Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why
Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
 Jay Asher
Publication Date: October 18, 2007
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars

You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

Review_Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher has been getting TONS of attention lately thanks to the Netflix adaptation. As a matter of fact, that’s why I decided to pick this book up. I got about 6 episodes in to the Netflix show before I decided to stop and read the book (that was a year ago – oops). The show and book together garnered a lot of negative hype about glorifying mental illness and suicide, so I broke one of my cardinal rules and read some reviews before I started reading. As if watching part of the adaptation and reading reviews weren’t odd enough, I actually listened to this as an audiobook! My first audiobook ever!

I’m not here to comment on whether this book handled mental illness correctly or not – frankly, I’m not qualified and wouldn’t have an informed opinion. Personally, I thought Asher did a great job of conveying the snowball effect in a relatable way. The tiniest thing can take on a life of it’s own and grow and grow and grow, spawning other organic experiences that come together to slowly eat a person alive. That’s what happened to Hannah Baker, and I think it was made all the more powerful by the fact that Hannah was an average teen. She didn’t start her school year depressed, she hadn’t actually done any of the things that people claimed, etc. but by the time the weight of all of the tiny incidents had settled it was too much for her to handle and she was ready for a permanent way out.

The tapes she left each focused on a person, and the person we follow through the story is Clay Jensen. He was far and away my least favorite part of this story. I totally get why he was there and I know he was meant to show the other side of suicide – the people who are left to deal with what happened, and wonder if they could have stopped it – but I found his commentary disruptive. It was a 50/50 shot as to whether or not the reason he was pausing the tapes was valid, or the things he was saying offered any insight into what Hannah was telling him. I really just wanted to hear what had happened to Hannah, colored only occasionally by Clay’s reactions to new information, but it seemed like he broke in every few seconds which made it a lot harder to immerse myself in Hannah’s monologue.

I also found his interactions with his mom and Tony a little strange, but that could be influenced by the fact I’ve watched part of the show. If I remember right I don’t remember his mom being very present, and Tony had a MUCH bigger part in the show than in the book.

This was a really polarizing read for a lot of people, but I ended up falling right in the middle. It wasn’t my favorite thing, and I probably won’t watch the Netflix show, but I’m glad I picked it up.

3 Stars

3 thoughts on “Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

  1. Jana T says:

    I really appreciate hearing your in-between review. You’re right, this book is very polarizing, so it’s nice to hear a perspective that is a bit more casual/less militant. I read this in high school when it was still fairly new, and I really liked it at the time, but I don’t think that I would like it nearly as much if I read it today just because of the way my own perspective and mindset have changed in the years since. Still, I do think is a good addition to the conversation on mental illness, and I’ve considered rereading it to see whether or not my response would be the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sarah Stubbs says:

      Thanks so much! I’ve been doing a mental inventory of books lately and I’m going through the same thing – there are a lot of books I read as a teen that I just don’t think I would enjoy as much now.

      I highly recommend the audio book, if you are interested in a reread. Since Hannah’s ‘speaking’ on the tapes anyways, it makes the story flow a lot better imo.

      Liked by 1 person

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