By Erika Berger
Thirteen Reasons Why is a novel by Jay Asher about a teenage girl named Hannah who has recorded the reasons why she committed suicide. She’s passed the recording via cassette tapes to 13 people to explain how each person influenced her decision to end her life. The novel is narrated from the perspective of Clay, one of the 13 people — or reasons — why Hannah chose to do what she did.
Here are 13 reasons why you should read the novel:
1. It touches on the epidemic of suicide. It seems like a common story: A teenager commits suicide and leaves some sort of suicide note. It can feel like a common story, because it is a common story, and you should take the time to try to comprehend what it is that goes on in the brain of a suicidal person.
2. Hannah draws you in with every side of every cassette tape, and leaves you craving explanations. Hannah wants to tell her story in a way that creates a full circle. She wants the 13 listeners to take the stories she tells and create a coherent reasoning behind her suicide.
3. Hannah is unapologetic. She tells the listener that they are a reason she ended her life. That something they did or said, or failed to do or say, led to this devastating fate.
4. The novel is told in two perspectives. Clay is one of the recipients of the tapes, and he shares what he fears and observes while we also see what Hannah struggled through and how some unspoken things can be interpreted in different ways.
5. It makes you uncomfortable at times. You know a novel about teenage suicide is a good one when it’s not a breeze to read through. When you have to stop for a few seconds to try to process the things that happen behind doors that everyone ignores, you know the author did an amazing job at capturing reality.
6. It’s unconventional. We read novels about suicide notes that are written down. Scribbled on a piece of looseleaf, but never a voice recorded on several cassette tapes with instructions on how to deliver them from one person to the next.
7. There’s respect. Each person up to Clay listens to the tapes, boxes it up, and has it delivered to the next person. No matter what kind of secret or shame was exposed by Hannah, each person takes the time and courage to reveal themselves to the next without destroying or hiding the evidence.
8. A lesson can be learned. People tend to say that nothing is as it seems, but do people really apply that to their everyday lives? This novel shows you that you should.
9. It scares you. Not in a “I can’t close my eyes when I shower now” kind of a way, but it makes you regret every white lie you ever told. Every small action you exaggerated, every story you embellished for the fun of it. You’re scared it’ll come back to bite you. And it might.
10. It can get frustrating. You want so desperately to tell Hannah that there are reasons why she shouldn’t commit suicide, that there are people who she misunderstood and that misunderstood her, but you also know it’s way too late for that. If a book can draw that emotion out of you, it had it’s desired effect.
11. You can listen to the tapes online. If you go to the site for Thirteen Reasons Why (http://www.thirteenreasonswhy.com/hannahsreasons.html), you can play video clips of Hannah’s tapes. There’s a big difference between reading her story and hearing it, and you can’t help but get the chills.
12. There’s a lot of honesty. Hannah wants to tell the truth, so she does. But the way she tells it and the way she exposes every detail without glorifying her suicide is something to take note of.
13. Netflix is coming out with a TV series for Thirteen Reasons Why on March 31, 2017. I recommend watching the show, but definitely read the novel first.