why would he be to blame for her death? He couldn't, could he?

As the story unfolds, the reader learns that some actions have unforeseen consequences. A bit of gossip here or there, a rude word there, etc. Some were quite malicious--like her first boyfriend whose imagination got carried away with him. He ruined her reputation after their very first date. And why? Because he liked to talk big with the guys. Or how about the guy who labeled her the hottest a** in class? From then on, guys who were practically strangers tried to get away with grabbing her butt. Or how about the peeping tom who stalked her outside her bedroom window? Some people on the tapes are evident creeps and jerks...others seem more shocking.

Thirteen Reasons Why is without a doubt one of the best books of the year. Why? It isn't because it's sad. It isn't because it's about suicide. It isn't because it's dramatic. It's because it's well-written; it's real. The characters--from Hannah and Clay through all of the minor characters that come up as "reasons" such as Justin and Brent and Jenny--are so real, so well-developed, so human. The story is haunting and it's easy to understand why Clay's life will never be the same. How Hannah's death and life have changed him. Clay couldn't stop until he'd heard the tapes; I couldn't stop from reading til her story was through. It was very gripping, very haunting.


Debi 6:55 AM  

Thank you, Becky, for this wonderful review! I hadn't heard of this book...but will definitely be adding it to my wish list as soon as I finish this comment.

Have a great week!

Paige Y. 11:16 AM  

I have had this on my to read list for a while and your review makes me want it even more. It amazes me how many wonderful books have been written this year.

Anonymous,  7:43 AM  

Becky, this is a fantastic review!! I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book!

soleil 11:04 PM  

great review! this sounds like a book i would enjoy. very intriguing story. going on the list. :)

Robin M 9:55 PM  

Becky, this is an awesome review of the book. I'll be honest...this isn't my type of book. I'm very glad that you did the review, so I would be totally aware of what the story is about. There will probably be people who drop by and think "eh" and keep going without saying a word. And you would be left wondering (because you see them on your sitemeter) well, what did they think.

You are a great reviewer - so thank you. It helped me make up my mind.

Robin in CA

Anonymous,  4:43 AM  

i just discovered that my daughter is reading this book. I will read it right away, but in the meantime, if she is suicidal, in your opinion, do you think it's NOT a good idea to read this? Will the 13 reasons give her more reasons why? I'm nervous!!

Anonymous,  8:28 PM  

Thank you for the wonderful review! This book truly deserves all that and more.

And to something an anonymous commenter said, no this book doesn't give her more reasons to commit suicide. To be honest, I felt like Hannah's reasons for killing herself, if anything, it makes you angry that she did and sympathetic, but it doesn't encourage anything of the reader.

alisonwonderland 1:50 AM  

reading this during last weekend's read-a-thon was terrific! it really is as good as you'd said. i hope it's okay that i'm linking your review to mine. thanks!

Anonymous,  7:11 AM  

I have to disagree. This book is neither well-written or compelling. I made it through about a fifth of the book, and only find myself hating both main characters. While I can't readily say that my opinion is based on the entire book, I approached it with no bias whatsoever. If anything, I was rather excited, anticipating an interesting mystery from the book jacket. Instead, what I found was a story about a whiny, self-important teenage girl who believes her life is difficult because she has to face the same exact adolescent annoyances as 90% of suburbia. She actually gets upset because of the repercussions she faces for BEING ATTRACTIVE! I couldn't imagine how this girl would survive if she grew up in some urban neighborhood and faced ACTUAL HARDSHIP. Sigh. Enough of my tirade. I'll end by saying that I absolutely cannot recommend this book. Ignoring that the book is also written at a 6th grade reading level, I cannot stand for the fact that the book will do nothing but affirm the nature of too-many overly self-centered, spoiled, and ignorant middle-class, suburban princesses already out there. Toughen up. Geez.

Oh, and don't even let me get into why Clay's character is equally abhorrent.

Anonymous,  7:20 AM  

For some additional critical reviews of the book, you should check out the reviews lefts by amazon users. You can find those here:

The first review is particularly accurate. Claire Fisher writes "THIRTEEN REASONS WHY removes all accountability from Hannah and places it all on the other characters, blaming them for an action they didn't commit."

Perhaps the characters in this book are real, like you say in your review, but if they are, they certainly aren't the kind of "real people" I want to be, want my kids to be, or even want to know.

Anonymous,  6:00 PM  

wait so is this a TRUE STORY?

Becky 6:09 PM  

No, Anonymous, the book is fiction.

Anonymous,  12:53 PM  

i read this book when it first came out and at first when i read the summary it sunded very intriguing and then i finished it and it was amazing. the characters were so real .and i enjoyed every bit of it. your review is spoton.

Anonymous,  8:31 AM  

What age group is this book recommended for?

Anonymous,  2:48 PM  

i got this book like a week ago, and i started it at eleven at night and figued i would read a bit then sleep, i stayed up reading it and didnt go to sleep until five. i couldnt put it down. i thought i was amazing, everyone i gave it to read has finished it in the same day, its a greatly amazing book.

Anonymous,  10:44 AM  

This is cool. I NEED to read this book!

Anonymous,  5:23 PM  

I havn't read this book yet..
but it sounds really good..
as soon as i get my hands on it..
i'm sure i'll love it..:D

you guys should totally check out these books

*Fever 1793



i don't remember who wrote Fever but the cover is half a face.
it's really good..

Everlost is writen by Neal Shusterman
Ever lost is about Nick & Allie don't surviv a crash and now their souls are halfway between life and deat in a sort of limbo called Everlost.It's a magical yet dangerious place, where bands of lost souls run wild and anyone who stands in the same spot sinks into the center of the Earth.

and Fever 1793
Is about the young Maddie lives in Philidelia, and a Fever sweeps through the city, killing thousands of people. She finds horror, love, releif, and emptyness. It's a great book and i hope you read it.

(I know my name says anonymous) But if you want to ask me more. Just E-mail me at

thank you

btw Great reveiw!

Anonymous,  3:41 PM  

I think this book sucked. When you said it was well writen... i died. 13 Reasons Why seemed like it was written by a middle schooler. I think it is a gripping story, but should maybe have been edited a little more before publishing.

Anonymous,  4:19 PM  

Great review. I just finished reading the book last night, and I agree with you completely. Jay Asher is an amazing writer who is able to convey every aspect of the wreckage that is left behind after a suicide. To be able to develop all these complex relationships while telling two simultaneous storylines and still have the plot flow smoothly is an accomplishment that puts him, in my opinion, with the likes of William Faulkner.

Anonymous,  11:26 PM  

This was one of the best books I have ever read. It was amazing, there was no way I could put it down, so I finished it in less than one day.

Anonymous,  3:46 AM  

I read this book in one night! I thought it was so good. Considering the point of view was from high schoolers I thought the author did a great job in his writing, it actually sounded like things people their age would say. And for the people critsizing her 'reasons' you obviously didn't get the whole point of the snowball effect she was talking about which is one thing adding to another adding to another. It's how depression and people committing suicide is often caused, when they feel they can't handle everything happening to them.

Anonymous,  11:44 AM  

I just read this book a week ago, it's amazing!!! Read it, read it, read it!

Sara! :D,  4:33 PM  

I read this book, and I thought it was amazing. I found myself crying!!
It's crazyy good.

Anonymous,  10:38 AM  

Yeah. This isn't a good book at all. I've been trying to like it because the premise sounds solid, but in truth, the girl is weak and self-absorbed. The main character is an weak emo putz. There are so many people out there who have to endure so much more than she did and they don't commit suicide. In my own high school days, I was beaten by classmates in front of teachers who did nothing. I used to skip classes to hide in the steam tunnels under the school. I don't even think anyone talked to me for the first three years of high school. But I'm still here. I wish I had been able to have half her problems. At least high school wouldn't be a sad void of a memory.

Kelsey,  3:54 PM  

Abetran - You are very off base with your comments on this novel. She dislikes the attention for "being attractive" because she is SEXUALLY HARRASSED! Apparently you are one of those "ugly girls" who always hates the "pretty girls". Read the rest of the book, and I assure you that your "un-biased" opinion on this very well written book will be changed. Excellent book - I am a Junior in High School and read it for school.

Raven,  2:01 PM  

Hello i have read this book. Yes it is amazing and it is everything i look for and it has everything drama, racey romance, tragidy, I cant ask for more in a book. Now Some of you must be thinking "Oh blah blah get over it i had a bad high school experience in high schol too and i didn't kill myself" Well that's just it we are not all the same and this girl went through everything ;let's count shall we: rape, heartbreak, name calling, drama(i.e cat fights)with other girls, losing friends, being put down, should i continue...So ok i understand highschool might not be good for everyone but this was a girl who went through everything almost imaginable for that a teenager goes through their whole life trying to avoid. Just remember life for everyone is not the same.

Anonymous,  2:54 PM  

Kelsey be nice every one has there own opinion. That is basically the concept the book. live my it sweetie.

Anonymous,  7:52 PM  

My teacher is having us do lit. circles and after we read your review -Becky- everyone wants to be one of the three to read the book.

Anonymous,  5:07 PM  

I just finished reading this book, and I must say I honestly did not like Hannah. I really did like the way that the Author tied together the themes of how lives are so easily intertwined, and how rumors can be but so much of this book irritated me. I think what I dislike the most about Hannah is her utter self-absorption. She behaves as if she is the first person to be used, harassed or gossiped about. But that is what High School and the real world is like. By no means is that right, but it is reality. As a teenager myself I'm kind of tired of the way my generation over-dramatizes everything. People in the past have had to deal with struggles that were much worse than ours but they made it because they accepted that hardships were apart of life.

Anonymous,  7:19 AM  

I really enjoyed this book. I really did feel for both the characters of hannah and clay but I couldnt help but also feel a little resentment towards hannah. yes, she went through a lot and everyone handle things differently.but killing yourself is one thing. leaving tapes to torture everyone who wasnt always 100% nice to you is something else. I mainly feel sorry for clay. But Jay Asher did a wonderful job of conveying both sides of the story to us in a way that i felt i could sympathize at least a little bit with both main characters.

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