When high schooler Hannah Baker committed suicide, most of her teachers and classmates had no idea what brought on this tragedy. One student particularly struggling with the ordeal was Clay Jensen. Clay admired Hannah mostly from afar, although they did interact at their job in the movie theater and at a party just a few days before Hannah killed herself.
While Hannah did not leave a suicide note, she left something even more valuable to explain why she did what she did. Once she had made up her mind, Hannah recorded a series of thirteen tapes. Each tape is addressed to a different student in the school, with one going to a teacher. When Clay receives the tapes, he goes through a series of emotions and discoveries, including who Hannah really was and the role he may have played in her suicide.
What I Was Thinking Before I Started Reading: This sounds like a pretty awesome premise for a book and will possibly make me cry. Also, I know people who have read it and they loved it. I’m excited for this.
What I Was Thinking in the Middle of Reading: I don’t understand what this author wants. Are we supposed to empathize with Hannah or is it OK that we dislike her?
What I Was Thinking When I Was Finished Reading: Well that had the potential to be SO much better.
This book made me question who I am as a person. I found it incredibly difficult to empathize with a young girl who committed suicide. I also found myself thinking more than once about Hannah and Clay, “Get over it! It’s not that serious.” Now I realize that these thoughts are incredibly harsh. These may only be fictional characters in a novel but suicide and depression are very real issues. Just because something may not seem like a big deal to one person, doesn’t mean it won’t affect another person immensely.
Ultimately, I think that’s the message Asher was trying to convey. That, and the idea that we should always be conscious of our actions. Sure it may seem like a harmless prank/joke to you, but to the recipient it really could be life or death. You never truly know what another person is going through and the struggles he or she faces on a daily basis. You don’t want to add to that hardship just so you can get a quick laugh. In that respect, I applaud Asher for what he did in Thirteen Reasons Why. Bullying, depression, and suicide are serious issues affecting many teens and young adults today. I like that he took these issues and presented them in a unique way.
Some people complained about the narrative of this novel. You switch back and forth between Hannah’s and Clay’s voice. Sometimes there can be several switches within just a couple of pages. I happened to like this approach, as it gave us two perspectives of what was happening. It also allowed the reader a break from Hannah’s story. I think just hearing the tapes would have become tedious. Clay was there to further explain things or simply take a break when things became too intense.
I think if the author worked a little bit harder on Hannah’s story this book could have been amazing. Unfortunately, the more I found out about Hannah, the more I found her cruel and judgmental. There is one part of the tapes where we find out Hannah is witness to a horrific act happening to one of her classmates, an illegal act. She does nothing. She simply sits in the corner and cries because people were mean to her. Then she releases the tape letting the world know what happens. I do not want to give too much away but when you reach this part of the book, you will know what I am talking about. I found what happened to her classmate to be worse than anything Hannah went through. And the fact that Hannah knew about it and had the power to try to stop it, is unforgivable.
Final Verdict: While this book entertained me and definitely had its good points, ultimately it disappointed. I gave it a 3-star rating on Goodreads.