Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.
Some years ago, a professor of mine ensued a challenge to the entire class during our first meeting - if any one of us were able to give an example wherein a single action of ours does not affect any other people in one way or another, that person would receive an automatic perfect grade for the entire course. I remember blinking in disbelief and exchanging bewildered glances with my seatmates - it seemed like an easy enough task, and an easy 4.0 at that! For the next hour and thirty minutes, my classmates and I unleashed answer upon answer, all of which were shot down by my professor in quick succession after brief explanations. Soon after, the answers became more far-fetched, as we then realized that the question is not as easy as it initially seemed. By the time the class ended, everyone accepted - albeit reluctantly, of course - that the question posed was one of those questions that had no obvious answers. In a nutshell, as proven by a rambunctious and thought-provoking class discussion, every single thing that we do has the certain capacity to affect other people, despite how minute it may seem.
Upon reading Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why, this specific incident immediately came to mind. As proven by the story of Hannah Baker's life, the littlest things - no matter how grossly irrelevant they may seem - possess the power to alter a person's life forever. The entire time I was reading the book, I was mentally screaming at every person Hannah had on her list - it seemed so obvious to me that what they did would contribute to the detriment of Hannah's self-worth as well as her reason of living, and I was perplexed that they had no idea! But then again, that's life, right? No one is omnipotent, no one is all-knowing. We have no idea if something that we have done is the catalyst or the final straw for another person to start considering more drastic means of coping with his or her life. Should we stop there, however?
Ultimately, the statement that this novel poses is that we SHOULD be aware of how our actions can affect other people. We can't make excuses forever - we can't keep whining 'but I had no idea!' when we finally realize that something we had done in the past affected another person even in the littlest of ways. Both actions and words unleash this certain power that has the capability to weaken even the strongest of characters and to strike down the most confident. Make no mistake - I am in no way condoning suicide, but sometimes, when things get too tough, your mind flies to unchartered territories, and an idea, no matter how horrible it may seem, will suddenly make itself known to you through your everyday thoughts. Suddenly, no matter what you do, you can't stop thinking about it. Also, I hate how people often generalize that those who commit suicide are only those who have gone through the most traumatic of situations such as rape or whatnot - who are we to generalize? Who gave us the right to assume that all people's breaking points are one and the same?
Again, I'm not condoning how Hannah pointed fingers at the people she considered responsible for her death, but I truly understand why she did what she did. Hannah wanted those people to know how their actions affected her, and let's face it, if she went up to them and blatantly stated what she felt, would they have listened to her? I'm not setting things in stone, but the likelihood is not very likely. The tapes got Hannah's thoughts and feelings across in a way that she wouldn't have been able to do so personally. To put things in perspective, here's something I wrote in my personal blog last year when it seemed like life would never get better:
"Sometimes, I can’t help but want to do something drastic - something so drastic that I would have ruined my entire life completely by doing it. When that happens, I would look at everyone who made me feel worthless and increasingly pathetic every single day and say, “Are you finally happy? You completely destroyed me now.”Am I proud of this post? Of course not. Did I want the people I was referring to to see this post? I'd be lying if I said no. Did I have the courage to personally go up to those I was referring to and say my piece? Honestly, no. Like I said, though I don't condone Hannah sending the audiotapes to the people in her list, I truly understand why she did what she did.
What impressed me about this book was how realistically portrayed it was. The novel gave me chills in places and in statements that were chillingly familiar and relatable, truth be told, and I liked how Asher set the pacing of the story. Though the entire story was fast-paced, nothing felt rushed, and I never felt like some certain points of the novel could have been elaborated more. Hannah and Clay's alternating POVs enriched the story and allowed the readers to see the full picture - we got to read through Hannah's innermost thoughts and all those that she went through, and Clay gave us details that Hannah did not touch up on.
Overall, I consider this book one of those books that a person must read in his or her lifetime. I feel like Asher got his point across about how the littlest of actions can change another person's life forever, and I do not think I will stop mulling over this novel any time soon.
Rating: 5 Stars