Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Book review - Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The UK paperback releases 6th August.
‘There are thirteen reasons why your friend committed suicide. You are one of them.’
They are sent from person to person. When Clay receives the package, he has no idea what’s inside. Intrigued, he finds seven cassette tapes. On each side of the tapes Hannah Baker has recorded a reason why she ended her life. The rules are simple. You listen all the way through and you pass it on to the next person in the story. Clay can’t think of anything Hannah could blame him for, but he received the tapes so he has to listen. Over the course of one long night he listens to Hannah’s story, wandering the streets of his town as he follows in her footsteps, coming to know Hannah better than he ever has before.

I’ll admit it, I was expecting a rather depressing story. A story with a big moral (anything you do could be one more reason that someone commits suicide). To be honest, I was expecting more literary highbrow-ness than entertainment, but somehow Thirteen Reasons Why delivers both.
Clay is an incredibly honest main character and can’t comprehend how he’s involved in the story. Hannah was the girl he liked from afar and never really got the chance to get to know. Through the tapes he can understand Hannah’s story and finally connect with her. Hannah herself comes across as composed and intelligent, fully aware of what she’s doing. She also has a sense of humour and perspective on the events she describes. As she says on the tapes, she blames very few of them, but she wants them to know how their actions affected her. This mature outlook is vital to the book as it means it’s not a narrative of finger-pointing and revenge so much as a story about the truth. Interestingly, several of the recipients of the tapes don’t see it the same way and judge others based on the story despite the fact that each of them received those tapes for a similar reason.

It’s a clever tale that allows the reader to see the same events from different interpretations. Everyone has preconceptions about other people. Hannah’s tapes illustrate how harming and misleading these can be, but also how they can come about. Especially in school, people can quickly be assigned a reputation and expected to stick to it. Other people see them as this characteristic – shy/funny/sweet and they may feel they have to live up to it. Thirteen Reasons Why plays up to this, challenging even the reader’s preconceptions. Clay comes across as a little dorky in his own narration, but in other people’s eyes he is cooler. Because of these two main narrators, this book is great for guys and girls, without excluding either sex. I recommend it to all.

I hate to end on a ‘this book makes you think,’ but it truly does. Not about life and death so much as image and seeing beyond the stereotypes. It’s not just meaningful though, it’s also an entertaining read. It wasn’t hard to get through, and I didn’t feel too noble reading it. I don’t want to detract from its meaning, but I also want people to understand it’s a good read! I wanted to know what happened next in Hannah’s story, I wanted to know how people fitted in, and especially how Clay fitted in. It was also interesting to see Clay wandering the streets of his town, meeting people from school and not knowing if they were on the tapes. Do they already know how he fits in? Will they be featured after him in the story? Do they have nothing to do with it at all? There’s a good element of suspense and I was intrigued to see how it would all play out.

What do you think of the new UK paperback cover? I like it more every time I see it, but I can't help feeling it will appeal more to girls than guys which is a shame.


  1. I love this book. :) Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Still need to read this. I like the UK paperback. Maybe I'll get a copy of that one.

  3. I need to read this too. Seems like a tearjerker *sob*

  4. Hmm, I like the US cover better :/ That's the black, white and red one, right? But the UK one is pretty good too. Great review :)

  5. For some reason this UK cover seems a bit 90s to me. I like it about the same as the US cover.

  6. Gah I still need to read this! It's been on my shelf, taunting me, forever. Glad you enjoyed it!

    - Renee