Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Monday, January 21, 2013 9:00 AM
Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Published: October 18, 2007
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Pages: 304
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
“You can't stop the future
You can't rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret to press play.”
― Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen 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. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
Stop. Just hit the Pause button on your life, and go buy this book NOW. Thirteen Reasons Why is a heartbreaking, phenomenal read, and I recommend it for EVERYONE. Come on. Would I ever steer you wrong?

When it comes to Thirteen Reasons Why, I can't even think of a single complaint. I have no criticism to offer. I was simply blown away by this book. I was even concerned that the book might be surgically attached to my hands because I could not put it down. I finished it in record timing, and just sat there, open-mouthed with shock.

Enough gushing. Why did I love, love, LOVE this book? Because it was so emotional and intense and a tearjerker. But at the same time, it was beautiful and touching. Thirteen Reasons Why shows the best and the worst in people, and it scraped me raw. You can forget a high school parody like Mean Girls or Easy A, (both of which I adore). Thirteen Reasons Why depicts the painfully realistic side of high school. The high school that Clay and Hannah attend is filled with petty, vicious high schoolers fighting it out in a survival of the meanest. These high schoolers, those who made Hannah's list, are all at fault for their actions, but some are more blameworthy than others.

Thirteen Reasons Why raises some thought-provoking questions. Who is to blame for Hannah's suicide? Can any of the people on her list really be held accountable? Or is it only her fault? What could have been done to prevent this? Time and again, Hannah cries out for help, making this book even more difficult to read when you wish time could be rewound and the past altered. As you listen to Hannah's tapes with Clay, you feel his frustration and despair because nothing can be done. Hannah is already gone. Yet she is more alive than ever because of these tapes, and she lives on in the memories of those on her list. They won't be forgetting her or what they did anytime soon.

I loved how the dual narratives of Clay and Hannah were so flawlessly combined. Most of the time, it was like they were having a conversation, though one of them wasn't alive to hear the other's response. I sympathized with Hannah. By making these tapes, she relived every painful moment she experienced since she moved to a new school. And why? Because it needed to be said. Too much had been kept in the dark for too long, and poor Hannah had endured so much. I also loved Clay. Despite my expectations, I thought he was a sweetheart. I found both of their stories riveting, and I could not have stopped reading even if I wanted to. Their sides unfolded like a mystery, slowly revealing more of the thirteen reasons. In the end, everything came together so wonderfully and horribly, as if all of it was meant to happen. I can only describe it as a Jellicoe Road kind of ending. And if you haven't read that book, I suggest you do.

Then there's the question of why Asher picked cassette tapes. After reading his thoughts, I find the idea genius. While CDs or an Ipod or a podcast would date the book, cassette tapes are from another time and are untouchable by the passage of time. Just like a Mustang, they are considered classic. I loved how Asher described the sound of the tape running, and when Hannah was silent, the humming of the tape was worse than silence. It was the waiting that ate away at Clay. He hung onto her every last word, knowing he wouldn't hear her voice again, and he couldn't handle her pauses. It was remarkable actually. While Hannah was dead, her words could still live on in these tapes.

Suicide is a tricky topic to write about, and it's certainly a heavy one. I think Asher did a brillant job working with such a sensitive issue. While it can be upsetting to read about, I'm glad it's a prevalent topic in young adult books because of its own frequent occurrence amongst teenagers. Thirteen Reasons Why addresses how hard it can be for a teenager in high school, but, don't worry, it does have a silver lining. It shows that there are some good people out there, and they can take you by surprise.

Please read this book ASAP! You will not regret it. I loved it so much that I'm now considering reading Jay Asher's The Future of Us.


  1. Oh, I never knew The Future of Us was his debut. For some reason, I always assumed it was Thirteen Reasons Why since it was the first I saw on the shelves. Thinking back on it, maybe it has something to do with the popularity of the novels.

    I remember when I read this, I was amazed by how vivid the images came to me. There are some books where you have to concentrate to get the picture but this was totally different.It was as easy as breathing.

    What a beautiful review, Courtney!
    Gellie@A Discombobulated Balladry

    1. You're right, Gellie! Thirteen Reasons Why is his debut. I don't know why I thought it was The Future of Us. Thanks for letting me know. Either way, I still REALLY want to read The Future of Us. Mainly because I'm hoping that's another awesome book!

      I like how you said it was as easy as breathing because this book was surprisingly easy to read. By easy, I don't mean reading level. I mean it was so much easier to keep reading than stopping. turning the pages felt so natural because I was entirely immersed in this story.

      Thanks Gellie!

  2. I have to admit I've been pretty hesitant to read this because, as you mentioned, suicide is such a heavy and difficult subject to write about. I'm glad to hear that you thought Jay Asher handled it well, though, and I loved reading how hard it was for you to put the book down. I know a lot of others who loved the book, too, so perhaps I will check it out! Amazing review.

    1. I hope you do get a chance to check it out, Steph! It's definitely worth it. It's one of those books that will stay with you long after you've finished.

  3. I read this back in 2009, although it was published in 200,7 and it was just as deeply moving for me as it was for you, Courtney. I kinda feel like it should be required reading for high schoolers. Your review is lovely and demonstrates how deeply the novel resonates with you. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you Brandee! I completely agree. I think it would be eye-opening for high schoolers, but unfortunately, I think many would be against a book being assigned that deals with suicide. They would predict a negative effect, but I think this would be just as moving for teenagers as it was for us. And if not, oh well. I'll still recommend it to anyone who will listen.

  4. When I had first heard about this one, my immediate reaction was that I would never read it. Wasn't for me. As beautiful and emotional and well done as it sounded, I was never into issues books and I thought the subject might hit a bit too close to home for me... which is also the reason I avoid high school drama books. But anyways, I have had a sort of reimagining of issue books recently and more than ever I am starting to see their worth and beauty (if they are done well), so more than ever I really want to read this book. Your review is perfect and I can see that this isn't just a petty high school drama book and it does have a silver lining. Thanks for this!

    1. Glad to hear, Aylee! I really hope you get a chance to read this book! I think it will be worth your while.

  5. Well, I'll definitely be adding it to my TBR list. It does sound like a depressing book, but I'm okay with reading those as long as I know they're going to be depressing going into it. And it sounds like a crazy mind game to have Hannah explaining why she took her life in present day when the readers and listeners all know she's actually dead. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much, and I hope I'll be able to get to it soon!

    1. I hope so too so we can discuss it! I think you'll enjoy it.

  6. YES! I love the heck out of Thirteen Reasons Why and wish more people would read it. I think that Asher really addresses suicide in a poignant way. Also, you are dead on about cassettes being classic and from another time. I liked though, how Asher made the technology to access the cassettes believable -- in that Clay actually had to look for something to play the cassettes on.

    Also. I have still not read Jellicoe Road. Total tragedy there.

    1. YES! I loved how Clay had to track down a Walkman. So old school. I remember having a portable cd player but not a walkman. Don't think I ever had a walkman to be honest. Many people are turned off by the heavy subject, but I think it is such a moving book that should not be overlooked!

      P.S. Definitely read Jellicoe Road if you get a chance.


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