Thirteen Reasons Why
|Audio read by||Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone|
|Cover artist||Christian Fuenfhausen|
|Country||United States of America|
|October 18, 2007|
|Media type||Print (hardback)|
|LC Class||PZ7.A8155 Th 2008|
Thirteen Reasons Why is a young adult novel written in 2007 by Jay Asher. It is the story of a young high school student as she descends into despair brought on by betrayal and bullying, culminating with her suicide. She details the thirteen reasons why she was driven to end her life in an audio diary which is mailed to a friend two weeks after her death.
Thirteen Reasons Why has received recognition and awards from several young adult literary associations, and the paperback edition reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list in July 2011. A screenplay was written, based on the original release of the book, that became the basis of the dramatic television series 13 Reasons Why released through Netflix on March 31, 2017. The screenplay contains several deviations from the book, including additional characters and storylines.
The novel was published in trade paperback format by Penguin Young Readers Group, a division of Penguin Random House on June 14, 2011. Thirteen Reasons Why had remained in hardcover long past the usual one-year release-to-paperback schedule due to its continued grassroots popularity and sales fueled by author participation.
On December 27, 2016, the Tenth Anniversary Edition of Thirteen Reasons Why was published in hardcover, also by Penguin Young Readers Group. In this edition, the author's original, unpublished ending for the book is included, as well as a new introduction and an essay from the author, pages from the notebook that the author used while writing this novel, reader reactions, and a reading guide.
- Hannah Baker is the subject of the novel. She was a female high school student who commits suicide, leaving behind recorded tapes that implicated twelve people as the thirteen reasons why.
- Clay Jensen is the narrator of the novel. He is a shy high school student through whom Hannah's tapes are revealed in the novel. He is the subject of the ninth tape, on which Hannah clarifies that he was always kind to her and that he does not deserve to be on her list. Clay is the only person on the tapes who is not directly blamed as a reason for Hannah's death.
- Justin Foley is the subject of the first and tenth tapes. A year older than Hannah, he was her first crush and first kiss. Hannah blames Justin on the first tape for starting rumors that she is a slut, and she blames him on the tenth tape for allowing Bryce to rape Jessica.
- Alex Standall is the subject of the second tape. After breaking up with Jessica, he published a "hot or not" list, giving Hannah the title "Best Ass in the Freshman Class." Hannah believes this further reinforced her reputation of a slut started after her kiss with Justin.
- Jessica Davis is the subject of the third tape and a friend of Hannah's before Alex's "hot or not" list ended their friendship. Hannah blames Jessica for believing the rumors about her and telling people that Hannah stole Alex from Jessica. Jessica is later involved with Justin and raped by Bryce at a party.
- Tyler Down is the subject of the fourth tape. A classmate of Hannah's who worked as a photographer for the yearbook, Tyler allegedly stalked Hannah and took pictures of her through her bedroom window. Feeling unsafe, Hannah enlisted Courtney's help in catching the perpetrator, whom Hannah determined was Tyler based on his nervous reaction at school.
- Courtney Crimsen is the subject of the fifth tape and an acquaintance of Hannah's. Hannah describes Courtney as fake, despite being known at school as friendly. After helping Hannah catch Tyler, Courtney spreads rumors about finding sexual "toys" in Hannah's bedroom, further smearing Hannah's reputation and making her feel more alone. Courtney later accompanies Hannah to a party but leaves her after arriving.
- Marcus Cooley, the subject of the sixth tape, once went on a date with Hannah after matching with her through a Valentine's fundraiser. At a diner, Marcus tries to take advantage of her and calls her a "tease" when she rejects him. Following Hannah's death, Marcus takes part in throwing rocks at Tyler's window for stalking Hannah, but refuses to take responsibility for Hannah's accusations about himself.
- Zach Dempsey is the subject of the seventh tape. After trying to comfort Hannah following her confrontation with Marcus, he turns on Hannah when she rejects him. In a shared class, Zach takes Hannah's "notes of encouragement" so that she no longer receives the anonymous support the class previously gave her.
- Ryan Shaver is the subject of the eighth tape; he was briefly friends with Hannah when the two attended an out-of-school poetry class. After gaining her trust, Ryan steals and anonymously publishes one of Hannah's poems in the school newspaper. Despite the anonymous submission, Hannah is humiliated when her poem receives criticism.
- Jenny Kurtz is the subject of the eleventh tape and a cheerleader who offers to take Hannah home from her first party. She comforts Hannah, but after she hits a stop sign and fails to tell the police, Hannah blames her for causing a later car accident that kills another classmate.
- Bryce Walker is the subject of the twelfth tape and a frequent bully throughout the novel. At the first party Hannah attends, Bryce rapes an unconscious Jessica. Later, he invites Hannah into a hot tub at another party and rapes her. Hannah resists but it was futile, so she lets hetself go in despair.
- Mr. Porter is the subject of the thirteenth tape and the final person slotted to receive Hannah's reasons. He is the school counselor who fails to help Hannah when she admits to him that she is suicidal.
- Tony is a good-natured high school student who, though he is not on any of the tapes, receives copies of them just before Hannah's death. Though he tries to warn Hannah's parents, she commits suicide, leaving Tony to watch over the people who are named as reasons for her death. He particularly looks out for Clay as he struggles through the tapes.
- Skye Miller is a female high school student and former friend of Clay's who is not named on any of the tapes. Clay suspects she is suicidal and reaches out to her at the end of the novel.
High school student Clay Jensen receives a mysterious package in the mail with seven cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, a classmate who recently committed suicide. The tapes had also been sent to several other of her classmates, instructing each of them to visit each person mentioned. As he listens to the tapes, he learns that there is a side for each person to whom Hannah attributes her reasons for committing suicide.
- Justin Foley started a rumor at school that Hannah was a "slut" after they kissed once in the park
- Alex Standall reinforced the rumor by awarding Hannah "Best Ass" on a "hot or not" list
- Alex's ex-girlfriend Jessica Davis, who had once been Hannah's friend, spread rumors that Hannah was the reason she and Alex broke up
- Marcus Cooley tried to take advantage of Hannah during a date
- Tyler Down stalked her and took photographs of her while spying in her window
- Courtney Crimson spread stories about sexual "toys" she "found" in Hannah's room and later ditched her at a party.
- Zach Dempsey made unwanted advances toward her. After she rejected him, he took away her "notes of encouragement" from the only class that she looked forward to
- Ryan Shaver published one of her poems in the school paper without her knowledge, and it was harshly criticized
- Jenny Kurtz crashed her car into a stop sign and chose not to report it; this event eventually led to the death of a classmate
At this point, the tapes come to Clay, who Hannah apologizes for including because he does not deserve to be on the list; they had genuine feelings for each other, and kissed once at a party.
She mentions Justin again on a second tape, saying he left Jessica lying unconscious on a bed at a party. Hannah hid in a closet and witnessed someone raping her. Hannah says on the tape that Justin knew about this and let it happen. She also says that it's 'our fault' implying that she also blames herself for letting it happen. The next person listed is Bryce Walker, who is revealed to be Jessica's rapist. Hannah was walking past a party at Courtney's. Courtney, Bryce and some of the others were in the hot tub in just their underwear. Everyone left Hannah in the hot tub by herself and then Bryce got in and started to touch Hannah. Hannah tried to resist him but he forced himself on her and raped her. The last tape is for Mr. Porter, a temporary school counselor who told Hannah that if she was unwilling to press charges against "the boy" who raped her, she should "try to move on", even after Hannah expressed a desire to kill herself.
After sending the tapes to the next person on the list, Clay returns to school and runs into his classmate Skye Miller, whom he suspects is also suicidal. The novel ends with Clay reaching out to her.
Differences from the TV series
|In the book, Clay listens to all of Hannah's tapes in one night; in the TV series, he listens to them over several days.|
|The character in the book who was Marcus Cooley became Marcus Cole in the TV series.|
|The character in the book who was named Jenny Kurtz became Sheri Holland in the TV series.|
|Mr. Porter's first name is not listed in the book, but he is named as Kevin in the TV series.|
|The second character to be named on the tapes in the book was Alex Standall; in the TV series it was Jessica Davis.|
|The ninth character to be named on the tapes in the book was Clay Jensen; in the TV series it was Justin Foley.|
|The tenth character to be named on the tapes in the book was Justin Foley; in the TV series it was Sheri Holland.|
|The eleventh character to be named on the tapes in the book was Jenny Kurtz; in the TV series it was Clay Jensen.|
|Neither Tony or Ryan are identified as gay in the book, and their sexualities are not explored as part of the plot.|
|In the book, it is revealed that Hannah kills herself via swallowing a handful of pills. However, in the television series, there is a scene of Hannah cutting her wrists.|
|In the book, Hannah's parents owned a shoestore. However, in the TV series they owned a drugstore.|
|In the book Courtney isn't identified as lesbian and never kisses Hannah. However, in the series, they make out in Hannah's bedroom.|
Since its release, the novel has received both praise and criticism. Despite the mixed critical reviews, the novel became a bestseller after its release, holding a spot at number 16 on USA Today's list of Top 100 Books of 2017 after the release of the Netflix adaptation earlier that year. While the show's popularity increased interest in the novel, its notoriety among suicide prevention groups drew criticism of the novel's premise. After the show's release, school psychologists criticized the novel's premise for failing to address mental illness and making Hannah's death seem like the result of "stressors or coping challenges."
Another concern is how the novel's subjects of bullying and suicide impact young adult readers. Despite its proposed controversy, Festus High is one example of a school that supports the novel. According to Angela Beumer Johnson, through reading, young adults can learn about different behaviors to look for and determine what could be harmful to others. Further, educators James Chisholm and Brandie Trent argue that incorporating the novel into school curriculum can not only increase students' reading comprehension and analytic skills, but their ability to apply the themes of the novel in their own lives, as well. Other proponents of teaching the novel claim that its use in school anti-bullying efforts benefits young adult readers who are close in age to the characters; the authors encourage high schools to adopt the novel as a means of starting conversations on bullying. More generally, the novel has been hailed by adults outside the classroom as being a supplement to local initiatives in starting the conversation between parents and their children about suicide.
Due to its depictions of sexual assault, in particular, another question about the novel is whether it should be given a warning label to alert readers of the content. Alev Scott takes up this question, arguing that adding a precaution at the beginning of the piece could create a negative mindset that readers will carry with them into the reading, even if they might not have initially had this mindset. Nevertheless, especially after the release of the Netflix show, critics are revisiting the novel to question whether it glorifies suicide.
In May 2017, the curriculum director in Mesa County School District in Colorado ordered librarians to stop circulating the book due to a rash of student suicides. After three hours of deliberation by librarians and counselors, the books were returned to circulation when it was determined that the book was not as graphic as the TV series. Notices were sent to parents within the school district alerting them to the possible influence of the series.
On October 29, 2015, it was announced that Netflix would be making a television adaptation of the book with Gomez instead serving as an executive producer. Tom McCarthy was hired to direct the first two episodes. The series is produced by Anonymous Content and Paramount Television with Gomez, McCarthy, Joy Gorman, Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Mandy Teefey, and Kristel Laiblin serving as executive producers. Katherine Langford replaced Gomez for the role of Hannah Baker but left after two seasons. The series currently has three seasons with a fourth in development extending the original plot from the novel.
- 2013 – Abraham Lincoln Award winner
- 2010 – South Carolina Young Adult Book Award winner
- 2009 – International Reading Association Young Adults' Choice list
- 2009 – Writing Conference's Literature Festival
- 2008 – Best Books for Young Adults YALSA
- 2008 – Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers YALSA
- 2008 – Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults YALSA
- 2008 – California Book Award silver medal – Young Adult
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