Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Razorbill • $10.99 • ISBN 9781595141880
paperback published June 14, 2011
About a year ago, I was chatting with a high school English teacher, and I asked her what her students liked to read for fun. “Thirteen Reasons Why,” she said. “All of my students are obsessed with it.” I responded that our reviewer had loved the novel, then I filed the name of the book away at the bottom of my TBR. (Who knows when I’d have time to read it? Story of my life.)
By chance, last week I came across a paperback copy of Thirteen Reasons Why. I picked it up because I knew I’d be interviewing Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler at ALA in New Orleans—they’ve collaborated on a November release called The Future of Us. (More on that later.)
And now, after a couple of way-past-my-bedtime reading binges, I can join the hordes of teens and adults who have been moved by Thirteen Reasons Why. Readers: I love this book. It is sad, and probing, and it feels real. It also makes you turn inward, considering the weight of your own actions.
Thirteen Reasons Why was published in 2007, and it was Asher’s first novel. It is only now coming out in paperback due to its popularity; it was on the New York Times bestseller list for 65 straight weeks. The novel is about the aftermath of a teen girl’s suicide. She’s recorded tapes about why she killed herself, and they’re passed on like a chain letter: 13 tape sides are filled with 13 stories about 13 different people. Here’s an excerpt from when Clay Jensen first receives the tapes:
My stomach squeezes in on itself, ready to make me throw up if I let it. Nearby, a plastic bucket sits upside-down on a footstool. In two strides, if I need to, I can reach the handle and flip it over.
I hardly knew Hannah Baker. I mean, I wanted to. I wanted to know her more than I had the chance. Over the summer, we worked together at the movie theater. And not long ago, at a party, we made out. But we never had the chance to get closer. And not once did I take her for granted. Not once.
These tapes shouldn’t be here. Not with me. It has to be a mistake.
Or a terrible joke.
I pull the trash can across the floor. Although I checked it once already, I check the wrapping again. A return address has got to be here somewhere. Maybe I’m just overlooking it.
Hannah Baker’s suicide tapes are getting passed around. Someone made a copy and sent them to me as a joke. Tomorrow at school, someone will laugh when they see me, or they’ll smirk and look away. And then I’ll know.
And then? What will I do then?
I don’t know.
Have you read Thirteen Reasons Why? Are you going to?
What are you reading today?