Thursday, August 5, 2010


Jay Asher
Young Adult Contemporary
Razorbill/October 2007
Library Book

From the inside cover ~

Clay Jenkins returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers 13 cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

Hannah's voice 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 why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a first-hand witness to Hannah's pain, and learns the truth about himself - a truth he never wanted to face.

Wow - just wow. This book is certainly different. The approach the author takes in telling the story is unique. It's told from the POV of Clay Jensen and the voice on the tapes of the deceased Hannah Baker. We get Hannah's thoughts leading up to her suicide and her reasons why she made the tapes and sent them out. Clay tells what he knows of Hannah and what happened leading up to her death but he's confused as to what part he played in her death. The reader is with Clay as he listens to the tapes and discovers the series of events that culminated in Hannah taking her life.

Clay Jensen is a nice, likable teenager. He's not one of the real popular kids but he's not a loner either. I'd call him an average high school kid. He gets decent grades, works at the local movie theater and stays out of trouble. Which is why it's such a surprise when he gets these mysterious tapes. Once he starts listening he can't believe it's Hannah's voice on the tapes and he's even more surprised when he realizes what she's done. She's telling secrets about Clay's classmates and how she feels each of them had a part in her suicide.

Clay doesn't just listen to the tapes, Hannah also included a map of the town and the "points of interest" she refers to in the tapes. It's almost like a treasure map that takes Clay on this journey as he listens to the tapes. He discovers some things he didn't know about the people in Hannah's life but mostly he learns about Hannah herself. He also makes some discoveries about himself and how he wishes he had done some things differently but he can only move forward and change how he acts in the present, not the past.

The story went by very quickly - I, like Clay, wanted to know what part Hannah thought Clay had in her suicide and more importantly why she did it. The why for me was never quite clear. Yes, she had some difficult times and she was fighting depression but there didn't seem to be any one thing that caused it. Sure, some of the people on the tapes were mean to Hannah, treated her poorly and upset her but there wasn't any one person, it was a domino effect.

What bothered me was the way Hannah spread the blame around but never seemed to include herself in that blame. In hindsight she exhibited some of the classic signs of depression and potential suicidal tendencies. The problem with hindsight is that it doesn't do you a bit of good after the fact. I'm not really sure you could say her life was any worse than other teens, but everyone has different breaking points and Hannah met hers.

It's hard to say if I would recommend this book. It really depends on your comfort zone. Teen suicide isn't a light subject and while this story presented it in a different way, it's still teen suicide - a dark, sad and potentially upsetting subject. I do think the impact of Hannah's death was muted by the fact that we meet her after her death. If she had been alive and I had gotten to know her, then she committed suicide, I think it would have had a more in-your-face effect. By having Hannah on the tapes, it allows the reader to take a step back from direct contact with her. We see her through Clay's eyes and through Hannah's words but those words were spoken after she made the decision to end her life. Overall, an interesting story but possibly not for everyone.

Rating: B+


  1. Wow, well... it sounds like a tough situation for Clay or any other teenager. I hate to say it, but I felt for him as I was reading your review. Tough subject, but going by your grade it looks as if the author did a good job with the book.

  2. Hils ~ I felt for him too. Nice kid in a tough/stressful situation.

    I think Asher did a good job - got me to read about a subject I wouldn't normally read.

  3. Ohhh, I read this when it just came out, pretty good book. It sure is different, but very poignant.

    It was so sad for Clay... I agree with you that suicide seemed like an extreme choice... but you can't never really judge suicide :(

  4. Nath ~ Hannah's suicide seemed like such a waste but you're right, no judging, just sad.