13 Reasons Why

The October PBF Book Club selection was 13 Reasons Why and it’s time to discuss this novel today!

13 Reasons Why Jay Asher

If you’re in the market for some new reading material, you can find the reviews of past PBF Book Club books on my Books page.

Brief Summary

13 Reasons Why follows the journey of Clay Jensen, a well-liked high school student who arrives home one day to find a package of cassette tapes addressed to him in the mail. The tapes are from Hannah Baker, his classmate and former crush who committed suicide just a few days before. The tapes detail 13 reasons why Hannah decided to end her life and on the first tape she promises each recipient of her tapes that they contributed to her decision to commit suicide and must listen to her tapes to figure out their role in her decision.

My Review

It is clear from the beginning of this book that Hannah Baker committed suicide, so I’m not sure why I kept clinging onto the hope for a somewhat happy ending. Or at least an ending that left me feeling somewhat at peace. Suicide isn’t something that is accompanied by a feeling of peace.

While I didn’t completely fall in love with the book from the beginning, I plowed through it quickly and was intrigued the entire time. Hannah’s voice through the cassette tapes clearly conveyed her troubled emotional state and her challenge in dealing with a less-than-squeaky-clean reputation in high school. I found myself waiting for her to reveal one of the 13 reasons why she committed suicide that could cause her to feel like there was no way out and no way to feel at peace in her life again.

As I learned more about Hannah and the people who affected her decision, I felt the underlying message her reasons seemed to convey was that every decision you make and every action you take can have everlasting consequences. Many of the decisions we make in our lives are made on a whim without much thought, but a simple remark can affect someone very, very deeply. Hannah’s story made me think a lot about the people I interact with daily or the random stranger I pass as I go about my everyday life. So often we are unaware of what people are going through – even those close to us – and treating people with kindness and decency is so important.

The book itself was interesting to read in that it caused me to think a lot during my time away from the book. If anything, it’s the conversations that I had with people after reading 13 Reasons Why and the impact the book had on my actions that made it worth reading. It made me want to be a little kinder to strangers. To be more aware of the people in my life and challenges they may be facing. To recognize that what I say to the people in my life and how I treat others can have everlasting implications.

Blogger Link Up

You can find additional reviews of Thirteen Reasons Why on the following blogs:

Discussion Questions

  • What did you think of the ending of the book? Did you feel like it left you wanting more or did you feel satisfied with the conclusion?
  • Do you think one of the 13 reasons Hannah detailed affected her more deeply than others? Which incident do you think had the greatest impact on her?
  • What will you remember most after reading this novel?

Comments

  1. says

    Julie, that’s exactly how the book affected me. I can’t say that I actually “liked” it because I’m not sure it’s a book you really like. But it was interesting and thought provoking, and I, too, was able to have a lot of interesting discussions from it.

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  2. says

    The nature of this book could probably spark hours’ worth of discussion. I didn’t care for the end of the book because I think it sends the message that it was the actions of others that caused the main character to commit suicide. The reality is that Hannah didn’t have the coping skills she needed to pull her out of her negative thought pattern. She went through many of the same things millions of teenagers go through, but she wasn’t able to process them or handle them in a healthy way. I dislike that she blamed 13 other people for her inability to cope. Unfortunately, that’s the problem with depression/suicidal thinking: it seems like there is no hope and it is hard to see that the problems/emotions are only temporary. The other narrator seemed to touch on this, but the message wasn’t conveyed as strongly as it could have been.

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  3. says

    I found myself really mad at the other characters at the end for not seeing the signs especially the teacher she finally confined in. It did make me realize how much our actions can affect others. A small part of me wanted her to be alive to teach people a lesson (a very mean one) but a lesson none the less.

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    • says

      Hi Jane! No need to sign up. It’s open to anyone. For November, we’ll be reading The Happiness Project. If you read it and post a review on your blog, just send me your link (pbfingers@gmail.com) before Dec. 4 and I’ll include your review! If you don’t review it, but still read it, we’ll be discussing the book on Dec. 4 when I list discussion questions for everyone to answer in the comments section of my review post.

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  4. Molly says

    I have not been able to get my hands on the book because there’s a wait list at my library, but your review of the story (how you feel it’s changed how you interact with people on a daily basis) and the comments above intrigue me even more! I love books that stick with you, even when you’re not reading them, and can stir up passionate discussions.

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  5. says

    Although, this wasn’t a book with a happy ending that I usually pick up, it is one that has stuck with me and made me think about the story even after I was finished with the book. To me, the best books are those that are hard to put down and keep you thinking about them…..so this book gets 5 stars from me.

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  6. says

    I’ve been wanting to join this no-obligations book club for a while now, but I had already read 13 Reasons Why. Nonetheless, I was super excited to see what others would say about this book. When I taught middle school, I loved sharing this book with my more mature students because it really opens students’ eyes to how their actions can affect others. Often in books where one character commits suicide, the writing slant is to have the reader feel sorry for that person for everything tragic that happened in his/her life. But I LOVE how Asher writes in such a way as to give those left behind a voice, too, in Clay. When someone commits suicide, there isn’t just one victim; there are many.

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  7. Ashley says

    I was definitely waiting for something a little bigger to happen with each page that I turned. I was hoping for the ah-ha moment of exactly WHY Hannah committed suicide.I know the entire point of the book was to give 13 reasons why, but I felt like the reasons could all of been played out differently. Maybe the sheer number of reasons was a big contributor as well. I think a lot of these reasons most high-school students go through on a daily basis so I found it hard to sympathize with her during some parts of the story. I have experienced suicide within my family, so I know what an emotional toll it can take but it also frustrates me that she felt like she had to take her own life at a time that is hard for a lot of people.

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    • says

      ahh! how did this happen!? i cannot find your email – even in my spam folder. did i respond to you? ah! i added your link to this post but still wish it could’ve been included earlier. i am also looking into a new system where book club participants can add their own links to prevent something like this from happening in the future since i know i’d be really bummed.

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  8. says

    I reviewed this book for my blog, too, about a week ago. It was really sad, and made me think of my own actions, in how I treat people. I do, however, agree with the previous comment that Hannah didn’t have the coping mechanism to prevent herself from committing suicide. When she went to the teacher, she was internally begging for him to realize what was going on, but as a teacher, I don’t think he’s allowed to voice his conclusions. She would’ve had to come out and tell him.
    I kept thinking that Hannah hadn’t really killed herself. Thi was all some kind of joke, despite Clay stating the fact at the beginning. Everyone handles things differently, though, and instead of confiding in her parents, or that teacher, so she could get help, she just let go.
    A fast read, but very sad.

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  9. says

    I read this book and I really enjoyed it. It was definitely an easy read, not super dense which I like because it gives me a nice break from classes. I love this book club idea, can’t wait to hopefully join in for the next month!

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  10. says

    Thanks for your review and the comments of others. I ended up not finishing the book. Having lost a couple of friends to suicide and having dealt with profound depression in my family I just couldn’t get comfortable with the “blame.”

    Do we need to think about how we talk to others…even people we don’t know well? Absolutely. I maintain that part of maturity is learning that what is behind actions is often not personal, but a reflection of what is going on inside that person.

    I can understand why this would be a compelling read and discussion for a younger audience, but as an adult with the suicide “experience” I have, I was unable to finish it.

    I love reading all the different reactions to this book!

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  11. says

    I like that you commented on how it made YOU think about your actions and words. I think that was the point, and I agree, that would be awesome if everyone could think like that. It was so sad though. It’s hard for me to read stuff like that-esp when I knew there wasn’t a ‘happy’ ending. I also think it’s so sad that no one saw the signs and DID anything about it.

    It is def a book that high schoolers should read!

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  12. Michele says

    I wasn’t thrilled. I flew through it and thought is was very juvenile. Something I would get for a 13 year old to read. Yes, the topic was very serious, but the way it was written, I just couldn’t take it as serious as I should have.
    Hannah’s problems seem to be very common in the life of a teenager, so it was hard to sympathize with her.

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  13. says

    -I read the book very quickly and was very interested in the book, but I guess I did want a little more from the end.
    -It seems to me like the rumors about her and the fact that those rumors effected others’ reactions to her was really the main thing that led to her suicide. But, I think the fact that she did actually reach out to her guidance counselor and he didn’t do much was just the icing on the cake.
    -I will remember that, as a high school teacher, if someone reaches out to me about concerns in their life to treat them with respect and concern and provide any sort of help that I can. Throughout the book, I kept thinking of things I could have said/done that would make my students feel offended. I pray that I never, ever do that!

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  14. Summer says

    I agree with you on the makes you think about yourself” aspect. I couldn’t put it down, though I found Hannah to be incredibly selfish. She was punishing everyone for the wrongs they had done, even if they were unintentional. How tremendously traumatizing. She needed help and yet barely attempted to fix anything. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to pull out of clinical depression, and she seemed to refuse to try.

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    • Summer says

      Oh and I can’t believe I forgot to mention- I HATED how the book glamorized suicide. It makes it seem like a simple way to be memorable and understood. That’s disgusting.

      I actually liked this book though… weird

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  15. says

    I really don’t think I could even get started on a book with that premise. It would make me to sad. I really admire that you keep picking thoughtful books for your club! I really need to branch out of historical fiction and autobiographies :(

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  16. Carissa says

    I enjoyed this book. I was a bit disturbed by the way someone could plan out the tapes yet still want to end her life, but I can relate to the bullying and how each individual scenario seems harmless, but the compound effect is disastrous. The feeling of no escape, of having good choices not be the right choice – and vice versa – is tough. I think more parents should read this book, especially parents of teenage girls.

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  17. Robin says

    I listened to this book on audiotape which gave it an interesting twist. I have very mixed feelings about the book in general. But feel it is a good thought provoking choice of reading for young adults.

    I think it did a good job of getting to the heart of the ripple effects our words and actions can have on other people. Adding examples of Hannah initiating words & actions that would have harmful ripple effects on others was smart literature for me.

    In my opinion, the story line did not successfully build to a level where the suicidal ending was believable. I felt the blaming of others to be a unfortunate pervasive element. In addition I thought the placement of characters (Clay & the teacher) who would have helped her given the opportunity to be out of place.

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  18. Terri says

    •What did you think of the ending of the book? Did you feel like it left you wanting more or did you feel satisfied with the conclusion?
    I did feel the ending wasn’t ended. I did want more. I feel the author may have been feeling a sequel.
    •Do you think one of the 13 reasons Hannah detailed affected her more deeply than others? Which incident do you think had the greatest impact on her?
    I’m not sure Hannah’s reasons affected her more deeply than others. I feel she simply didn’t know how to deal with the situations internally. I’m not sure which incident impacted her the most. I don’t feel the book expressed that very well.
    •What will you remember most after reading this novel?
    How easily influenced the teenage years can be.

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  19. Amy says

    I read this book with my high school students. I was really hoping it would convey the message that your actions have a last effect on people even when you don’t think that they do. I also wanted them to learn that you never know how your actions will affect another person and that we don’t always know what others are going through. However, my students ended up thinking that Hannah was a drama queen and that none of those were good enough reasons to commit suicide. They think that she was overreacting because “things like that happen all the time in high school.” I was frustrated and really tried to get them to understand the underlying message I wanted to get across. Over time though, I realized that none of them had a friend or barely any of them knew anyone personally that had committed suicide so it was really hard for them to grasp those feelings of desperation and solitude that Hannah felt. I personally loved this book, as did my students. If you are a high school teacher, I highly recommend it (even if they don’t fully get the message you are trying to get across ;)

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  20. Gabriela says

    I actually went out and bought the book this evening after reading your review because I was so intrigued by the subject, and read it in one sitting….I think interesting is the word I’d use to describe it. Interesting and sad, but not necessarily deep.

    I liked how the book emphasized responsibility for peoples’ actions- it’s SO true that most teenagers (and many adults, for that matter) have no idea of just how much they can impact others, both negatively AND positively. For that reason, I think it’s a good book for high schoolers to read. It projects some of the issues that can come from bullying/name calling/rumor spreading/plain old meanness onto the bullies themselves, which is certainly eye-opening.

    However, I was intrigued by the plot of the book for the psychological premise, and that’s where it failed to deliver. I have the same gripe as a few of the commenters above me: Hannah victimizes herself without acknowledging that her pain comes from the excessive internalization of others’ actions, not the actions themselves. It’s difficult to be ostracized or labeled by your peers, but it takes a lot to push someone to suicide, and I think it should have been more clearly emphasized that Hannah’s depression was compounded, not caused, by others.

    That said, I found the book to be weirdly engrossing. It read a lot like a mystery novel! For a psychological take on things I definitely prefer books like The Perks of Being a Wallflower or She’s Come Undone, but I guess this was more straightforward and accessible.

    Sorry for the novel :)

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  21. Pam S says

    I kept hoping that maybe Hannah actually hadn’t committed suicide, but it does really make you think about life and how little things may seem to us can really affect someone else.

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  22. Jen says

    I thought the same thing in that it was very juvenile. As soon as I picked it up at the library, I thought it had to have come from the young adults section. It may be something good for middle schoolers or high schoolers to read as a way to approach the topic of suicide and how to best treat others. I think Hannah went though what alot of teenagers go through, but she did not have the coping skills to deal with them. An interesting look at a very serious topic, but definitely written for a younger crowd.

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  23. says

    I really did enjoy this book – I have a long drive to school so I have been getting books on tape, which I think provides a different emphasis to books, especially this one. When I went to pick it up I was surprised to find it in the Young Adult section and didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into. But I really enjoyed it – I feel like it raised really good points about suicide, especially with teens. Like you, Julie, I found myself really thinking about this book when I was away from it, and it made me think about how I treat people because I don’t know everyone’s personal story or day-to-day life.

    I thought I emailed my review in, but guess not! :) Here’s a link to my review:
    http://itssweetforcertain.wordpress.com/book-reviews/

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