When high school student Clay Jenkins receives a box in the mail containing thirteen cassette tapes recorded by his classmate Hannah, who committed suicide, he spends a bewildering and heartbreaking night crisscrossing their town, listening to Hannah’s voice recounting the events leading up to her death.
- ISBN: 9781595141712
- Published: 2007 , Razorbill
- Themes: Death and dying, Family and social issues, Suicide
- Descriptors: Realistic Fiction, United States, Young Adult (ages 14-18)
- No. of pages: 304
One thought on “Thirteen Reasons Why”
Although from a few years back, Thirteen Reasons Why continues to be a popular book with tweens and teens in the Eastern Caribbean. After being translated into over twenty languages it seems to be a YA must-read from Europe to Asia. The secret (in part) for its success may be the fact it is a book about teen suicide that is neither didactic nor sentimental. Nothing about the text is predictable. The child characters read like real people, despite or because of the social Darwinism experiment that is high school. They are capable of being both bad and good and the repercussions of their actions, no matter how nuanced or insignificant, reverberate through their town illustrating the connectedness of all human beings—even angst ridden ones.
As an adult reading this text I am struck by how unimportant adults are in Hannah’s decision to commit suicide and how ignorant they are of the warning signs and muted calls for help she is wanting/not-wanting. The reasons why Hannah kills herself involve a world totally removed from adults, where there seems to be no parenting happening. Yet Hannah doesn’t blame her mom and dad—instead she pities them. She blames her peers, their sexism, callousness, and disconnectedness for leaving her with no other options.
The other narrator, Clay, is an interesting foil to Hannah’s pre-suicidal ramblings. He is the boy who could have saved her, we are lead to believe, but was too scared to act. A nice guy, Clay is as flawed as everybody else. Hannah chose to kill herself—in her cassette tapes she is lucid and rational. Not a victim, she is an agent of her own destiny, and through her tapes she may save other people from themselves as well as prevent other kids from having to make her choice.