Thirteen Reasons Why is a YA novel written by Jay Asher. It centers around a set of cassette tapes sent to Clay Jensen who is next in line to receive them, On the tapes is a series of recordings by Hannah Baker a classmate who recently committed suicide. There are 13 tapes that detail how each person drove her closer to suicide. The tapes are to be listened to then sent to the next person, think Sisterhood of the traveling pants but darker, much much darker.
Told from two perspectives, from Hannah and Clay, (Which sometimes get confusing. One of the biggest things that struck a chord with me about this book is the concept itself. Before committing suicide Hannah records these tapes explaining to thirteen people how they pushed her closer and closer to suicide, then having them listen to it is almost her way of taking complete agency of her decision and letting those who hurt her know that this is because of you. So here we are as a reader following Clay as he listens to these recordings one by one and wonders why he’s on it. While the concept itself moved me the book fell a little flat at times. Similar to how I feel about Crank, Go Ask Alice, Glass, et al. I think sometimes we are bombarded with so much pain and we get all these emotions and “feels” for the character without little to none emotional relief, it gets to the point where I can’t stay connected with the character, however with that being said there is nothing comedic about suicide or depression and I think myself as a reader is often put in places of uncomfortableness when reading realistic books. I didn’t think this novel would be such as heavy of a read as it was, covering topics such as Rape and sexual assault, bullying etc. I enjoy books that get the human experience right and I think the author does a great job at it.
While this book is good it does not go without fault or critique. A major problem I have is how it almost seems as if Jay Asher is romanticizing this idea of suicide as the ultimate “Gotcha” to people who have hurt Hannah.
“When I’m dead, they’ll all be sorry.”
Like I stated earlier, conceptually I like the cassette tapes but in practice it seems that it is Hannah’s job post-mortem to teach them a lesson, to better themselves as human beings. Tugging on the Manic-Pixie Dream Girl troupe. The recordings themselves and the people they are sent to all vary to different degrees. Someone people did disgustingly horrid things to Hannah. While others might have done some things that people might seem as not that big of a deal. It all depends on the person. Do think however that sometimes Hannah was always on a ten for me. Like everything to her deserved the same amount of anger and reaction.
If anything Thirteen Reasons Why has people talking. I believe books like this serve a bigger purpose than just a fictitious narrative, they allow for conversations to happen. For readers to connect with someone who might be struggling with suicide, and while in no way is the romanticized idea of being sending tapes to those who’ve hurt you after death a good idea. Talking to someone is, or reaching out to those you know might be battling this. At the end of the novel Clay decides to check up on one of his classmates who he assume might be suicidal, that is the message this book should be sending to its readers, It’s thirteen reasons why perfect? No. Asher leaves out a few areas that would be better at understanding Hannah and Humanizing her more, but this book does justice and reaches its target audience. I give this book three stars out of five.