Published: October 18th 2007, Razorbill
Acquired: Purchased myself
Summary (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 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.
What I liked: Well, there sure are a lot of reviews out there about Thirteen Reasons Why and most are positive, very positive in fact. Thirteen Reasons Why is a fascinating story about a young girl, Hannah, who commits suicide and leaves behind a box of cassette tapes that she recorded the week before, detailing each of the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life.
Through the tapes we learn a great deal about Hannah’s life and classmates and each tape helps weave together the story and how each of the characters is connected. The thirteen people featured pop up in various other tapes and it’s so interesting how Asher manages to fit the story together seamlessly. It didn’t feel like any stories were forced and the writing is excellent, both Hannah’s point of view and Clay’s.
Clay is a likeable character and I genuinely felt for him as he waited for his tape to come up – wondering what on earth he could have done to cause his crush to want to end her life. The regret he feels for never acting on his emotions for Hannah really got to me and I did feel myself welling up on a few occasions (so this book does pass the Tear Test for making me cry – maybe I’ll add that into my reviews from now on).
Another thing I enjoyed was that we knew just as little as Clay did and learned everything at the same time as him, which kept the pace up throughout the novel. There’s a great sense of immediacy which made the book feel a lot shorter than it was – I finished it in under an hour.
What I didn’t like: Firstly, my main problem with Thirteen Reasons Why are the reasons themselves. When I first started reading the book I thought Hannah’s reasons for suicide would be dark, devastating and completely traumatic – because surely it has to be bad to consider suicide, right?
Well, apparently not. Apparently having your ass squeezed is reason enough! (Spoiler back there – sorry.) Personally I can’t sympathise with a character who thinks these little traumas that make up teenage life are worth ending your life over (because most of what happens within Thirteen Reasons Why your average teenager has had to deal with one time or another).
Plus, what she does through the tapes is extremely vindictive and it’s almost as though she’s using her death to get revenge on those she disliked while she was alive. It just didn’t sit very well with me.
Final thoughts: My grumbling aside, Thirteen Reasons Why is a beautifully written novel that you won’t forget in a hurry.
Total: 15/20 (B)