Title: 13 Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Publication Date: 2017
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Paperback|320 pages
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24 (2018 CDC WISQARS) and the second leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18 (2018 CDC WISQARS). Thirteen Reasons Why tackles the issue head on and it might trigger certain people. The review might contain sensitive content for some, please consider this a trigger warning.
Thirteen Reasons Why is quite a controversial book due to its depiction of a high school student who falls into a pit of despair brought on by bullying, culminating with suicide. I have been putting off this review for a while now, there even was a time when I was considering not writing a review to it because I might offend someone, which I really hope I won’t be doing.
Hannah Baker takes her life but not before leaving seven audio cassettes that she mails out in an attempt to explain her motifs for taking her life. The novel is the story of a suicide’s aftermath in which the author perfectly conveys the pain and suffering of someone who was left behind. The person in question, Clay Jensen, is a smart teenager who finds the package containing the seven tapes (each side numbered with the last one left blank) on his front porch and opens it without knowing that his life will be changed forever. Based on the idea of cause and effect, the profound effect of small things is highlighted throughout the whole novel. I found the book extremely compelling and mainly relying on the reader’s sympathy for Hannah. At points I felt like Jay Asher portrays the protagonist as selfish and over-sensitive. Regardless, I completely sympathized with her. As someone who has been struggling with mental health issues for many years, I even related to her at times. Although there are many people who suggest that Hannah wasn’t realistically suicidal I didn’t have an issue believing her. More than that, I feel the book perfectly captured how every little thing added to the weight that was crushing her to the point she took her own life. Little things build up, one small thing after another, until the point she realises they have blended into a feeling of hopelessness and despair.
I rated the book 4 stars because at points it felt like Hannah was being empowered for taking her life. However, this is just my opinion and I don’t attempt to speak for everyone. Otherwise, the book is well written and it is a guaranteed page-turner. I only recommend it if you want to read a novel that offers a powerful look at the life of a teen in distress.