Thirteen Reasons Why

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
Thirteen Reasons Why Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Disturbing suicide novel examines bullying, indifference.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 40 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 162 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Inspired parents and teachers could use this book to talk about teen suicide and about the destructive nature of bullying, gossip, and indifference. 

Positive Messages

Hannah's message is to "be careful how you treat people, you never know how it will affect them." Readers also will realize that inaction -- whether to stop a crime or a rumor or talk to a troubled student, friend, or child -- can be just as damaging as deliberately inflicting pain.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Readers will feel sorry for Clay, who had a crush on Hannah and is horrified to be one of the 13 reasons she killed herself. Through tragedy, he learns to reach out to others.


A girl is raped, a girl describes how she gave in to a rapist's sexual advances, a teen is killed in a car crash, a girl commits suicide, there's a fight among a couple of teens, and some property is vandalized.


There's sexual innuendo, kissing, and inappropriate touching -- a boy grabs a girl's butt.


Some swear words typical of teen banter.


Types of cars and food products mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of underage drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this bestselling novel is about a teen girl's reasons for committing suicide, which she articulates in audio tapes she sends to 13 people, mailing them on the day of her death. The book includes discussion of rape, voyeurism, underage drinking, sexism, revenge, and survivor's guilt. There are positive messages here about the importance of treating people with kindness -- and about the price of inaction -- that parents and teachers may want to help teen readers think and talk about. The 10th anniversary edition (cover pictured here) includes an introduction from the author, deleted scenes, the original ending, and more bonus material. The book has been adapted for a Netflix series, set to premiere March 31, 2017. A TV tie-in edition of the book (to be released March 7, 2017) includes interviews with the actors. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byThe Literate Mother May 18, 2012

The Literate Mother reviews 13 Reasons Why

I have really struggled with how to review this book. Let me start by saying that I didn’t enjoy it at all. Suicide is a topic that we definitely need to discus... Continue reading
Adult Written byBrej123 April 5, 2012

I loved this book and it was one of my favorites and in a way still is but I gave it one star because....

This is a very entertaining and powerful book however for some people it could trigger suicide. In a way it glamorizes her suicide and for some people this coul... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byMissBookaHolic September 2, 2019

Romantasizes suicide, depressing, but insightful

This book is depressing and insightful to the reasons that fuel teen suicide, but rather than discourage suicide, it dramatizes and romantasizes it. worried abo... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byCielphantomhive March 10, 2015

Conversation Starter

13 Reasons Why, is a book about (surprise surprise) Hannah Baker's thirteen reasons for committing suicide. Hannah records these reasons on audio tapes, an... Continue reading

What's the story?

When Clay Jensen receives audio tapes in the mail, he's horrified to hear his dead crush's voice coming out of the stereo. Hannah lists 13 reasons why she killed herself and the 13 people responsible for it. Clay is racked with guilt as he waits to hear how he could have been involved in her tragic decision.

Is it any good?

Teens will identify with the sometimes-oppressive culture of high school. First-time author Jay Asher's story presents the dark side of teen life: drinking, sex, rumor mills, suicides, cries for help, inept or absent adults, and the mean spirit that surrounds the general high school student body. Here everyone's a victim, an enabler, or a perpetrator, and some of the characters are all three, including Hannah Baker. Her tapes and reasoning are, at times, just as selfish and mean as those she accuses. And, although we see some of the 13 characters not showing much remorse, the majority of them are already burdened with "should haves" when Hannah's tapes arrive.

For any teens who've had dark thoughts of their own, the aftermath of Hannah's decision and the conclusions Clay reaches hopefully will make them think again. But this book has messages that will reach all teens: Hannah warns that we must "be careful how you treat people, you never know how it will affect them." Readers also will realize that inaction -- whether to stop a crime or a rumor or talk to a troubled student, friend, or child -- can be just as damaging as deliberately inflicting pain.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about suicide. Do books and movies that tackle tough topics such as this one glamorize suicide and other dangerous behaviors, or do they provide an important outlet and opportunities for discussion?

  • Hannah warns her listeners to "be careful how you treat people, you never know how it will affect them." Is this something that teens need to be reminded of? Do you see a lot of bullying and indifference at your own high school?

  • Why do you think this book has remained a bestseller for so many years? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age tales and bullying stories

Themes & Topics

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