Audiobook Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Genre: YA contemporary fiction
Publisher: Razorbill
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone
First line: “Sir?” she repeats. “How soon do you want it to get there?”

High school junior Clay Jensen arrives home from school to find a package waiting for him. It’s addressed to him with no return address and contains 7 cassette tapes. When Clay pops the first tape into his tape deck, he is shaken to hear the voice of Hannah Baker, a classmate who recently committed suicide. Hannah has recorded these tapes in order to explain the reasons she decided to take her own life. As Clay listens to Hannah connect the dots, he realizes that the people in Hannah’s life touched her, sometimes harming her, in ways they never could have imagined. As he listens, he is left to wonder where he fits into the grim picture Hannah is drawing.

I have read so many glowing reviews of Thirteen Reasons Why that I was left wondering if it could even begin to live up to its reputation. It did. I listened to the audiobook edition. Joel Johnstone read the words of Clay; Debra Wiseman read Hannah’s words from the tapes. This had a chilling effect – it made it seem so real to hear those words in the voice of a teenage girl. I couldn’t stop listening – it was absolutely riveting. I knew that Hannah’s story was devastating, and yet I had to know how all the pieces fit together – and especially how Clay fit into the picture.

There were so many people whose lives brushed up against Hannah’s. At best, they were self-involved and petty. At worst, they were controlling and abusive and evil. This story is a graphic depiction of how we effect the people around us – and how our actions and words have the power to effect someone’s life for good or for bad. As I listened, I became especially frustrated and angry at the adults in Hannah’s life: her parents, her peer communications teacher, her guidance counselor. All of these people should have seen the signs in Hannah’s life, the signals she was sending that she was coming to the end of herself – but they didn’t. The missed them, and the consequences were deadly.

This is definitely a must-read for teenagers, because at that time of life it is too easy to become self-involved and make choices based on the need to fit in or impress others, without thought to how those choices will shape our future – and the futures of those around us.

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17 Responses to Audiobook Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

  1. I enjoyed this book too, but found Hannah pretty self-centered too. Her parents lack of involvement is unacceptable, but all too true these days, I’m sad to say.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – I struggled with that, too – as I have a tendency to be black and white and think suicide is a selfish choice. Her parents made me very angry.

  2. Kathy says:

    Before I even finished reading your review, I jumped over and put this on hold at the library. They only had the book, not the audio, but I am still looking forward to reading it. This will be my first YA read since I WAS a YA. Thank you for this motivating review.
    .-= Kathy´s last blog ..Review – The Wives of Henry Oades, Johanna Moran =-.

  3. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    I’ve heard of this book, and it scares me half to death. Can I handle something like this, with a near teen of my own? Would it help me? I don’t know. For the time, I’ve decided to shove my head in the sand.
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Look Again – Lisa Scottoline (audio) =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sandy – you are such an involved parent – I can’t even begin to imagine you missing the signs like these parents did.

  4. Kathleen says:

    I read about this one on a few other blogs and added it to my list. It sounds like a book that all high schoolers should read so they can be more aware of how their behavior, comments, etc effect the people around them.
    .-= Kathleen´s last blog ..Read the Book AND See the Movie =-.

  5. S. Krishna
    Twitter: skrishna
    says:

    I liked this book, but like Kathy, I had some problems with it. I have issues with someone blaming someone else for their suicide.

    Still, you’re definitely right – it’s such a powerful book and really makes you think about how you act towards other people.
    .-= S. Krishna´s last blog ..Book Review: Savor the Moment – Nora Roberts =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Swapna – I have the same issue as you – but it helped to remind myself that Hannah was still a teenager – emotions are so overblown and can overwhelm a person easily at that stage of life. I would have a bigger problem with an adult protagonist trying to do the same thing. Mostly it made me angry with her parents – where were they in all of this?

  6. softdrink says:

    Jay Asher is a local author to me…for some reason, I find that incredibly cool, since some of the locations (the theater, the coffee shop) in his fictional town are recognizable.
    .-= softdrink´s last blog ..The Seamstress =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Jill – I had the same experience when I read Geography of Love and recognized all the Spokane landmarks!

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  8. manda says:

    i did read the book but i still do not understand why this young sweet girl would kill her self all because of some wrong turns in her life and drama. to me it seems kinda of sillly, but not in a offending way

  9. aiko says:

    Actually it’s scary. I mean, Western teens tend to commit suicide or go for drugs. I don’t know but Asian teens are a lot different. Maybe because Western teens really has different environment. It’s something like this, Asian teens go to school because they are poor. That keeps their mind of to some disturbing thoughts. Western teens doesn’t have something to be busy about because they have money and they can do whatever they want until it will bore them. Aside from that, Western parents also have different attitudes. It’s all about culture and upbringing.