Jay Asher’s debut novel, Thirteen Reasons Why was released in 2007 and went on to become an International Bestseller. So there must be some reason why we are discussing this book a decade after it’s release? One reason is that it’s a good book and the second reason is that recently it was released as a television series on Netflix. This particular review is about the book, I’ll also be doing the television series’ review and I may even do a comparison between the two, so stay connected! I’ll try my best to forget whatever I’ve seen in the TV series to make this review purer.
It’s basically a story of a young high school girl, Hannah Baker, who commits suicide due to certain circumstances. But that’s not it, she leaves behind seven cassettes which contains thirteen reasons that made her take this step.
Jay Asher has very cleverly made it a dual narration by adding Clay Jenson- Hannah’s classmate – in plot and we see everything from Clay’s point of view.
Each cassette has two sides and each side has a reason, or to be more appropriate, a person who is responsible for her death. The tapes are passed only to the person who is a reason for her death which means that Clay Jensen was one of the them who killed her, knowingly or unknowingly.
So who are the people responsible for her death? What happens to Clay Jenson after he listens to the tapes? More importantly did he even listen to the tapes? You’ll know the answers to these questions once you read the book yourself.
The book is actually based on the idea of everything affects everything, this is, you can say, the motto of the book. It is basically a story whose best part to me is the plot, which is very unusual but at the same time interesting as well, and the narration of the book is something we all must acknowledge, the way the story is told.
Author Jay Asher was asked, “How did you go about writing two simultaneous narratives?” This was his reply:
“Initially, I tried writing the book straight through. I’d give Hannah (Baker) a few lines of dialogue, then get a response from Clay (Jenson) to break things up. But at that stage, I wasn’t entirely sure where Hannah’s story was going… And I had absolutely no idea where Clay came in. So a lot of his reactions were pointless, and I ended up deleting them
“I went back to the beginning and wrote Hannah’s story all the way through, from the first reason all the way through the thirteenth. That process took longer than expected, and- for a very brief moment- I considered calling it finished and submitting the manuscript purely as Hannah’s story. But I felt the dual narration was the only way to do it honestly. To let the readers understand her point of view in the way I intended,they needed to hear Clay’s reactions immediately, and not in a subsequent chapter, as most books with multiple first- person points of view do.”
This clearly shows that he had gone through a lot of mind changes throughout the writing process. But the final product he came up with was more than perfect and the dual narration technique worked.
Now lets talk a bit about the characters in the book. There are a lot of characters who apparently are the reasons that made Hannah commit suicide. We can’t really talk about the all the characters, except Hannah and Clay, because most of them just come and go with the tapes and if I tell you about them then your interest will be dissolved while reading the book.
Hannah Baker’s decision looks fair enough because what had happened with her but a thought crosses my mind that why didn’t she ask for help from her parents? She could have got a better way out of her troubles if she had searched for them. This makes the story a bit unrealistic.
Clay Jensen is the kind of person who has a lot of positives but rarely any negative, which is very uncommon in real life. He is the one who seems to be the most upset because we get to know that she was her first love, as the story unravels, but this again is a kind of a low point of the book as it seems only he is concerned about Hannah.
One of the thing that an author always has in mind while writing a book is how will the book affect the reader? What feeling would be there? What change will they feel in themselves? When you read this book you realise that it has a lot to offer, but there are two ways a person can act after reading it.
One way is that the reader who is probably in high school or is teenage feel that escaping a problem is the best solution and escaping life is even better. Which, I don’t think is the message but there have been a lot of controversies over the TV series that it has had a very wrong impact on the teens and has given a wrong message to them.
But the other way of looking at it, the way l look at it, is by understanding the motto everything affects everything and making choices wisely while talking to friends, choosing words carefully, or thinking twice before doing some action. And I believe that this was the message that the author really wanted to convey, which was wrongly understood.
I have two different ratings for Thirteen Reasons Why, if I hadn’t seen the TV series then I’d rate it 4 out of 5 and the other rating being after watching the TV series I’ll rate it 3 out of 5. I like this book mostly because of its narrative style, its plot and message, I believe that if characters would have been a bit more realistic, the rating would have been different. If you haven’t seen the TV series then you must read this book but if you have already seen the TV series then I won’t strongly recommend you to read this, it might disappoint you.
In the end, I’d like to thank all of you for reading this review. Keep supporting and let me know how can I make these reviews better and what you like about them.
I’ll bid you goodbye with a few lines from Thirteen Reasons Why,
“You can’t pause the future. You can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret… Is to press play”