Young Adult Lit/Crit

April 7, 2008

Thinking about 13…

Filed under: "13 Reasons Why" — Mandy @ 1:40 pm

I finished 13 Reasons Why and am facilitating this book, along with Jess, this week in class. Like Tyrell and other texts this semester, this was a book I literally could not put down. I absolutely loved it. Not only does Asher have a wonderfully creative writing style, with Hannah’s tapes interspersed with Clay’s reactions to the tapes and the world around him, but the content is so emotionally powerful. I was also struck by how suspenseful this story was; despite the fact that readers automatically know Hannah committed suicide. Asher provides a new way for readers to explore the issue of suicide, especially teens. Also, I think this book has essential importance in classrooms. As Crutcher stressed, controversial texts give kids a way to talk about things through characters that students may actually be dealing with in real life, and by giving kids an outlet to talk about suicide, we may literally be saving lives.

On the inside flap, Asher writes that Clay learns a lesson about himself, and I definitely think that lesson is he realized he was a coward because he didn’t get to know Hannah, rather he believed the rumors and reputation associated with her. However, the ending suggests that he gets a chance at redemption, as he courageously acknowledges Skye. Although he impacted Hannah’s choice, I think that Asher is letting readers know that while we all make mistakes, we must learn from them.

I walk away from this book wondering many things…Why are adolescents so cruel to each other? Who is to blame for Hannah’s suicide? What does Asher want his audience to come away with, especially his teen audience? How can we ensure that people we care about don’t “give up?”




  1. Mandy,
    I was also surprised by the suspense I was in while reading a novel in which I knew before picking it up that one of the main characters has committed suicide. I was very nervous to find out why Clay was on the tape because I adamantly did not want to believe anything bad about him. After “hearing” his tape, I keep thinking it was unfair of Hannah to include him with the other 12 people.

    I thought it was interesting that you describe Clay as a coward. I really didn’t think about him like that, but now I keep thinking about it. He seemed to just be a shy and timid teenage boy and pretty much a good person. Maybe I was too easy on him. I’ll have to keep reassess and see if my opinion is biased.

    Comment by katefrazer — April 8, 2008 @ 7:16 pm

  2. I really liked this book. I posted about it a while ago here

    I want to add to the comments about the suspense. I really hoped that there was a chance that Hannah had just sent these tapes as a way of getting her story out there, but that instead of killing herself she had just moved away. Okay, okay, I know this is ridiculous, but I really did have this hope.

    Mandy, your question about who is to blame for Hannah’s suicide is haunting. Hannah’s tapes seem to point to 12 people who are at least partially responsible. Specifically, it seems, her guidance counselor should have seen the signs and done something more for her. Ultimately, though – and this may sound harsh – Hannah is to blame for her suicide. I think that the people on Hannah’s tapes will all feel varying degrees of guilt. I think that some of them played bigger roles than others, but when it comes down to it, suicide is still a choice that Hannah made.

    I want to be clear that I’m not saying the people on the tapes are blameless, and I don’t want to come across as heartless or uncaring. I have had personal experience with suicide and, for me, part of the healing process has been letting go of the “what ifs.” What if I had called earlier? What if I had checked in more frequently? What if I was more explicit about how much I cared? I’m not sure if this will be a controversial position, but I look forward to our discussion.


    Comment by sostrom — April 8, 2008 @ 11:19 pm

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