You can’t stop the future. You can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret. . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen doesn’t want anything to do with the tapes Hannah Baker made. Hannah is dead. Her secrets should be buried with her.
Then Hannah’s voice tells Clay that his name is on her tapes– and that he is, in some way, responsible for her death.
All through the night, Clay keeps listening. He follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his small town. . .
. . .and what he discovers changes his life forever.
Ok, raise your hand if you picked up this book because of the Netflix series *raises hand*. Even though this book came out in 2007 I had never heard of it until this year. Though, now that I think about it, the only thing I really read back then was Harry Potter or whatever they forced me to read in elementary school, so there’s that. But before the show I had no idea how popular this book was and now it’s even more popular thanks to Netflix. Now, while I enjoyed the book I feel like I enjoyed the show a bit more but I’m not gonna get into that. There is a lot to be said about Thirteen Reasons Why so let’s dive right in.
- The thing I loved most about this book was the narrative style. As you know, the story is about a boy named Clay listening to the tapes that tell the story of why Hannah Baker killed herself and what ultimately led her to that decision. At first you’re thinking “how can this work?” It works because Hannah’s voice and Clay’s voice are intertwined and you’re able to not only separate their voices but combine them as well, if that makes any sense. You can see Clay’s inner monologue as he’s listening to the tapes which feels like a very real and organic response if you were listening to something like this yourself.
- Because you know how Hannah’s story ends you’re left with this eerie feeling and it’s almost like you’re reading the book backwards. You already know that Hannah kills herself and regardless of what you’re reading, there’s nothing that can change the ending. I feel like this allows you to connect with Clay’s character even more because, in a way, you’re just like him. You both go on the same difficult journey of listening to Hannah’s tapes and finding out why she did what she did.
- At the end of the book, Clay decides to reach out to a girl he used to be friends with before high school and he does this because of what he learned from Hannah’s tapes. He learns how important it is to reach out to people, especially when you fear they’re about to go down a bad path. He doesn’t want to see this girl end up like Hannah (not that it’s insinuated in the book although it is in the show) and he takes what he didn’t do for Hannah and gives it to someone else, which I think is very important. It kind of gives this book a bit of hope at the end and shows how the tapes accomplished their goal of changing the way someone thinks and I liked that a lot.
- I think because this book was published back in 2007 there are certain parts of Hannah’s reasons that don’t really translate into being a problem in 2017. While I feel that Hannah was justified in majority of her reasons, there are a couple that I felt were either taken a bit too personally or were too embellished. The one that really comes to mind is the tape revolving around Courtney Crimson. Sure, she’s a bitch and used Hannah to keep up her perfect, well-liked image, but does that really merit a reason to kill yourself? I don’t know. Overall I just felt super mixed about the 13 reasons.
- There’s this debate going on about how Hannah’s tapes were super passive aggressive of her and it’s not a good thing to promote, I suppose. I didn’t view it that way, but I think it’s important to think about. I don’t think Hannah meant to do that with her tapes and I think, for her, it was the equivalent of a suicide note. I think the aim of the tapes were just for Hannah to show the people that hurt her how their actions and words affect other people. Was it the right way to do it? Probably not because it’s not fair to force this on someone after you’re gone. I feel like the tapes themselves could possibly be passive aggressive but the point of them isn’t.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- Most people (especially after watching the show) like to say how people shouldn’t need a book or a show to tell them that bullying is wrong and they should already know this, and they’re not wrong, but that’s not the message this book is trying to get across. The message, to me, is how we still don’t understand how one little thing or interaction with someone can snowball into something way worse and we didn’t even know that it all comes back to that one moment. It tells you to think about your actions and think about how you treat people. It’s easy to say that you don’t need a book or any other medium to tell you this, but for some people they really do.
BONUS: how this book made me feel in a GIF
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Release Date: October 18, 2007
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
What did you think of the book? Leave a comment below!