My Thoughts On Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

23 February 2015


Have you ever read a book so powerful that you believe it can genuinely change lives? Thirteen Reasons Why is one of those books. Though there are plenty of authors who have written books that skirt around serious subject matters, there are few who have gone into detail and made their books count. Regardless of whether you, someone you know, or nobody in your life at all, have been in a similar situation as Hannah, I can guarantee this novel will hit home. Jay Asher is an amazing author with the ability to really get inside your head and make you care. Though you may not like this book for many different reasons, you will not walk away and say it didn't impact your life in some small way. It's impossible.

Told in a truly unique way, this is the story of Hannah Baker - a normal high school student - and the reasons behind her suicide. Thirteen people that will have to live with the knowledge that they had something to do with Hannah's death for the rest of their lives. Thirteen people who had no idea how the smallest of things can impact someone else's life in such a huge way. We hear Hannah's story through cassette tapes, passed around the group of thirteen. Clay Jensen is on that list somewhere, and we listen with him as Hannah pours out her soul, feeling his emotions as if they're our own. 

The snowball effect is something that every single person has experienced at some point in their lives, so in that aspect, this novel is easy to relate to. However, there are only a certain amount of people out there who will truly feel this book. It's easy for a person to say that something depressed them, but I can guarantee that not a single one of those people has ever experienced real depression: the soul-wrenching feeling that keeps you awake night after night as you think about every little detail of your life and how all those experiences have woven together to get you to where you are today. Despite manifesting itself in a lot of different ways, there is one thing that links every single person with depression together: the thought of suicide.

Though Hannah seemed wildly unconcerned by the thought taking her own life, it's easy to tell from the very beginning that this girl is deeply depressed. The humour she injects is tinged with sadness, and I felt myself drowning in her despair. I felt like Clay. I just wish she'd told someone exactly what was happening before it was too late. I found myself angry at her on several occasions, wishing she'd just taken the oppurtunities to speak up when she had the chance. And then I realized she and I aren't much different. Back in high school, when my depression started, I never sought out help. I hoped that someone would just know. That a single person would realise that something had gone seriously wrong in my life and just be there for me. But people aren't mind readers, and Hannah and I made the same mistake. After that realisation hit, I found myself more and more invested in her story, hoping and praying that someone would come to her rescue, despite already knowing the outcome.

I can't say that I'm angry at Clay for not noticing the signs. After all, high school is an emotional time for everyone, and people spiral up and down throughout. It's not unusual for a girl to come in one day with drastically different hair. It's not unusual for a guy to take a break from being a pleasant young man to a delinquent juvenile desperate for attention. At the end of the day, nobody really knows what's going on inside someone else's head. Clay's emotions throughout the entire book felt so real, and I found myself laughing with him, mourning with him, and breaking down with him. We both wished that Hannah had just opened up to him. He could have changed everything if she'd let him.

When I first started this book, I had trouble with the style. I couldn't wrap my head around the two different points of view running simultaneously. Occasionally Clay's thoughts would take a completely different turn and I'd have trouble keeping my own thoughts on track before we'd be back to Hannah again. It definitely took some getting used to, but once I got there, I absolutely loved what Asher did. It made the novel feel infinitely more real, and I'm so glad he decided to add Clay to the story, instead of keeping it all Hannah. 

There were multiple aspects of this novel that I loved, but I think one of the teachers' ideas to bring the class together was the best. Basically, each student has their own paper bag. If you have something nice you want to say to a person, but can't bring yourself to say it to their face (it's surprising how many people have difficulty), you can leave them a note in their bag, completely anonymously. It's an absolutely fantastic idea that may just brighten up someone's day. And you can even incorporate this into your own life. I mean, why not leave a colleague a note by the kettle? Or slip it into a fellow student's locker? At the end of the day, that little friendly note might just prove that there's someone out there who actually cares.

Thirteen Reasons Why is an incredibly powerful novel that will change your life if you let it. It teaches us that even the smallest of actions can impact someone else's life in an extraordinary way. It's unpleasant thinking that you might be one of the reasons a person is on a major downward spiral, but there are so many self-involved people out there that this book could very well be a true story. Jay Asher is an incredible author, and I'll definitely be checking out his other works. Absolutely astounding.