Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

After reading a bunch of independent novels, I got back into my stack of novels that I bought and just stared back at me everyday. My coming back novel was one that intrigued me with its premise and I hadn’t even heard much about it: Thirteen Reasons Why.

Somehow, I hesitated a little before buying this and even picking it up to read. Still, it was time to give this one a read so lets see how that was.

THIRTEEN REASONS WHY

by Jay Asher

thirteen reasons why

Thirteen Reasons Why is about a girl, Hannah Baker who commits suicide but right before she does that, she sends off 7 cassette tapes (remember that it has two sides) to a selected list of audience explaining the thirteen reasons why she decided to do this: why she lost hope in life. The lucky person thats narrating this story beside her tape eulogy is Clay Jensen who finds her mysterious box of tapes one day upon returning from school and follows her narration throughout the following day. Everyone on the tape contributes to her final decision to end her life.  He is one of those reasons, even though he can’t figure out why.

Ah…how to write this review for Thirteen Reasons Why? I was looking through the general ratings for this book on Goodreads and for the most part it has a decent average rating at 4.06/5.  Thats a pretty good rating but I wouldn’t give it that score.  For me, I’m rather indifferent if not thinking a little that this should have worked A LOT better in audio like a movie or stage performance. As I was reading this, it sounded like a girl was ranting about an average high school girl’s problems and it all comes to say that she herself has issues because she can’t get past them. She’s calling for help.  I got that at the end.  BUT, for a whole chunk of the middle, I really didn’t quite get Hannah Baker and I’m not even sure whether I like her as I write this. Sure, she had hard times and there was a bunch of unfair stuff going on. But at some time or another, thats really the phase of high school and we’ve all been through it

The whole point is, you have to relate to this character and understand how she’s feeling. Books are expressed in words and the way these words are phrased. This comes to the next thing of the big question of WHY. Why did she choose to send out these tapes to these 13 people? What is the reasoning behind doing this? Is it a call for help or trying to bring up an issue or remind these people how they should be conscious about the way they treat others? OR, is it something of a guilt trip, bringing up the pain that they were responsible for someone’s death? To me, when I started reading this, the way I pictured Hannah Baker talking on these tapes, was not despair or pain, I was being emotionally manipulated (yes, I finally figured out how to use it). That’s the only reason, if I was Hannah, that I’d go to the extent to send out these tapes. I’m not trying to be nit-picky towards the book but that’s how I felt when I was reading it at least for a good half of it.  However, Hannah does redeem herself and she makes the readers understand a little more by the end that she was trying to call for help at the very end.  Maybe the point in this is that its the little things, the accumulation of bad things that you do that drop you further and further until you just switch off and lose hope in life even if there’s just one thing that you could try to hold on to and keep the faith of living day by day.

As I write this, I kind of get where Hannah is going now. Plus, with Clay’s narrative following her trail, we get a good idea of where this is all going.  Clay is the character that sees Hannah being good and wonders about some of the choices she makes.  He can’t seem to figure Hannah out and these tapes are letting him see her a little more clear and that helps us to understand her also.  The bigger question that kept me reading is why he is part of these tapes because there has to be something more.  Clay is a nice guy and one that likes Hannah quite a bit.  How he analyses Hannah’s tapes and reacts is what made me want to know what was going on next.

Overall, Thirteen Reasons Why was hard to review.  Having two first person narratives here definitely did it good.  I’m guessing that being older made me connect to the characters a little less, even though I read a lot of Young Adult novels.  What does happen to Hannah is a growing sad emotion because you can see that she does ask for help and she keeps giving chances to the wrong people.  Maybe she’s sensitive or brave or looking for something else, but all this gradually puts her into the growing desire to just give up on life.  It also makes me wonder if committing suicide is a sudden impulse or if it requires so much work (like taking time to record this entire set of tapes and give instructions to someone to help her out for a second set of it in case its not passed along).  I personally think if I was in her position and suicide was on my mind, it would build to a sudden impulse because of losing enough hope and faith of wanting to see more of this life.

Was this book a page turner? Yes it was.  Did I like Hannah Baker? Not for a good bit of it but I became sympathetic to her situation. Did I like Clay Jensen? Yes, because he had more depth to his character and carried the story and his character developed because you have to face it, hearing someone’s process to why she chooses to end her life is a life-changing event. I never thought I’d know how to say this but did I feel emotionally manipulated? I did for a good part of the beginning, or maybe it was the middle.

I really wanted to like this book.  I love the novel structure and using two voices.  I’m sad that I’m slightly indifferent to it because I wonder what it says about me.  At the same time, I don’t really get Hannah Baker’s motive in doing this.  But in the end, these tapes made Clay try to prevent something like this from happening again and opened his eyes to what had to be done if ever he met someone else that showed the signs that Hannah had before it pushed her to this final decision,which is a great thing.  Writing this actually brought back a few personal experiences, not just of high school but the whole suicide aspect hitting a little close to home. I think that I’m starting to understand this whole Hannah Baker thing more.  All in all, its no doubt a good novel because I was hooked on it even if I didn’t quite understand the motives at first.  For teens, this probably would resound more because its something that (one way or another) could relate to.

By the way, if there’s ever a book that I’d want adapted into a movie, and they choose convincing cast to play Hannah and Clay, this could be a total success.

I’ve written and rambled enough! Now’s your turn!

Have you read Thirteen Reasons Why? Did you connect with the characters? If you haven’t read it, does this story intrigue you?

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8 thoughts on “Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

  1. Nice review–I’ve heard of the book and thought of picking it up, too. Glad you reviewed it. I’m not in a YA kind of mood right now. It’s quite popular. Like you mentioned, it might be better as a movie.

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    • Thank YOU Arlene 🙂 The Goldfinch is on my to-read list. Not sure when I’ll get to it. Fifty books! Thats totally awesome! I had a hard time breaking 40 so I just kept it at 40 this year, hopefully achieving it without having to read 3 books on New Year’s Eve..haha!

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