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 returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.
Before I start my review, I’ll admit that I watched the Netflix version of Thirteen Reasons Why before reading the book. I know that makes me a terrible bookworm, but I had honestly never heard of the book before.
Now for the book. First off, I loved this book. It’s not always easy to find books you can relate to and this one really connected to my memories and feelings from high school. It was actually refreshing to read a book that pushed boundaries and talked about subjects like teen suicide, depression, bullying, and rape. When I was in high school (four years before this book came out), these topics were never discussed. I was fortunate enough not to know anyone who committed suicide, but I did know of people who had considered it. I remember how lonely it was to be in high school, no matter how many friends you had. As for those rumors, they were devastating and made it extremely difficult to get past things.
I was not exactly like Hannah in high school. But as I read the book, I could feel a connection to the pain and suffering the character was experiencing. I also did not see it as a book that was justifying suicide, as some people have suggested. Nor did I see Hannah’s tapes as completely blaming those on them. Instead, I saw the tapes she left behind as one last chance to connect with everyone involved. One last chance for her to get them to open their eyes and perhaps change some of their ways.
The use of Clay as the main character helps to show the reader an outsider’s point of view. Throughout the book, he recalls events differently or addresses how something as simple as a rumor changed his perception of Hannah. Clay’s point of view helps you to see how the tiniest mistruths can alter one’s perception and how easily you can overlook how much pain someone is in.
This story addresses a lot of hard issues, but they are issues that need to be addressed with today’s youth. As a future educator, I find that the one thing I took away from this book was the knowledge that I need to be more aware of my future students. There were many missed opportunities in this story. Moments where people should have noticed something was wrong or even knew something was wrong and did nothing.
This is a book I would highly recommend for young adults or the parents of teens. It does touch on topics that may make you uneasy, but the only way to address these topics are to talk about them. I hope to one day read this book with my youngest son, so that he and I can have a frank and honest conversation about how to deal with the feelings and things he will endure as a teen.