Young Adult Lit/Crit

February 9, 2008

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Filed under: "13 Reasons Why" — sostrom @ 5:24 pm

The short of it: great book.

The long of if: It may seem like a story of teen suicide (and it is, in part), but it’s about so much more.  It depicts the social trauma of high school – the power of rumor and reputation.  It hits on so many topics: rumors, promiscuity, reputation, adolescents’ burgeoning romantic and sexual identities, cliques, accountability, objectification of women, the ethical struggle to do the right thing or turn a blind eye, missed opportunities and the snowball effect of all these things together. 

I would be remiss if I did not mention the book’s format.  Essentially, two stories – the story of Hannah Baker, a girl who kills herself (and her 13 reasons why) and Clay Jensen, a classmate and admirer of Hannah’s through whose lens we hear Hannah’s story.  Hannah records her reasons on cassette tapes, and Clay listens and responds to them adding his perspective.  It works.  Both voices come through clearly.

I really liked this book.  Although it was sad, I think it would be a great tool for opening up discussions with students about these issues.  I stands on its own as a book that might provide the sense of camaraderie so often missing from middle/high school students lives.  It also encourages readers to remember that there is so much more to a person that what we see on the surface. 

Kari recommended this book as one of her favorite YA titles.  I suspect (correct me if I’m wrong) that it may have instigated her seminar topic 🙂




  1. Sarah!
    I am so glad that you enjoyed Thirteen Reasons, it is high up on my list of favorites. It was also part of the inspiration for my seminar topic. The original reason that I chose the topic, however, was because of a young woman named Corey Craig from Syracuse. She went to a local Catholic high school, was a Varsity Cheerleader, was stunningly beautiful and was well liked by everyone she met. Corey committed suicide at the age of 16 to the surprise of her friends, family, and the entire community. Teenage suicide is more than a gathering of statistics, and depression is a very real problem for many young adults. After reading Thirteen Reasons I was given a voice to go along with these staggering stories. I cannot wait until the entire class reads this novel so that we may discuss it further.

    A Syracuse Post Standard article about Corey on the one-year-anniversary of her death

    Corey’s myspace

    Comment by Kari — February 10, 2008 @ 12:54 am

  2. Sarah and Kari, I’m glad you’ve begun a discussion about THIRTEEN REASONS since it’s one of our class reads. I’ve been in touch w/David Craig since the POST printed the article after New Year’s about Corey’s suicide. I sent him and his wife, Lisa, a copy of this novel and I am hoping they are planning to come to our class in April when we discuss it. KES

    Comment by sunyprof — February 10, 2008 @ 9:34 am

  3. Kari, thank you for posting the article and the link to Corey’s myspace page. Here I was just going to quickly check the blog before returning The Scarlet Letter, and now I’m a blubbering mess. The myspace page with all the comments from Coery’s friends – heartbreaking. But I think you could use it – maybe it doesn’t count as YA lit, but it seems like an invaluable tool in discussing teen suicide. Also, it provides a community for people who continue to grieve. It could be used in conjunction with teaching 13 Reasons; students could create a myspace page for Hannah (and for the other characters); it could be used to emphasize that a “profile” doesn’t tell you everything about a person (but maybe it tells you more than you think). What an important resource for us all. Thank you.

    Comment by sostrom — February 10, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

  4. Sarah:
    What a great idea! I had never considered using this format as an outlet for students to profile the characters in 13 Reasons. I am sure that most teens are very MySpace savvy and would be interested in an activity like that! I also was a mess after reading her friends and classmates leave posts for her posthumously. I cannot even imagine how a loss at that age (in that manner) would have effected me. Honestly, I didn’t know her or her family and is has impacted me and increased my awareness. Thanks for that idea Sarah 🙂 Now back to TSL! haha

    Comment by kariredmond — February 18, 2008 @ 12:05 am

  5. o…… i really should have not read this book cause i’m now taking pills..

    Comment by Maddie — February 8, 2009 @ 8:35 pm

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