Thirteen Reasons Why

 
Disturbing suicide novel examines bullying, indifference.

What parents need to know

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

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.

Violence

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.

Sex

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

Language

Some swear words typical of teen banter.

Consumerism

Types of cars and food products mentioned.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Lots of underage drinking.

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.

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Teens will identify with the sometimes-oppressive culture of high school. 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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Jay Asher
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Topics:Friendship, High school
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Razorbill
Publication date:October 8, 2007
Number of pages:309
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

This review of Thirteen Reasons Why was written by

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Quality

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Parent Written byThe Literate Mother May 18, 2012
age 17+
 

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 discuss with our teens, no question. But I was disappointed in Hannah’s propensity for blaming others. Hannah’s method of exposing the crimes against her leaves no room for forgiveness or change. While she does accept the ultimate responsibility for taking her own life, she lays a lot of blame along the way, becoming by her own actions, everything that others labeled her. The main message of the book is that how we treat and interact with others truly has an effect. A quote from Hannah sums it up this way. “I guess that’s the point of it all. No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.” I think most of us, and our children as well, need a reminder of this fact. We can all be a little more kind, compassionate and understanding, because just as the people on Hannah’s list contributed to her fall, we each have the capacity to be the one who literally saves a life. Also, suicide is never a solution. Hannah had some really hard things happen to her, but they were not insurmountable. Because she lacked a strong support system, she allowed herself to believe there was no other way to go on. We need to teach kids that they can overcome anything. We need to empower them to face and solve their problems, not give up and run away. I also struggled with the heavy sexual content. I don’t think that we need rape, premarital sex, and a girl allowing (and by her own admission she does allow it) a boy she doesn’t even like to misuse her body, in order to discuss suicide and how our actions affect others. I am a married 40-something woman and I was very uncomfortable with the hot tub scene. I felt dirty reading it. What will young adult women feel when they read it? We can discuss suicide and the consequences of our actions without this kind of content. Overall I can’t recommend this book for anyone younger than 18. I can already hear the emails being written about how these are real issues teens deal with today, which I completely understand, but I think there are appropriate and inappropriate ways of dealing with them. And while books do offer opportunities to discuss difficult topics with our children, they are by no means the only avenue to start a conversation.
Adult Written byJess02 April 20, 2010
age 13+
 

Excellent Book

I don't see what's terrible about this book. It talks about sucicide, and how she was depressed. Like thousands of teens are today.This book could be very educational, and could teach teens how to choose their actions wisely.
Teen, 15 years old Written byxx1214babyyxx September 6, 2009
age 13+
 
I disagree when it said the messages in this book aren't good. Sure, its about teen suicide, and that is a very bad thing, but that isn't what the book is about entirely. In my opinion, the book is about how every little action that you do can affect someones life without you even realizing it. I think it can teach us all that no matter how good someones life looks on the outside, it can be crumbeling on the inside, so just treat each other with kindness and respect. It really helped me out alot.
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