Thirteen Reasons Why
By Jay Asher
When Clay receives some cassette tapes in the mail he is curious to see what they contain.
The message recorded on the tapes is from his crush, Hannah Baker. The only problem is Hannah committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On the tapes Hannah explains that anyone who has received these tapes is in some way to blame for her death.
I first read Thirteen Reasons Why in January 2013 and to say I loved it would be an understatement. I thought it was clever and a fantastic story. At the time I was a volunteer grief counselling and was looking for a non-fiction book on suicide but stumbled across this instead.
The recent controversy surrounding the Tv adaption and it’s apparent glamorisation of suicide led me to want to reread it to see if I had missed something the first time around – I didn’t.
First of all, no matter what you think of it the book certainly has got people talking about suicide. A topic which is normally taboo and which teenagers, in particular, would probably find difficult to bring up.
Secondly, the book has some discusses some common signs that can hint that someone is considering killing themselves and it may make them think of the consequence of following through with their plan. Particularly when Hannah pictures how her parents would feel finding her body if she hung herself, it may make a suicidal person consider the effect on their own friends and family if they were to do the same.
It shows that there is always someone there willing to listen and be there for you, like Clay would have been there for Hannah had she confided in him.
Finally, one of the biggest reasons why I think critics have got it wrong is this. The book has the ability to make people consider that their actions have consequences, that the things they do and say to and about people can matter.
Now that is out of the way I can carry on with actually reviewing Thirteen Reasons Why. The main thing I want to say is that Jay Asher has written one hell of a book.
Throughout the book Jay Asher tells the story from both Hanna’s and Clay’s point of view by doing so she made the reader feel the full impact Hannah’s suicide by helping us to identify the suicidal person and those she left behind.
Thirteen Reasons Why begins with Clay getting ready to mail some tapes to someone but hesitating because he is reluctant to post something that will ruin someone’s day.
He thinks back to the day before when he received the tapes himself. Each time had a number painted on the side running right through to number 13. Clay is curious about the contents of the cassettes and immediately tries to find somewhere to listen to them.
He is shocked to discover the voice on the tapes belongs to a girl named Hannah Baker. A girl who killed herself recently.
“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.”
Hannah outlines her two rules for the people listening to her tapes, tells them that someone is watching them and she will know if they don’t do as she says then there will be consequences. Rule number 1 is that they have to listen. Number 2 is that they have to pass on the tapes to the next person on Hannah’s list.
She explains there are thirteen tapes because there are thirteen sides to every story.
Clay is bemused when he hears Hannah saying he is one of the reasons why she killed herself. He barely knew Hannah even though he wanted to. They worked together at the cinema during the summer and they had made out once at a party.
Each person on the list was sent a map of the city marked with little red stars and each star represents a location which is somehow important to the story.
Every person on the list is different from the public image they portray and each person was vital in the decision to kill herself.
Initially Clay finds himself questioning why he is even continuing to listen to the tapes when he knows he isn’t to blame. He knows the answer though.
“I swallow hard. Tears sting out the corner of my eyes. Because it’s Hannah’s voice, I voice I thought I’d never hear again. I can’t throw that away again.”
The tapes start with her talking to someone who started a rumour about her, a rumour which tarnished her reputation and because she was knew to the area it became the only thing people would think of when they thought of her. This rumour snowballed and led to a lot of the other things which occurred to make her want to end her life.
Clay finds it hard to listen to her tapes and to hear her giving up and knowing it was too late to save her.
As the book progresses it is easy to see how little things can gradually build up and lead someone to believe they have nowhere left to turn.
“Like driving along a bumpy road and losing control of the standing wheel, tossing you just a tad off the road. The wheels kick up some dirt, but you’re able to pull it back. Yet no matter how tightly you grip the wheel, no matter how hard you try to drive straight, something keeps jerking you to the side. You have so little control over anything anymore. And at some point, the struggle becomes too much – too tiring – and you consider letting go. Allowing tragedy – or whatever…to happen.”
This book has a very important message:
“You don’t know what went on in the rest of my life. At home. Even at school. 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 the person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything…affects everything.”
This book is very high up among my favourite books.
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