Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Jay Asher's brilliant first novel is a moving, highly original story that focuses on a set of audiotapes made by a girl before she committed suicide, and which explain to 13 people the reasons why she decided to end her life. Told in a highly effective duel narrative -- alternating between the girl's voice and the thoughts of a boy who is listening -- this honest, poignant story reveals how other people's actions shape, and by extension can ruin, an individual's faith in people. Intensely powerful and painfully real, Thirteen Reasons Why reveals how brutal high school can be, the consequences of spreading rumors, and the lasting effects of suicide on those left behind.

Thirteen Reasons Why is one of those books that sticks with you if not forever, for a very long time.  While this book did not resonate with me personally as much as some others have (such as If I Stay and Before I Fall), it is a very powerful book that I think all teens should read. 

The entire book is about Hannah's reasons for committing suicide.  While her motives at times felt insufficient to me, the bullying she is subjected to builds up and she feels that she has no friends and no one to turn to.  Her cries for help are unanswered, and she is not taken seriously by her classmates, parents, and teachers. 

Thirteen Reasons Why has a butterfly-effect type of message.  All of your actions affect someone else, sometimes much more than you could ever imagine.  Small slights that others would be able to shrug off left Hannah reeling, especially as the insults accumulated over time. 

Asher tells Clay's story along with Hannah's, with a dual narration that could have gotten clumsy but worked really well.  I liked Clay and I really felt for him as he dealt with his culpability and guilt for Hannah's death.  The whole time I was reading the book, I kept hoping that somehow someone got to Hannah in time and she was not really dead.  I knew the book was about suicide but I was still hoping for a happy ending, although I think that ending would have cheapened the message.

I would recommend Thirteen Reasons Why to anyone, and especially to middle and high-school students.  I think this book would have had a much greater effect on me if I was still in my teens.

Just One Gripe: 

The Best Thing About This Book: 
I think the fact that Hannah commits suicide over not one huge incident but because of small incidents makes more of an impact on the "everything you do affects someone" message.

Appropriate for a younger audience: 

Characters: 4/5
Plot: 4/5
Setting/Imagery:  4/5
Originality: 5/5
Ending:  4/5
Total Score:  21/25


  1. Wow. Sounds tragic and very real. Great review!

  2. Great review! I agree with you completely on the powerful butterfly effect of this book. I also thought it was very original, haunting, and creepy of listening to Hannah's voice. Definitely poignant and great for book discussions. This book is constantly checked out at my school and public libraries ever since it came out.

  3. Great review. I loved this book!

  4. Great review! I think it was an important message for teens as well.

  5. I loved this book. I also kept hoping that Hannah really wasn't dead, even though you know she is and, like you said, that ending would have cheapened the message. I grew so attached to Hannah, though. It was like when I read historical fiction about someone you know dies in the end but you still hope they don't.

  6. I just checked this book out from the library - now I'm really looking forward to reading it!

  7. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the author, Jay Asher, and I have to admit, he wasn't quite what I expected. Mainly because he's freaking hilarious. And yet I cried while reading his book. Go figure... :-P

    Anyhow, I just happened upon your blog and became an instant follower :-). Great review. And I agree -- the "butterfly effect" is a perfect description. So haunting and so beautiful. Thanks! :-)


  8. This is my second time to read a review of this book this week, and it's interesting because both perspectives are different.

    I don't think that people often stop to consider how little things can build up and be disastrous. By then, some explosion has already occurred.

    That this book gives us a glimpse of the, I think adds untold insight to the seriousness tragedies such as taking one's own life.

    Great review. I haven't read this one yet, but I have it on my TBR.

  9. This book sounds so tragic, and so real. I generally don't read contemps because they bore the crap out of me (sorry! they do!), but this sounds amazing. I'm totally adding this to my list...well, I'm moving it up my list haha :)

  10. This book did for me what If I Stay did for you. We seem to be flipped side on these books. LOL

    Both those books, and Before I Fall, resonated me too. They have a long lasting affect on the reader.

    I'm glad you read this one :)


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