Published: August 6, 2009.
“An important novel to read… If you’re a teenager.”
What Is ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ About?
Keeping it spoiler free… Clay Jensen (High-school student) comes home one day to find a parcel waiting for him. Inside the package are seven numbered cassette tapes and, on playing the first one, he quickly realises that they have been recorded by Hannah Baker – a classmate and friend who recently committed suicide.
Hannah instructs Clay to listen to the tapes so that he can understand why she killed herself – or more specifically his involvement in why she killed herself. There are thirteen reasons, and Clay is one of them.
This novel is broken up by each of the seven cassette tapes.
Slowly Hannah takes you through the intimacies of her life and how a series of seemingly innocent pranks led to bullying, punishing rumours and numerous incidents of betrayal which spiral her emotions out of control.
Why Did I Read ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’?
I read a blog from Wildish Reader who rated it highly.
I was also interested by the premise of the book and, as a father to a young daughter, was curious whether I’d get more out of this story than just an interesting read.
What I Liked About ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’
I loved the way this story was told. The slow reveal of details are done well and the hints to what’s coming up keep you engaged.
Knowing that its going to end in tradegy makes it very powerful, especially when you’re nearing the end and you can see the signals being ignored by everyone around her.
There’s also a particularly good section of the story where Hannah’s hiding outside someone’s window. I’ll say no more, but it’s done well.
What I Didn’t Like About ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’
I need to be careful here as I don’t want to appear cold and heartless…
Whilst reading this novel I kept waiting for the ‘big’ event. The moment that, in my eyes, would break someone to the point where they could consider suicide… The pervy uncle scene or the abusive parent, the addiction to drugs or the discovery of a fatal illness – something that gives the notion of suicide some context. But for me it just doesn’t come. Instead I got a series of upsetting events (thirteen to be exact) which built up Hannah’s stress until she felt the only way out was suicide. For me, I just couldn’t get to the point where I felt suicide was a logical step, in spite of everything I’d read.
This is clearly targeted at teenagers, so the author may have intentionally chosen not to go too dark. Or maybe I’m missing the point and what is being said here is that you don’t need a truly terrible moment in your life to push you over the edge when you’re vulnerable… In any case, I couldn’t help feeling as if the novel needed something really dark to take you to that place, but it just didn’t want to go there.
Good Or Bad?
Was it any good? Yes. This is an important novel. A novel that you would encourage be circulated among teenagers at school.
Would I recommend it? Definitely one for the teenager / young adult generation. I struggled to rationalise Hannah’s decisions in this novel, but I don’t think this was meant for me.
Would I read it again? No, but I’m glad I read it. This is a novel to keep in my back pocket for when my daughter gets older.
What’s on the list?
The Lafayette Campaign by Andrew Updegrove
On Writing by Stephen King
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
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David P. Philip