Thirteen Reasons Why
|Audio read by||Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone|
|Cover artist||Kendra List|
|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 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, but not limited to, name changes, plot elements, and character personalities.
Thirteen Reasons Why was first published in hardcover on October 18, 2007, by RazorBill, a young adult imprint of Penguin Books. The audiobook on CD was released at the same time by Listening Library, a division of Penguin Books, featuring the voices of Debra Wiseman as Hannah and Joel Johnstone as Clay.
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 book's original ending 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 A** 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 a once-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 when she does not actively resist him.
- 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 one day receives a mysterious package in the mail with seven cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, a classmate who recently committed suicide. The tapes had been sent to various other people before arriving at Clay's front door. 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. The first, Justin Foley, started a rumor at school that Hannah was a slut after they kissed once in the park. Alex Standall reinforced this by awarding Hannah "Best Ass" on a "hot or not" list. Because of this list, Alex's ex-girlfriend Jessica Davis started spreading rumors that Hannah was the reason she and Alex broke up. They got into a fight and Jessica slapped Hannah. Jessica then continued the rumor that Hannah had ruined her relationship with Alex. Shortly later, Hannah learned that someone was stalking her and taking photographs, who she suspected to be Tyler Down. The next tape goes to Courtney Crimson who had helped her discover what Tyler was doing. Courtney spread stories about sexual "toys" she "found" in Hannah's room while they were catching Tyler and later ditched her at a party. Around Valentine's Day, Hannah went on a date with Marcus Cooley for a cheerleader fundraiser and he tried to take advantage of her. Hannah refused and he called her a tease. Zach Dempsey swooped in to comfort her, but she refused his advances, as well. In response, he took away her "notes of encouragement" from the only class that she looked forward to. When she later anonymously wrote a note saying she was considering suicide, no one took it seriously. Hannah eventually joined a poetry group outside of school that Ryan Shaver was a part of, but he stole one of her poems and published it anonymously. It was harshly criticized, and Hannah took it personally even though it was published without her name.
At this point, the tapes come to Clay, who Hannah apologizes for including because he does not deserve to be on the list. She says he is the nicest person she has met and even seeks out time to spend with him at party where they end up kissing. She says she wishes she had more time to know him, but the last time they spoke was at that party. Up until this point, Clay has been following the rules of the tapes: listening to them in order and following the instruction of where to visit in each one.
The next person on the list is Justin, who is mentioned on a second tape for leaving Jessica lying unconscious on a bed at a party. He knew that she was not in a fit state, yet left her there. Hannah hid in a closet, but witnessed someone raping Jessica. Hannah says on the tape that Justin knew about this and let it happen. The next tape is for Jenny Kurtz, a cheerleader that crashed into a stop sign and chose not to report it; this event eventually led to the death of a fellow classmate. The next person listed is Bryce Walker, who is revealed to be Jessica's rapist. Hannah was walking past a party where Bryce and Courtney were in a hot tub and, not caring about much at this point, joined them in only her bra and panties. When Bryce started to touch Hannah, Courtney left the hot tub. When Hannah did not actively resist Bryce, he raped her. The last tape is for Mr. Porter, a temporary school counselor that told Hannah that if she was unwilling to press charges against "the boy" that raped her, then 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 becoming suicidal. The novel ends with Clay reaching out to her.
Differences from the TV series
|The character in the book who was Marcus Cooley became Marcus Cole in the TV series.|
|The character in the book who was 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 third character to be named on the tapes in the book was Jessica Davis; in the TV series it was Alex Standall.|
|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.|
|The television series has a much deeper plot, and does not solely depict why Hannah Baker killed herself.|
|In the novel, Hannah rides a bike, which she gifts to Tony shortly before her death. In the television series, Clay rides a bike and is nicknamed "Helmet" by Hannah.|
|In the book, characters are not described in a way that reveals their appearance, ethnicity, or sexuality. Neither Tony or Ryan are identified as gay in the book, and their sexualities are not explored as part of the book.|
|Hannah is not raped by Bryce Walker in the book, which she explicitly confirms to Mr. Porter in the final tape. However, she does give in to his sexual advances in a hot tub.|
|In the television series, Clay listens to the tapes over a number of days. However, in the book, Clay listens to the tapes continuously, immediately after receiving them.|
|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 open her wrists.|
Since its release, the novel has received both praise and criticism. The novel ranked number 3 on a list of the most "Challenged Books" of 2012, but also garnered praise, becoming a bestseller after its release and 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 mere 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 through Hannah's reasons.
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.
- 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
- 2007 – Kirkus Reviews Editors Choice
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