The phenomenally successful debut novel from Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why, transcends its ‘teenage angst’ genre and becomes a riveting and beautifully constructed tale of love and loss. It is one of those books that can spark thoughts in you and change the way you think.
In the aftermath of the suicide of a young teenage girl, Hannah, one of her classmates, Clay, returns home from school to find a mysterious box sat outside his house on his porch. On opening the box he finds thirteen cassette tapes, with no indication as to what their contents are. He rushes to his father’s old cassette player to find out and instantly regrets his decision. The voice on the tapes is that of Hannah, his former classmate and former crush.
The tapes each contain one of the reasons for her committing suicide two weeks earlier, explained in detail, one of them being Clay himself. The story is told through the dual narratives of Hannah, through her tapes, and Clay. We learn of the wrongs done to Hannah and how the summation of these ended in her taking her own life.
What Clay hears draws him in and he becomes obsessed with their content, leading him to question his interactions and his being.
Published when Asher was 32, this book shows a great insight into the minds of young adults but the lessons learned in this book can be carried throughout life. This is an incredibly moving tale about human interaction and the great effect that a small act can have on others. The author explores loss and the effect that the cessation of life can have on others. Thirteen Reasons Why is an engaging read, taking you on an emotional journey as Clay deals with what he uncovers on the tapes and as Hannah reveals more about her psyche through the narration on the tapes she has left behind. Leaving us wondering whether it would be better for Clay to have never found the tapes or whether there is an inherit benefit in him discovering how his actions and those of others had such a profound effect on this young girl. It delves deep into the concept of death and the realisation that the opportunity to interact with that person is lost forever. Asher reveals the fragility of the young mind and how an individual can be lead to such a dramatic ending so gently.