13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Response #1:

This novel is beautiful, tragic, entertaining, dramatic, and intense all at the same time. Though this book is not as intellectual like The Chosen, Asher does an excellent job connecting with the audience through the use of a unique perspective and relatable subject matter that we, teenagers, are often faced with.

The story revolves around the suicide notes left behind by Hannah Baker. Before Hannah decided to commit suicide, she thinks of an elaborate plan of recording messages onto cassette tapes as to why she committed suicide, and she made sure the box of tapes were passed around to the people “on the list.” In each tape, Hannah explains as to why they negatively impacted her life, and after they are done listening to all of them, they are forced to pass it along to the next on the list. In total there are thirteen tapes.

The story focuses on one particular person on the list named Clay. With Clay narrating the story, the reader discovers that he had feelings for Hannah and that he is clueless of what he could’ve done to cause Hannah to think that her life was worth ending. Sitting at the edge our seats, both the reader and Clay are involved in a mystery/journey to find out the reasons why to Hannah’s suicide. I think that Asher does an excellent job involving the reader’s emotion to the characters at hand. He evokes such strong emotions by using a unique perspective. While Clay narrates his own thoughts and feelings, the majority of the book is “listening” to the tapes that Hannah made. Having both the perspective of the listener (Clay) and Hannah’s thoughts behind events in her life makes this story all the more powerful. For instance, when Hannah’s tapes are playing, they are written in italics, and sometimes, between the lines, Clay’s thoughts will be integrated within the text. For instance, when Hannah starts off cassette one and says:

If you’re listening to this… You’re someone else and you’re waiting to see if it’s you.

Well…”

A line of hot sweat rises along my hairline.

“Alex Standall, it’s your turn.”

A single bead of what slides down my temple and I wipe it away (Asher 37).

This back and forth between Hannah’s story and Clay’s thoughts helps involve the reader more from both sides of the story. This adds to the novel’s personality and the amount of emotions it evokes out of the audience.

Not only was this book creatively written, but the relatable subject matter of the storyline is something that makes this story interesting. Even though the ending is predictable knowing that unfortunately it will end with Hannah’s death, what the characters will take away from this heartbreaking story is what I look forward to knowing. Already this book has given me this entire new perspective and awareness about others. Through the stories that Hannah tells she is clearly bullied, tossed around, gossiped about, and left out, and to realize how powerful your voice can be is truly startling. Though I have always been aware of other people’s feelings and how my words can make other people feel, this story overall underlines the importance and power of one’s words. And sure, I’ve been there too, bullied and pushed around, and I really appreciate the fact that this novel gives an opportunity for other people to become more aware about how their words can make someone feel.

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1 Comment

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One response to “13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

  1. seralew

    Response #2:

    Wow… I have to say, this makes it to my top ten list of books… It left me in tears, which I will say, means a lot because I don’t cry often over books or movies (I didn’t cry for Fault in Our Stars- if that says anything about how little I cry about things). I have to say, if it makes Sera Lew cry, you’ve got a good book in your hands ;).
    But how did this book leave me in tears?
    I think it was just the overall lesson that it taught, the meaning it pertained to my life in the past, now, and in the future. Whatever age I am. This book made a statement. A strong, but simple statement. acknowledge other’s thoughts, be aware of other’s emotions, and really, be kind. Your words can hurt more than you might think it does. Sure, it might not end in the worst situation of suicide, such as this novel, but you can definitely hurt someone’s life with your words.

    Later on in the novel (SPOILER ALERT) Clay finds out that Hannah really didn’t have anything to accuse Clay of negatively impacting her, in fact, the tape dedicated to Clay was to thank him, and to tell him that she was sorry. The build up to Clay’s story was excruciatingly painful as the reader is at the edge of his/her seat until almost the end of the book (page 218 out of 288). Perhaps that was one of the negative aspects of this novel, it almost kept the reader waiting for too long. But that also shows the level of skill that Jay Asher has as a writer, and his ability to hook the reader into the story. The feelings of suspense that he evokes the reader to feel, makes the final reveal all the more satisfying, but it also draws attention to how nice Clay really was to Hannah. The stark contrast between Clay’s and the rest of the people’s stories brought more attention to the reader of how one’s words can impact others equally as much, both good and bad.

    However, this wasn’t the only lesson that Clay’s story taught to the audience, but it also taught people to enjoy everything that happens in the moment. Literally, live like there’s no tomorrow. For instance, after Clay listens to the tape that he is on and finds that Hannah actually liked him back, he starts to thing, “How many times after the party did I stand right here, when Hannah was still alive, thinking my chances with her were over? Thinking I said or did something wrong. Too afraid to talk to her again. Too afraid to try. And then, when she died, the chances disappeared forever” (Asher 285). Overall Asher teaches to enjoy every moment you have, to take for granted every second you get, because you never know when it is to end. This story conveys the lesson that every moment in life should be taken as an opportunity, because maybe… Maybe you can change someone else’s life in a positive way.

    This novel is beautifully ended with Clay approaching a girl named Skye who was briefly mentioned in the beginning of the novel, but never fully elaborated on. Clay said that she seemed to have, “learned how to avoid people. Everyone” (287). Clay then remembers seeing these traits in Hannah before she made the decision to commit suicide, and after having listened to all the cassette tapes, concludes not to hold back, as the novel ends with him gathering his courage, tapping Skye on the shoulder, predictably having a conversation with her after the novel ends. This also brings to the attention of the audience of the importance of not to hold back, to live freely, and do what you know is right, now matter what humiliation you may face because people’s feelings and lives are far more important than a brief moment of possible embarrassment.

    Though this book did not use much literary devices or symbolic images, this book states a clear and strong message that is relatable to everyone. It asks for people to love the world for what it is, and to love the people in the world. Leave this world knowing that fear of social norms didn’t hold you back, knowing that you did your best to be nice to others. Because one conversation could help someone a long ways.

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