By all accounts, Clay Jensen seems like an ordinary, run of the mill high school student. But of course, that is how good stories begin. One day Clay returns home from school to find a box with his name on it and thirteen cassette tapes. These tapes were recorded by his classmate and crush, Hannah Baker, who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Clay is given a burden that he will struggle through. Hannah recorded thirteen tapes with the thirteen people outlining the reasons why she is dead. The tapes are passed from person one to person thirteen and only to the people who Hannah blames and talks about on the tapes. Hannah outlines her journey through the last couple of years via a map and landmarks, instructing the listener to go to each landmark as it is discussed. Though it pains him to do so, Clay will battle to listen to all thirteen tapes and follow Hannah’s instructions to different places all around town. From cafes to libraries and gas stations, Clay will piece together the mystery of why Hannah is gone and why his name is on the tapes too.
“Thirteen Reasons Why,” by Jay Asher, is a sharp teen novel full of dynamic characters and a complex plot. Through the dual narration of Clay listening to the tapes and Hannah recording the tapes, Asher weaves a heart-wrenching story of deceit, guilt, rumors, and lies. Readers will see into Clay’s mind as he learns that the girl he thought he loved was very different from whom she seemed. The reader will experience the jarring realization that Hannah, a character with whom they will grow close and come to understand, is gone and will experience the heartbreak that Clay feels. “Thirteen Reasons Why” is filled with all the workings of an adolescent mind. While this book is no happy smiley comedic novel, it is a harsh look into the brutal world of social complexities. This book deals with the subject of suicide in a very real and non-patronizing manner.
As Clay follows Hannah’s story, he will not only learn about Hannah and her life, but about himself and his life as well. He will begin to understand the vast effects of his own actions and the actions of others. He will learn that what is on the surface is not always what is underneath. And he will learn to speak up and say what is on his mind. This book will enlighten readers to consider their own actions and how they affect other people and the importance of recognizing when others need their help. “Thirteen Reasons Why” will change the way readers look at the world, and is definitely worth the read.
“You can’t stop the future. You can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret… is to press play.”