Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why: A Novel by Jay Asher

Author:  Jay Asher
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher:  Razorbill (6th August 2009)

Clay Jensen returns home to find a strange package with his name on it. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and first love – who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

Hannah’s voice explains there are thirteen reasons why she killed herself. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

All through the night, Clay keeps listening – and what he discovers changes his life . . .


Rating:**** (4 stars)

I’d heard a lot about this book on the bloggers sphere; all of it good. So I thought I’d give it a go, and see if it lived up to expectations: it did.

Thirteen Reasons Why is quite simply a brilliant, heart-breaking book. It doesn’t just change Clay’s life.

On the surface the concept is quite a simple one: we hear the thirteen reasons Hannah Baker has for killing herself, and we get to witness Clay Jensen’s place in things and his reaction to her revelations. It sounds a simple concept, but it’s so much more than that.

I’m finding it very difficult to write this review, as I’ve only just finished the novel. Not because they story wasn’t beautiful and heart-breaking and sad, but because I don’t quite have the words. Not yet. Maybe not ever. Reading this book affects you. It certainly affected me. It’s a book I think everyone should read – certainly ever teenager – but I also don’t think it’s for the faint-hearted.

I like how the narrative is laid out on the page. The fact that the story is told through two narrators, and that their narratives are mixed together. I think this works brilliantly as we get to hear Hannah’s story and also experience Clay’s reaction – so we know exactly what it is he is reacting to. The feeling of desperation haunts the narrative. Not just Hannah’s but Clay’s too. This is why having two narrators works well.

I also like the fact that the story is told not in chapters, but in “cassette”s, so we know exactly where Clay is. And I like the way that the story isn’t just focused on Hannah’s story, but on Clay’s too. Thirteen Reasons Why is as much about Clay as it is about Hannah, for all that she is the main-main character – that the story revolves around her, and her actions.

It did take me a while to get into the story; to let the narrative sink in and hook me. By the end of Hannah’s story I was almost in tears, and the end of Clay’s  was cleverly done.

If you haven’t read Thirteen Reasons Why yet, and you don’t mind reading heart-breaking narratives, then you should definitely give this a try. Even if you don’t like heart-breaking narratives you should try this, as it captures something about us (about humanity) brilliantly.

6 thoughts on “Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

  1. Really great review. It is hard to write about this book, isn’t it? It would be even more difficult to read this book if it wasn’t for Clay’s perspective, so I was glad for the dual narration. Good to know the book works just as well in the print format and that the chapters are identified as cassettes.


    • Yes, it is hard to write about. I think perhaps because there is such a delicate balance. And I totally agree without Clay’s narrative it would be an even more difficult book – I think without it, it would be difficult to feel empathy for Hannah.


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