Friday, 17 January 2014

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Published: 18 October 2007
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: Purchased from Book Depository
Genre: Young Adult: Mental Health, Contemporary

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.
Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.


Do you know what I have noticed lately? Bullying is slowly coming into the limelight. Just the other day a friend shared a video on Facebook concerning "The Bullying Experiment, by Fouseytube" (You can find it on Youtube if you are such inclined). That was interesting purely for the fact that despite someone being bullied directly in front of some people - they chose to ignore it. They walked away. One person, after being asked "Can I speak to you for a minute?" Answered "No". Were they ashamed they walked away? Or did they really care that little? 
I remember an incident (and I'm giving away my age here) of a comment concerning the RSVP's to my high school reunion. The organisers were getting comments that people didn't want to socialise with the people that bullied them at school. I know this because the organiser posted it on the reunions facebook wall. I remember some of the people - not the bullies, or the bullied - make the comment "oh but we were just teenagers, get over it". Interesting that the ones making that comment were also the ones that turned a blind eye.

Bare with me, I did bring that up for a reason......

Bullying comes in all forms. You don't need to be constantly hit to say you were bullied. 
Anyone can be bullied, and it can occur anywhere - school, work, sports activities, and online. 
Bullying can be verbal, physical, social, psychological, or cyberbullying.  

I mention this because some people might not think, like my high school classmates, that what happened to Hannah was that bad, or was justifiable due to age. 
Short answer - no, it's not acceptable. Just because you didn't experience it doesn't mean that the other person wasn't bullied. Just because it does not cause the same feelings in you, doesn't mean it shouldn't for someone else. 

This brings me to this book. Some reviews I read said that what happened to her weren't that bad; didn't justify why Hannah killed herself; could have been worse; or the clincher - she should have helped herself, she should have sort help from someone.
Bullying isn't about YOU (the reader, in this case). Bullying is about the person being bullied and how it makes THEM feel. In Hannah's case all the little things built up and ruined her.
You don't have to agree with her reasons. You don't have to feel like they were worthy reasons for her to commit suicide. What you DO have to understand is that SHE felt this way, and SHE felt like she didn't have anything worth living for. SHE felt that she had no one to talk to - in fact she did seek someone to talk too and quite frankly the way they handled the situation was pathetic. 

This is something that every person needs to understand. This is something that every parent should teach their child. This is something that teachers should understand. Bullying is about how you are made to feel and your actions can affect everyone. Like a ripple effect. Everyone in Hannah's community was and will be affected by what happened to her.  
Bullying is a real problem in schools, because children at schools are not treating others with any respect or empathy or understanding. Teachers should be able to say the right things and assist in finding help for someone that feels this lost. 
Not everyone is strong enough to fight through it. Some give in. Some don't. Adults need to be able to see the signs and need to be open enough that the victim sees them as an ally, a friend, and most importantly someone that can help. 
Now just to be clear, we are not talking about a single incident. We are talking about constantly being intimidated; harassed; rumours being spread about you; being hit; teased; etc and it happening over and over again. 

When I finished this book, I posted the photo below (that I took) everywhere. Facebook, instagram, twitter, anywhere where people, young and old, kids and parents, could see it. This is the type of book that should be read in school. Studied at school. Explained at school. To get young people to understand that bullying is NOT ok. It is not ok to make someone feel so low that they want out of life. You don't know what is going on in someone's life away from where you know them. You could be compounding a problem that is already there, and if you're not, you could be starting a problem that might not stop. 

I can't say I enjoyed this book as that isn't an appropriate statement. How can you enjoy reading about someone, who is dead, and how they came to that death. 
I did find this well written. Very well written. I liked the delivery of the story. I liked how someone, who she thought was good, was the story we got to follow. I don't believe hearing it from one of the bullies sides would be appropriate nor show the story from her side as well.

Now the book isn't just about bullying, well it is, but it is also about the fact that Hannah was suffering from depression. No one seemed to pick up on her depressive state. All these things added up for Hannah and would have been overwhelming. 

I can't say this enough, this is a book that everybody should read - if for no other reason but to understand how bullying and depression can affect someone (again - NOT YOU). 

On an ending note- 
Let me put it this way:
If physical illness was treated like mental illness


It Was Amazing


"I guess that's the point of it all. No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same." 


"But does that diminish any of your stories? Are your stories any less meaningful because I'm not telling you everything?
Actually, it magnifies them. 
You don't know what went on in the rest of my life. At home. Even at school. You don't know what goes on in anyone's life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person's life, you're not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can't be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person's life, you're messing with their entire life."


  1. This was a really deep post. I understand about the bullying in the world today. Wow. I would have totally cried reading this book. Great review.

    Cindy @ In This World of Books..

  2. Hi! It's always so nice to find more Aussie book bloggers on the blogosphere.

    Thank you for posting up such a beautifully honest and deep review. I agree with you, bullying is not just the physical but the psychological damage that can leave a scar. It is never right to bully anyone or to ignore any cases of it. You may not want to be involved, but you'll always come out as a better person for it. I'm so thankful to have gone to a high school where everyone in my grade was respectful and nice to each other.

    Thank you for posting that excerpt, the writing sounds beautiful. I will definitely be picking this book up soon!

    Joy @ Thoughts By J


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