Content Warning

      Thirteen Reasons Why

      Publisher: Razorbill 

      RRP: £7.99

      Author: Jay Asher 

      Published:  2007-10-18




You can't stop the future. You can't rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school one day to find a mysterious box with his name on it, outside his front door. Inside he discovers a series of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and crush. Only, she committed suicide two weeks earlier. On the first tape, Hannah explains that there are 13 reasons why she did what she did - and Clay is one of them.

If he listens, Clay will find out how he made the list - what he hears will change his life forever.


Utterly compelling.


Thirteen Reasons Why is a Young Adult title, first published in 2007, here repackaged to coincide with the release of the Netflix drama of the same name. The story is utterly compelling, a thriller told in reverse; the dénouement has already occurred, the worst has happened, but, via the means of audio tape recordings, Hannah gradually reveals the events which led her to end her life.

Hannah’s story is interspersed with that of Clay and his thoughts, actions and emotions while listening to the tapes, all on one day, and following the locations critical to Hannah’s tale. The story is heartbreaking and yet so very familiar. It masterfully illustrates how cruel humans can be to each other, especially in adolescence, and how the consequences of such actions can be catastrophic.

Not every event in Hannah’s story is life-changing, but the book powerfully portrays the idea that events can be cumulative and the consequences, unintended. The story illustrates that we may not know what someone is struggling with in private, and the effects of our actions, without being mawkish, sentimental or preachy. The book is as much about Hannah’s own choices as those of the thirteen people in her life set to receive the tapes, and is gripping as the reader wonders what Clay could have possibly done to have contributed to such a sad end to Hannah’s life. Clay listens to the tapes over a single day/night, and the book lends itself to being read in a similar time frame, with similar intensity.

It is, in places, distressing. Not just because of the ending we already know, but due to the hopeless humour that pervades Hannah’s story. It is particularly upsetting to witness Hannah’s oblique attempts to reach out, to seek help, and how these are missed by the people around her, time after time, and to hear about the moments in which her decision is made, when she gives up entirely.

Thirteen Reasons Why feels like an important work, which should be read more widely than just the Young Adults market. It shows the reader the potential consequences of one’s actions, the thought processes that might lead someone to end their life, and the grief and guilt of those left behind. Most importantly, it shows what some warning signs might be, how attempts to summon help may present themselves, and how those may be missed. For that alone it should be read by as many people as possible.