Clay Jensen returns home to find a strange package with his name on it. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and first love – who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
Hannah’s voice explains there are thirteen reasons why she killed herself. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
All through the night, Clay keeps listening – and what he discovers changes his life…forever.
Thirteen Reasons Why was recommended to me by Amazon or Goodreads (I can’t remember which) on the basis that I enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I’m really glad I saw this suggestion because Thirteen Reasons Why is a really unique and interesting book that I certainly won’t forget in a hurry.
The book is narrated by Clay, an honest, kind-hearted, teenage boy. A few weeks previously, Hannah Baker committed suicide. Hannah had been in Clay’s year at school and worked with him at the cinema. He had a crush on her and had yearned make something more of their casual acquaintanceship. But Clay will never get to know Hannah better. Until he comes home from school to find a parcel addressed to him.
He opens it to discover a collection of cassette tapes along with an enclosed message. Hannah recorded the tapes before she died, outlining the thirteen reasons why she chose to take her own life. She has organised for the tapes to be sent to each of the people involved in her decision, and if they do not follow the rules, the truth will be exposed to everyone.
Clay is shocked. He can’t think of anything he did that would have hurt Hannah and hopes that it is a mistake that he has received the tapes. He begins to listen and what he hears will break him.
Clay spends a lonely night in emotional turmoil listening to the tapes, waiting for his name to appear. When he does, he soon realises that he is not on there for the same reasons as the others. He never hurt Hannah, but he is an essential part of the story and she wanted him to know why she did what she did.
***END OF SPOILERS***
Thirteen Reasons Why is written in such a unique and interesting way. The dialogue of Hannah’s tapes is interspersed with Clay’s thoughts and feelings as he listens to them, which I think works really well. As a reader you feel what Clay is going through and can fully empathise with him.
The novel highlights how even your smallest actions, or lack of, can have a huge impact on another person’s life without you even realising it. Of all the things that happened to Hannah, none of them alone would have pushed her to the breaking point, but the accumulation of both far-reaching and imperceivable consequences of other people’s choices had a catastrophic outcome.
Thirteen Reasons Why should teach people to be more aware of others around them, and how important they may be in shaping another person’s future, however deep or shallow their relationship is.
No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.
If anyone has any other suggestions for books of this genre please let me know