A review: Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

Hey ho, I’m jumping on the bandwagon a bit here, I realise. It was the recent release of the Netflix series that got me interested in reading this book. It is a very polarizing subject at its core. Suicide is never a light subject, nor should it be taken as one.

Goodreads Synopsis

13RWYou can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package 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. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

Trigger warning: suicide. This review contains spoilers.

Most of you will already have an opinion on this book. Opinions differ through experience. I personally have never reached a mind space where I have contemplated suicide. And believe me, I am very grateful for that.
However, that does not mean I’m just going to throw Hannah’s reasons out.

Before we get into the big discussion that is inevitable, I want to talk about the other aspects of the novel. The general format of the novel was different and enjoyable. Setting it out in the form of cassette types was something new, something that sets it apart and I really enjoyed reading it this way. I found it very easy to different between the points of views and these voices were unique and the characterisation was very solid.
I really liked the contrast in voices, having Hannah’s version of events mixed with Clay was the key way the author got the point across – you never really know what is going on in someone else’s life, and how something does or does not affect you, can have a profoundly different effect on someone else. The change in voice really opens up that discussion, it a very smart move.

I thought the story, in general, was incredibly well-woven together over the thirteen tapes. It was well-thought through and you always wondered who was going to reappear and, most importantly, it really got you thinking about actions and consequences. All of these actions, had a reaction, a consequence. It’s the whole point, to think things through a little more, to be a little kinder. The novels puts you in two different peoples points of view and showcases how different thought processes can be.

Which leads us to the main discussion of this review, the focal point of the story. That these thirteen reasons, no matter how big or small, lead a girl to commit suicide. I’ve read many reviews over the years of this book, even more now that it’s become a Netflix series. As I stated above, it’s a very litigious subject, really dividing the crowd. On one hand, you have people thinking these reasons are trivial and suicide is never an option, and on the other, you have people who can easily relate and empathise with this scenario. Whilst can not relate to Hannah’s plight, I have never been seriously bullied, I can empathise. I can see that although to some, Hannah’s reasons can be conceived as trivial, to her, it was everything. To Hannah, there was no escape. You cannot truly ever put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You can try your best to see their standpoint, but you will not understand them completely.
Suicide is not logical, it is desperation.

To say I enjoyed the book seems in bad taste, but I did learn from it. It thought it was a well put together, thought-provoking book. I can completely empathise with those who find solace in this book, perhaps making them realise they are not alone. I can also see why other avoid it for fear of being triggered. It is a tough read in parts.
Overall, I thought it was a commendable read.

What did you think of Thirteen Reasons Why? Have you read it, or have you watched the Netflix TV show? Let’s discuss.


2 thoughts on “A review: Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

  1. I read this book in 2008/9 and can’t remember much, except that I didn’t enjoy it. But then again, I was like 14-15 so I don’t know if I would have understood the enormity of what I was reading ?? But I had a friend I lent my copy to – the same age – and she loved it. Who knows.
    I am in the middle of watching the Netflix series. I think I’m on episode 7 and I’m really enjoying the way everything is coming together, and other characters’ POVs. I’ve been thinking about rereading the book after reading your review – I might understand the book better now. 😀


  2. I loved this book, although it was a hard read for me because my son died by suicide. He was 33, not a teen, but I belonged to a suicide survivor’s group (people whose loved ones had died by suicide) and a number of the members had lost a teen to suicide. One of the first things they tell you when your child or your lover or your husband has died by suicide is “It’s not your fault.” THIRTEEN REASONS questions this thought. However, it’s usually some innocent person who is questioning their role in the tragedy. The bullies, the faithless spouses, the detractors — they walk away unscathed. It’s the parents, children, family, faithful spouses who want to take on the blame. My admittedly sketchy review of the research on suicide prevention does not make me say this book might help save a life, but maybe it might. But it belongs in the hands of the bullies, the detractors, the faithless flirts, not the victim him/herself. I may watch the series, but for reasons you know, it would be hard.


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