“Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box 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. 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.”
“Thirteen Reasons Why” tells the story of Hannah Baker as heard by Clay Jensen. When Clay comes home one day to find a package delivered to him, he discovers 13 tapes sent to him from Hannah, a girl he liked at school who committed suicide two weeks earlier. As he listens, he discovers that Hannah sent these tapes to him because there were 13 reasons why she killed herself, and he was one of them. Unable to determine why he would be on Hannah’s list, he listens and is astonished to discover how much his fellow classmates also played a part in Hannah’s decision to end her life.
At first I had conflicting feelings about Hannah. I was angry at her and felt that she was blaming others for her own problems rather than dealing with them. As I continued to read, I realized that when someone is in the throes of depression, they don’t always see things rationally. Clay believed that if Hannah had opened up to him, he would’ve tried to help her, but she never gave him a chance. She had no idea that anyone really cared.
While my feelings about Hannah wavered, I found Clay amazing. He was not your typical teen out to party and have a good time. He was a good student and often turned down parties so he could study. In addition to that, he also managed to keep a part-time job. It was illuminating to delve into his mind as he listens to the tapes. His emotions put him through the wringer. In one night of listening to Hannah tell her story his emotions move from stunned, livid, distressed, and despondent to hopeless and physically ill – he even throws up.
I believe that teens can come to realize that the things they say and do to one another really has an impact. Clay learns the lesson well, and at the end we are hopeful as he reaches out to someone else, so that the lessons learned from Hannah’s tapes, from Hannah’s life, will not have been in vain.
When I finished reading the book, I was astounded. My first thought was, I want my own kids to read this book, and I believe that all teens should read it. I know that not everyone will like it — or even want to read it; it’s not a fun book. It is, however, thought-provoking and, more important, can be life changing.
“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything.”
“Sometimes we have thoughts that even we don’t understand. Thoughts that aren’t even true—that aren’t really how we feel—but they’re running through our heads anyway because they’re interesting to think about.”
If you could hear other people’s thoughts, you’d overhear things that are true as well as things that are completely random. And you wouldn’t know one from the other. It’d drive you insane. What’s true? What’s not? A million ideas, but what do they mean?
“A lot of you cared, just not enough.”