Monday 24 October 2011


Book review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

My edition: Paperback, published in 2009 by Puffin, 288 pages.

Description: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch.

Inside he discovers 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.


Thirteen Reasons Why tells the story of Hannah. She is a seemingly average girl that commits suicide and leaves behind a set of tapes with thirteen stories, or reasons, why she came to make that difficult decision.

Each story revolves around a different person in her life that was part of the snowball effect that led to her killing herself. The thirteen people involved each receive the tapes in order they appear in the story and have to listen to them to understand why Hannah did what she did and felt what she felt.

Additionally, there's a second set of tapes that will be released "into the wild" if one of the people on the list does not listen to all the tapes or doesn't pass them on to the next person.

The premise of this YA novel is incredibly intriguing, but unfortunately the eventual story was a bit of a letdown for two main reasons: Hannah's story and main character Clay.

Hannah's story lacks debt and reason for what she was going through. She comes off unsympathetic and whiny and even listening to (or reading in my case) all tapes I still didn't fell like I truly know why she took her own life or why half of the people on the tapes were even included. Instead I felt like Hannah was guilt tripping them after her dead and that is really unfair as they had no way to ever defend themselves against her anymore.

As for Clay, he is the least interesting character of her story and the least likely person to focus on. We could've read 12 different perspectives, which all undoubtedly would have been a lot more fascinating, but instead we were stuck with the nice guy that never did anything wrong and, as Hannah said so herself, is the odd one out.

It's a peculiar choice from the author, and suddenly a promising book results in a bland and one-dimensional story where none of the characters feel real or even remotely sympathetic. The original idea is still fantastic, which is why this book is receiving (a reluctant) 3 stars from me, but the execution left a lot to be desired.

1 comment:

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why is by far one of the best YA novels. I fell into this story without a fight and once you start there is no turning back. Clay takes you right along with him in this book and a lot like Clay you get this urgency to just get it over with. That urgency kept me rattled while I was reading but once you get through the storm you realize just how good this story is


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