Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why
Jay Asher
Razorbill (Penguin Group), 2007
Paperback, 288 pages

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Synopsis:

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

Clay Jensen doesn’t want anything to do with the tapes Hannah Baker made. Hannah is dead. Her secrets should be buried with her.

Then Hannah’s voice tells Clay that his name is on her tapes – and that he is, in some way, responsible for her death.

All through the night, Clay keeps listening. He follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his small town…

… and what he discovers changes his life forever.

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Review:

As I was deciding whether to pick up this book, I kept thinking Haven’t I read this book before? I could swear that I read it two or three years ago. But as I checked Goodreads for a record of my reading this book, it wasn’t there. Absolutely no trace of it. And this is strange because I’m very dedicated to my Goodreads account and keeping track of the books I’ve read, the books I own, the books I want to read.

But as I started the book, that familiar feeling never left and I knew that I had read it years ago but somehow, must have accidentally deleted that on my Goodreads page. Reading it again this time wasn’t bad though – I had forgotten the details about the book and still thoroughly found myself pulled in by the story.

It’s a compelling story. We already know that whatever happened, a girl named Hannah took her own life. But what compels us is to know her story – is to find out what are the events and the people who led her to that act. And what we get is a heartbreaking tale of a girl who was always misunderstood, misused, and mistreated. And while it is “easy” to understand how she came to her conclusion and to place blame on the people she mentions in her tapes, our narrator, Clay, at one point reminds us that Hannah also had a hand in her own death. I don’t think that this is an easy topic to talk about, much less base an entire novel around but Jay Asher does this in an eloquent and beautifully heartbreaking way.

There is a reason why we get Clay as one of our narrators (aside from Hannah on her tapes) – and that’s because we’re able to sympathize more through him. He brings out the raw and pure emotions that may not have been there had we followed along another name on the tape’s experience with the tapes.

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This is definitely a must-read novel because it makes us question the ways in which we affect others, even through the smallest incidents. We need to be constantly aware that our actions do affect others and that we are responsible for that, even if it may not have been our intentions.

You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything.
– Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

After reading this novel again (though it felt like the first time), I was reminded of Elise Estrada’s song “Wonder Woman” that is dedicated to Amanda Todd. She was a young girl from British Columbia who killed herself at the age of 15 in 2012. She left behind a video telling others through flash cards of how she was blackmailed, bullied and physically assaulted. Like Hannah, although she attempted to speak up and get help, she eventually killed herself. This is such a serious issue that shouldn’t be taken lightly. And while reading this book doesn’t exactly present a solution, it does help us empathize. There are so many other woman and men out there who we can help if we only took the time to listen and be aware. Like Ellen Degeneres always tells her audience- Be kind to one another.

“Words hurt more than you’ll ever know. I wish I could make this stop, Just like wonder woman.”
– Elise Estrada, “Wonder Woman”

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