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Bending the Spine

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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.
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 18th 2007 by Razorbill
ISBN13: 9781595141712
url: http://www.thirteenreasonswhy.com/
literary awards: South Carolina Book Award for Young Adult Book Award (2010), Florida Teens Read (2008), Georgia Peach Honor Book Award (2009), Kirkus Reviews Editor's Choice, California Book Award


I’ve had emotional reactions to books before, but nothing quite like I have felt from reading Thirteen Reasons Why.  I become instantly invested in this story.  I needed to know why Clay was one of the Thirteen Reasons as much as he did.
I became empathetically tied to Clay.  I hurt for him, and I was tortured with him.  He is the reason I continued to read this book, the reason I held on as long as I did.  He’s the only character that I felt sorry for.  He grew through the experience, and the goodness that was him permeated every word that Asher wrote about Clay.  He’s the true hero of the story, if there is one at all.  He’s the only character that I didn’t hate on some level.
I didn’t understand Hannah.  Sure, the stuff that happened to her and around her was bad.  She internalized so much of it, let it push her to the edge.  There were several times in her telling her story that she said things like this:
I think I’ve made myself very clear, but no one’s stepping forward to stop me. (page 280).
But I don’t think she did ever make herself clear.  I felt like she was blaming everyone else for her decision to end her life.  And that got on my nerves.  Hard.  I don’t like a “woe is me” pity party.  Man up, grow some balls and deal with it.  Learn from it.  Grow through it.  Hannah is my biggest issue with this story.  It’s possible, though, that I just don’t understand what it’s like to be in that place where suicide feels like your only way out.  I’ve never been there.
Thirteen Reasons Why is written so that we see both Hannah’s story via the tapes she leaves and Clay’s thoughts and memories as he’s listening to them.  It was a little confusing at first, but quickly enough I got with the program and made it through.  I devoured this book.  I don’t think I’ve read a book this fast.  Ever.  I mean it was addictive.
Do yourself a favor and read this book.
5 Trees: You don’t need 13 reasons why to read this book, just one: you will not be the same.

Get to reading,

About the author:

Jay Asher was born in Arcadia, California on September 30, 1975. He grew up in a family that encouraged all of his interests, from playing the guitar to his writing. He attended Cuesta College right after graduating from high school. It was here where he wrote his first two children’s books for a class called Children’s Literature Appreciation. At this point in his life, he had decided he wanted to become an elementary school teacher. He then transferred to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo where he left his senior year in order to pursue his career as a serious writer. Throughout his life he worked in various establishments, including as a salesman in a shoe store and in libraries and bookstores. Many of his work experiences had an impact on some aspect of his writing.
He has published only one book to date, Thirteen Reasons Why, which was published in October 2007. He is currently working on his second Young Adult novel, and has written several picture books and screenplays. Thirteen Reasons Why has won several awards and has received five stars from Teen Book Review. It also has received high reviews from fellow authors such as Ellen Hopkins, Chris Crutcher, and Gordon Kormon.


  1. Wow. Okay, that's awesome.

    I think with us being the age that we are and at the places we are in our lives - families, jobs, blah blah - we can see different perspectives in YA and I love that so much. When I think about reading this through the eyes of "the intended audience" it doesn't appeal to me AS MUCH as it does through my adult eyes. And what you say about being able to identify with Clay's character (vs the woe-is-me) kind of echos that in some ways.

    So, yeah, I like your thoughts on this one. I was already gonna read it, as you know, but it will be less begrudgingly now. 5 trees is a big deal.

    1. I don't bestow a 5 Tree rating carelessly. This book is for serious and you must read it :)


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