Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher
reviewed by Darcy Michero
What would you do if you were partly responsible for your friend killing herself? In the novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, main character and narrator, Clay Jensen, knows exactly what it’s like to be faced with this question. One day he finds a package on his doorstep, which contains 7 cassette tapes recorded by his longtime crush, Hannah Baker, who recently committed suicide. On the tapes, Hannah tells 13 stories about 13 people who have wronged her. The tapes are passed on from person to person, making them feel guilty and horrible for their past actions. If you were one of the people getting the tapes, you had a part in the suicide of Hannah Baker. As Clay listens to the tapes and flashes back to some of the moments mentioned, he learns why Hannah changed from a seemingly ordinary happy high school student to someone who felt she couldn’t go on living.
This is a book about consequences. The rather frightening moral of this story is to be kind, because any little thing that someone says or does could have a huge impact on another person. Author Jay Asher, shows that words and actions have profound effects. Starting with Hannah’s first kiss during her freshmen year, the rumors and gossip about her snowballed into an unbearable mess. Hannah’s first kiss happened like any other. An innocent peck in the park with Justin Foley. However, Justin betrayed Hannah and started her downfall, by spreading the rumor that Hannah did more than just kiss him. From that point on, so-called friends made assumptions about her, called her names, included her on a list evaluating body parts, and one pervert even peeped in her window. Hannah was now branded a “slut”. After a while, she felt that her life was completely out of control. Even the guidance counselor she turns to for help, lets her down. After listening to the tapes, Clay is paralyzed and confused. Why was he to blame? Clay and Hannah had a unique connection, but he couldn’t stop her from her destruction.
Initially, I felt sorry for Hannah, as most readers would, because who hasn’t been bullied, called names, or been excluded? However, when the book ended, I was mostly frustrated. Obviously, the snowball effect of rumors, lies, and gossip would be depressing, but is it really a reason to end your life? While reading this book, I felt guilty because I didn’t have much sympathy for Hannah. Adolescence is tough, and teenagers are often over-dramatic; but in my opinion, Hannah’s actions were farfetched. I enjoyed the way the author structured the book, which made me keep turning pages, and think the message about the consequences of one’s words or actions is important, but it was over exaggerated. If you like revenge, blame, and guilt books, Thirteen Reasons Why is the book for you.