Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Genres: Young adult, contemporary.

Jay Asher’s brilliant first novel is a moving, highly original story that focuses on a set of audiotapes made by a girl before she committed suicide, and which explain to 13 people the reasons why she decided to end her life. Told in a highly effective duel narrative — alternating between the girl s voice and the thoughts of a boy who is listening — this honest, poignant story reveals how other people’s actions shape, and by extension can ruin, an individual’s faith in people. Intensely powerful and painfully real, Thirteen Reasons Why reveals how brutal high school can be, the consequences of spreading rumors, and the lasting effects of suicide on those left behind.

At first, I didn’t think much of Thirteen Reasons Why. I’d seen so much hype about it but I found it quite whiney. I didn’t particularly sympathise with Hannah that much. So, someone gossiped about you? That’s not a reason to kill yourself. It just sounded like the normal American high school experience to me and considering I’m nothing like the people on Skins either, I cannot relate.

However, the reasons behind Hannah’s suicide started to become more complex half way through the book. It was easy to imagine her desperation and need for someone to talk to, for example, writing the anonymous note saying that you wanted to commit suicide and have people be unsympathetic in class. I could imagine her sitting in her chair fuming, raging, wanting to run outside and cry because these people just weren’t getting it. I think the whole “easier to imagine” thing contributed to my liking the book. At the beginning, I could not understand the reaction Clay was having. I personally thought he and Hannah were a bit odd. As the book goes on, as you find out what she meant to him, it becomes more clear. The author is male and I think this affected Hannah’s characterisation. She didn’t seem real enough to me whereas Clay did.

I think suicide is a topic that should be discussed more at school. Suicide, especially on the internet, is seen as a joke. Overall, the book is very blunt. It doesn’t care about describing settings and uses simple language. I’m guessing this is because the whole book is told by two teenagers – it is going to be very self-centered.

I’m giving the book 3.5/5 because I liked it – I still found myself rushing through to the end to find out what other events occurred – but I didn’t love it. I agree with what someone else told me “you just want to shout “STOP HER!” even though you already know you can’t”. I liked it but I feel it did not live up to the hype. However, I think it’ll make a great movie and one that’s needed to highlight the problem and reality of teenage suicide.

“I hated poetry until someone showed me how to appreciate it. He told me to see poetry as a puzzle. It’s up to the reader to decipher the code, or the words, based on everything they know about life and emotions.”

My Rating: ★★★½