Thirteen Reasons Why

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Book and Author

Book – Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers 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.  

Author –Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers. Jay Asher has worked at an independent bookstore, an outlet bookstore, a chain bookstore, and two public libraries. He hopes, someday, to work for a used bookstore. When he is not writing, Jay plays guitar and goes camping. He got the idea for Thirteen Reasons Why at a museum. While taking an audio tour, he was struck by the eeriness of the voice in his ear—a woman who described exactly what he was looking at, but wasn’t there. Jay lives on the central coast of California. Thirteen Reasons Why is his first published novel. (Information from author and book website)

Published in 2007, 304 pages (Age level 12 and up)

Awards and Honors –

  • Best Books for Young Adults (YALSA)
  • Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice
  • Over 100 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List

Discuss

Discussion question about the affect of suicide on individuals still living: Why do you think the author ended the story the way he did? How do you think Clay is changed by listening to Hannah’s tapes? Do you think the tapes had similar effects on the other listeners? Do you think they all followed Hannah’s instructions in the same manner that Clay did? How do you imagine their experiences to be different?

Discussion question about reputations and rumors: Hannah mentions reputations and their consequences repeatedly on the tapes. Why is her reputation important to her? What sort of reputations do the other people on the tapes have? How many of them are disproved through the information Clay learns from the tapes? How does Hannah’s reputation influence Clay’s interaction with her? What is he afraid of?

More discussion questions address the narrative structure of the book, the feelings and choices of Hannah and Clay, and of many of the situations surrounding Hannah’s suicide and the tapes she left behind.

Critic – “The absolute necessity of story as a way to redemption and healing past wounds is at the heart of this beautiful debut, and readers will cherish every word up to the heartbreaking yet hopeful and deeply gratifying ending.” –Kirkus Reviews

Enhance

Get to know Jay Asher

Multimedia Extras: The book’s website includes Videos of all of Hannah’s tapes, as well as an interactive map that includes parts of Hannah’s story. A website called “Hannah’s Reasons” brings another dimension to the story.

Influence: read thoughts and stories from other readers about how Thirteen Reasons Why has affected them at the Thirteen Reasons Why Project.

Resource: Need to talk? 1–800–SUICIDE? www.hopeline.com

Interact

Many people enjoy reading children’s and young adult literature, including teachers, parents and students. What do you enjoy most about reading teen or YA literature? What other young adult books, besides Thirteen Reasons Why, would you recommend? This is a book that strongly influences many readers – what other books have affected you strongly?