Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016
As the trend of positivity makes it way around the Internets, it seems as though actutally being sad or upset is undesirable, or worse yet - uncommon. Haven't you heard it?

"Choose happiness!"

No. Sometimes when I am sad, I just want to be - sad. In the midst of one of these bouts of blue, I ran into BookTuber ReadbyZoe. She mentioned in her favorite books of 2015 Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. As she summarized the plot (free of spoilers, though admittedly there aren't much to be had), tears began to well in her eyes.


I thumbed through my Kindle and found this forgotten gem hiding in my Young Adult folder. I immediately began reading, and couldn't stop.

Amazon  // Barnes and Noble

Hannah Baker is dead. One day she was in school - and the next, she wasn't. Whispers began about seeing an ambulance leaving her house the night before her disappearance. Soon, everyone knows that Hannah as committed suicide, overdosing on pills.

Hannah wants to set the record straight. Before she dies, she records thirteen audio letters to those she believes have contributed to her death. The reader listens to the tapes with Clay Jensen who finds the box of tapes on his doorstep at the beginning of this story, passed to him from a previous reason for Hannah's suicide. Her instructions are clear - listen to the tapes, then pass them to the next person in this morbid chain.

Clay walks the streets listening to the tapes, loosely following a map Hannah has made to several key locations of her story. Hannah had a "reputation -" you know the kind. Clay, and everyone else in school has heard a version of it. As he listens to the tapes he discovers what Hannah says is the truth, and is left to process the meaning.


Hannah's story begins with her having her first kiss with a boy who ends up spreading a rumor that he felt her up "under the bra" (which is apparently a thing). It ends with her witnessing a rape. Whoa. She mentions a "snowball effect," how one small occurance gradually can build into something too large to handle - and considering the start and end of her story, this is definitely true.

I read a lot of Young Adult books, and I'm not ashamed of that. Some of my very favorite books are of this genre. However, Thirteen Reasons Why reads like the YA novels that I generally steer away from. Hannah could be likened to any one of us at that time in high school: emotional, reactive, and maybe even a little annoying. However, I think that's what makes her story resonate with so many people.

Hannah is a different protagonist - dare I say, she may be the definition of the anti-heroine. When I think of main female characters in my favorite books in or around this genre - Hermione from the Harry Potter series, Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy, or even my beloved Weetzie Bat from the Weetzie Bat series - my thoughts are filled with their stories of resilience and perserverence though adversity. Hannah's story is over before it begins - for the reader. We start the book knowing she's already dead. When you really think about it - there's no happy ending. Hannah doesn't have the opportunity to triumph.

So, what's the point? 

I'm still figuring that out.


I enjoyed the book, though I was at times critical of the progression of the story and development of Hannah. At times I thought she was mean and emotional - and she was. Clay has the same thoughts as he listens through the tapes.

It was interesting to read a novel where I didn't love the main character. I don't come across them often, but find them to be much more thought provoking. Essentially - isn't that the point? I read this in one afternoon partially because it is an easy read, and partially because I just plain wanted to know where Hannah's story was going.

As I mentioned - this may not be beach reading for many of us. But, for a snowy afternoon, it helped me through a case of the blues because it made me think. For that, I am thankful.
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