Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why

October 18, 2007

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....

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Young adult

288 Pages

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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.

Thirteen Reasons Why is a young adult novel written in 2007 by Jay Asher

Jay Asher (born September 30, 1975) is an American writer and novelist. He is best known for writing the bestselling 2007 book Thirteen Reasons Why.

Published works


    Thirteen Reasons Why (2007) This is the story of Hannah Baker, a girl who dies by suicide. She reveals her thirteen reasons for her decision in a series of several audio tapes mailed to a classmate with instructions to pass them from one student to another, in the style of a chain letter. Through Hannah's recorded voice, her classmates learn the reasons why Hannah decides to take her own life. Besides Hannah, the reader also sees the story through the eyes of Clay Jensen, one of the recipients of the tapes.

    The Future of Us (2011) This was co-written with Carolyn Mackler. This is the story of Josh and Emma, two teenagers who used to be best friends until a huge misunderstanding. In 1996, Josh helps Emma set up her internet, only to find Facebook - before it has been invented. There, they can see themselves 15 years in the future - status updates, information, friends, etc. Using Facebook, they are able to change their destinies.

    What Light (2016) Sierra's family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon - it's an idyllic place for a girl to grow up, except that every year they have to pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other. Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life begins to eclipse the other.

    Piper (2017) A graphic novel co-written with Jessica Freeburg and illustrated by Jeff Stokely.

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

  1. 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.


Cancelled film

Universal Studios purchased film rights to the novel on February 8, 2011, with Selena Gomez cast to play Hannah Baker.


– Abraham Lincoln Award winner 2013

– South Carolina Young Adult Book Award winner 2010

– International Reading Association Young Adults' Choice list 2009

– Writing Conference's Literature Festival 2009

– 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 2008



Kathryn Hughes

High-school student Clay Jensen ­returns home one day to find a package waiting for him. Inside nestle seven cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, a classmate who committed suicide a fortnight earlier. Hannah's instructions are clear: Clay is to listen to the tapes to find out how he fits into the puzzle of her death, then he is to mail them to the next person on a list of 13 names. There are 13 reasons why Hannah killed herself, and Clay is one of them.


This is a tremendous premise, even if it is preposterous. Hannah's cool voice and impeccable planning do not seem like the actions of a teen who is bent on self-destruction. Still, if you can get past this initial contrivance, you are in for a dizzying ride of suspense and revelation. Hannah is a master storyteller who unfolds her ­narrative with teasing economy. Not until the very end of the tapes do we get her full account of how the stresses of high-school life in Middle America have become unbearable.


There are no huge disclosures here, no murder plots or incest dramas. Instead, Hannah recounts a sequence of unhappy, small incidents of the type which might mark any young woman's adolescence. Mostly these are to do with low-level bullying, some of it sexual. A boy Hannah kissed in the park spreads the rumour that she is easy. Her new girlfriends – she has only just started at the school – are not the supportive sisters that she might have hoped for. When she sends signals that she is about to kill herself, students and staff fail to do much about it.


This, it turns out, is the reason that Clay, who seems a decent enough boy, is on Hannah's list. He has long had a crush on her, but allowed social ­awkwardness to keep him disengaged from the girl's growing ­distress. While nastier boys have violated Hannah's trust in herself and others, Clay's crime is one of omission. He has simply failed to step in and stop the rot.


This first book by Jay Asher is remarkable for its technical elegance in weaving words from Hannah's tapes with Clay's reactions and memories. Occasionally there are stumbles in meaning and tone, but the suspense is wound tight as we wait to find out who is next on Hannah's hit list. Less ­successful altogether is the ­characterisation of the girl herself. Hannah comes across not so much as a young soul in distress as a vengeful harpy who takes pleasure in naming and shaming the people whom she blames for her end. This moral confusion is heightened when we discover that Hannah herself has been guilty of some lapses of good citizenship.


But perhaps this is to read Thirteen Reasons Why too rigorously. It is not a moral polemic but a clever sleight of hand. What it manages to do very effectively is ask its teen readers to think carefully about how being part of a herd can mean trampling weaker, peripheral members. The book has been a huge hit in the United States, with young readers hailing it as both a warning and a manual for how to get through the high-school jungle. Young British readers will inevitably have to spend some time mapping the landscape of the book on to their own parish interests. Chances are, though, that the references to ­diners, driving and cheerleaders will add an exotic tang rather than detract from a story whose message is universal.


Age rating: for readers 12-18

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