Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

Clay Jensen finds a gift-wrapped show box lying at his doorstep which contains thirteen audio cassettes. Surprised, he starts to listen to the first cassette and is dumbstruck when he finds Hannah speaking out of the player. The same Hannah Baker he went to school with, the Hannah he worked with, he long crushed upon; probably, even loved. The Hannah Baker who committed suicide two weeks ago. And begins the tragic story of Hannah Baker and what made her commit suicide.

What I loved about this book:

  • Thirteen Reasons Why is a very fast-paced book audio-narrated through 13 cassettes giving comprehensive details of Hannah’s life and how she was related to each of the 13 people responsible for her death. As you read, Hannah’s anguish grows over you and you naturally start feeling her pain.
  • The book is written from both Clay and Hannah’s perspective and the plot is thick with suspense and grim emotions, connecting all the ends very well, which I guess, is outstandingly brilliant for a debut novel.
  • The 13 reasons that the author has cited responsible for Hannah’s act of suicide seem fairly convincing as we come across many similar stories and incidents in real life too.

What could be different:

  • Hannah is low and depressed all the time. In those conditions and also otherwise there is no mention of Hannah’s parents at all which should have been the case since she lived with them.
  • Hannah seems terribly disturbed due to the rumors about her in school but she faces none of them and lets them live and grow over her. Also, not once does she protest against the students she’s held responsible for the physical abuse she endured. Rather she let them lead her to end herself which is not an ideal end to the trouble, is it?
  • Anyway, I still love this book because it is not often that you come across a debut novel that is done with such finesse leaving no loose ends. Jay Asher knew all too well what he was creating when he started with ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’. In one of the interviews, he said  –

    All of the reasons Hannah describes were based, at least loosely, on situations I’d either experienced or heard about, mostly from my wife or close female friends. While Hannah wasn’t specifically based on anyone, her character always felt very real. So it was a matter of interpreting those situations through her thoughts and feelings. But, years before I came up with the premise, a close relative of mine attempted suicide when she was also a junior in high school. When I eventually did come up with the idea, it was obvious why it came to me as a female in high school.

(Read more about the interview here:

It’s the things one has faced or has seen a loved one face that leaves a deeper impact. Perhaps, that is why ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ is such a favorite among all age groups.

If you happen to read ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ or have already read it, do share your thoughts below. The book is now available as Netflix series.

©Asha Seth

This piece was originally published on

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