Thirteen Reasons Why

Amanda Alvarez, Staff Writer

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Jay Asher’s novel Thirteen Reasons Why revolves around Hannah Baker, a girl who commits suicide, and who leaves a series of cassette tapes that explain why she killed herself. On the tapes are mentioned thirteen people who, in her eyes, are responsible for her death. The problem is that Hannah  blames thirteen people, but of these only three or four deserve to be blamed.

Clay Jensen is number nine on the tapes. But like everyone else, he doesn’t know it. He sits through the first eight tapes wondering what he could have possibly done to Hannah, and he always comes up short. The tapes cause him (and probably everyone else on the list) extreme emotional stress, so that Clay’s outward appearance deteriorates enough that the people around him worry for his health. He has nervous breakdowns, cold sweats, and panic attacks. All of this thanks to Hannah’s tapes.

Each person on the tapes did something wrong in Hannah’s point of view, so in some way they deserved it, right? No. Clay was on the tapes only so Hannah could apologize. To. Apologize. But instead of making another set of tapes for Clay, Hannah made him sit through all of the tapes. Aside from Clay, there were twelve others. Of those twelve, only four deserved to be on the tapes. The remaining eight did little things that made Hannah upset. Jessica was actually too nice to Hannah, and Hannah thought that that was reason enough to put her on the tapes. Jessica and Hannah were barely friends: they said hello in the hallways and smiled at each other when they made eye contact. But then Jessica stopped saying hello, and stopped smiling, and Hannah felt like her friend had forgotten about her.

The other four—Bryce, Justin, Jenny, and Tyler—were guilty of doing something that had negative impacts on people’s lives. Bryce Walker won’t actually receive the tapes, even though he is number twelve. Hannah knows that if he gets them, he won’t pass them on because he wouldn’t want anyone to know why he took advantage of Jessica at a party, raping her while she was unconscious. Later on, Bryce also assaulted Hannah in a bathtub, and Hannah felt afterwards as if she didn’t even own her own body.

Justin Foley is the first person on the list, and he’s number one because he was Hannah’s first kiss. He didn’t deserve to be on the list for that, but Hannah felt that Justin deserved to be on the tapes because he led her on.

Tyler Down is the school photographer, and because of this he has many professional- grade cameras. Unfortunately, he uses his cameras to take inappropriate pictures of students without their consent. He took some of Hannah, and he made her feel unsafe in her own house.

The last person who deserves to be on the list is Jenny Kurtz, a cheerleader who was nice to Hannah until one night, after a party, Jenny got drunk and ran over a stop sign. This in itself was reckless, but later on that night a man didn’t stop at the intersection because the stop sign was gone, and he hit another car. The other passenger, a student at Hannah’s high school, died on impact in the accident.

The book ends with Clay finishing the tapes and passing them on to the next person. While he walks back to school, he thinks back on Hannah and the ‘warning signs’ of her suicide. Clay realizes that a classmate, Skye, had showed some of the same signs, and he then looked for her in the halls. The last lines of the book have Clay reaching out to Skye, asking her how she is. In a way that’s the moral of the book: to look for people who need help, and give it to them. Unfortunately, Hannah is not the best example, because she did everything backwards and muddled her reasons.

The structure of the book is what made it so popular: Hannah’s past thoughts, mixed with Clay’s daily life as he’s listening to it. Thirteen Reasons Why has an interesting set up, with every other paragraph changing perspectives but still being easy to follow. It also shows what Clay feels about Hannah and the other people on the list, which gives you yet another perspective.

Thirteen Reasons Why was, overall, an amazing book with an awful protagonist.

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Thirteen Reasons Why