You can't stop the future. You can't rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret... is to press play.
Clay Jensen doesn't want anything to do with the tapes Hannah Baker made. Hannah died two weeks ago. Her secrets should be buried with her.
Then Hannah's voice explains that there are thirteen reasons why she died - and Clay is one of them. If he listens he'll learn that he is, in some way, responsible for her death.
All through the night, Clay keeps listening. He follows Hannah's recorded words around his small town.. and what he discovers will change his life forever.
If you're listening, you're too late. Alone this little phrase makes the book thrilling. 13 reasons why is a young adult novel written by Jay Asher. The author presents a technical elegance for linking words from Hannah's tapes with Clay's reactions and memories which is really remarkable. The novel is heartbreaking, tragic and draws attention to important topics as for example suicide, responsibility, sexuality, alcohol abuse, appearances and a lot more. If you ask around you will probably notice that the opinions are very divided on this book: either people like it or not. I think that the novel is well written and it clearly shows that everything we do may have an impact on other lives, however this doesn't mean that we should walk on egg shells. The book may be depressive for some people, but the message is very important: if you think that you don't matter and that nobody cares about you, just remember that you do. Everyone matters!
Hannah: she narrates her point of view on cassette tapes shortly before her suicide.
Clay: he reacts to Hannah's words and thus proves a different perspective. He injects his thoughts and it's a present tense narration.
Structure of the book
Every chapter is a different cassette tape and the author presents a dual narrative. They use stop, play and pause signs to introduce a new point of view. There are also lots of flashbacks and present tense reactions by Clay who listens to the tapes in course of one night whereas the story stretches over two years.
Hannah's perspective is quite sarcastic. The atmosphere is quite dark, gloomy and depressive, mature and reflective. Clay is sad, angry and confused.
Cresmont in California, at a High School, Monet's café, Rosie's Diner, various private houses, the playground.
Thirteen reasons why Hannah killed herself
Reason 1: Justin Foley
Hannah shared her first kiss with him, which was something special and innocent for her. He started the first rumour about Hannah and thus destroyed her reputation and her hope for a new start at this new school.
Reason 2: Alex Standall
Alex was her first friend at the new school but he only used her for his revenge on Jessica. He put her name on a list, which was an invitation for others to treat her like a sexual object.
Reason 3: Jessica Davis
Jessica believes the rumours and she isn't interested in the truth. She betrays their friendship and lets Hannah down because she is jealous of her. Jessica gives her a visible scar by hitting her and scratching her face.
Reason 4: Tyler Down
Tyler invaded the sanctity of her bedroom. Hannah didn't feel save in her home anymore, Tyler invaded her privacy and compromised her freedom.
Reason 5: Courtney Crimsen
Courtney uses Hannah for her own convenience. She betrays her by spreading rumours and lets her down in times of serious danger and need.
Reason 6: Marcus Cooley
Marcus sexually abuses of Hannah and ignores her telling him to stop. He does it on purpose because he believes the rumours that have been spread about Hannah.
Reason 7: Zach Dempsey
Zach takes revenge on her because she rejected his sexual advances. Therefore he steals her encouragement notes and thus destroys her hopes, this is when she starts to think about suicide.
Reason 8: Ryan Shaver
Ryan steals Hannah's most private thoughts, her poems. He betrays her confidence in him and lets her down again. He allows the entire school to analyse and ridicule Hannah's poem.
Reason 9: Clay Jensen
Hannah wants to give him an explanation for her suicide and she wants to say that she is sorry. Clay also sort of failed to help her.
Reason 10: Justin Foley
Justin let Bryce rape Jessica so he is responsible for what happened to her. It's what we call non-assistance to a person in danger.
Reason 11: Jenny Kurtz
Although Jenny was nice and considered towards Hannah, she is selfish and provokes the death of a person by refusing to report the missing stop sign.
Reason 12: Bryce Walker
Bryce sexually abuses Hannah twice: first in the shop by grabbing her butt, then by touching Hannah in the hot water tub and ignoring her distress. He contributes to her final downfall and suicide, he gives her the final blow.
Reason 13: Mr. Porter
Mr. Porter listens to Hannah and is aware of her being suicidal. He offers to help her but only half-heartedly. He doesn't really try to prevent her from killing herself.
What is Clay's role in this story, both as a narrator and as a character?
To understand Hannah's point of view the reader has to hear Clay's reactions to her story. He provides a different perspective, which allows the reader to make up his own mind about this story.
As a character the reader knows that Clay is in love with Hannah. He is kind and nice, so he functions as the opposite of the other characters on the tapes. He is also the opposite of Hannah because all the rumours about Clay are positive - he thus represents what kind of person Hannah was hoping to become at this new school. He is also scared of Hannah's reputation and partly believes the rumours he hears about her, which shows that although he is a nice guy he is not so different from the other people at their school. Clay is part of Hannah's life and so to tell the story completely and truthfully, Hannah needs to mention him. He also symbolises hope because without him the novel would be mainly sad, tragic and hopeless.
While listening to the tapes, Clay says to Hannah:
You chose this. You had a choice and you pushed me away. I would have helped you. (Personal opinion)
- Clay tried to help her, he tried to keep Hannah away from Bryce when they both worked at the cinema
- Hannah constantly pushed him away, she refused his help
- Hannah was struggling so hard with all the rumours that she was afraid of connecting with other people
- She was afraid of betrayal
- Clay was afraid of Hannah's reputation, this kept him away from her
- Hannah was a suicidal person, but nobody noticed it until it was too late
Why are so-called 'victim-blamers' wrong if they say that Hannah provoked Tyler Down to peep through her bedroom window the first time it happened?
- Hannah loved to sleep with her blinds half open so that she could see the stars and the sky while lying in bed
- Her father was worried about somebody peeping into her room, so he had checked from outside and made sure this wasn't possible
- Her father had proved that you really had to stand right in front of the window on your tiptoes in order to be able to see Hannah
Themes in 13 reasons why
- Rumours and gossip
- Betrayal / letting a friend down / using somebody for one's own needs
- Teen depression
- Sexually inappropriate behaviour
- Scars (visible and invisible)
- The snowball effect and the butterfly effect
- Alcohol abuse
Why is it fair to say that this novel is peopled with characters who do not act in a responsible way?
- Justin by spreading rumours about Hannah simply to boast with his friends
- Alex by publishing his list and inviting others to treat Hannah like a sexual object
- Wally by not intervening when Hannah is touched inappropriately by Bryce in his liquor store
- The people at Rosie's who turn a blind eye although they clearly see that Hannah is in distress
- Zach by stealing Hannah's encouragement notes and thus depriving her of the encouragement she desperately needs
- Justin and Hannah by not trying to prevent Jessica's rape by Bryce
- Courtney by turning a blind eye and leaving the hot water tub although she knows that by doing so she puts Hannah in great danger
- Jenny by driving a car although she is drunk and tired
- Jenny and Hannah by not reporting the missing stop sign to the police
- Ryan by stealing Hannah's poem and by publishing it, thus allowing the entire school to analyse her most private thoughts
- The teacher and her classmates from Peer Communication by refusing to seriously discuss the topic of suicide
- Mr. Porter by not trying to keep Hannah back from leaving his office although he knows that she is clearly suicidal
- Tony by not asking Hannah any questions when she, crying, hands over her bike in exchange for his cassette recorder
- Clay and all the other students who are not brave enough to stop Bryce in his disrespectful behaviour towards girls
What influence do rumours and reputations have on Hannah's and Clay's relationship?
Although Hannah and Clay like/love each other a lot, they never get really close because Hannah's reputation and the rumours surrounding her always stand in the way.
- Hannah gets attracted to Clay because of his spotless reputation. He represents who she was hoping to be at the new school
- Because Hannah is new at the school, Clay doesn't know her well enough to contradict or disbelieve the rumours. He thinks she is building up quite a reputation in a short time when he hears the rumours and he also starts looking at her differently because of the rumours he hears
- Hannah's reputation scares him. He is worried that she is too experienced for him so he won't have a chance with her
- Clay doesn't want to be seen hanging out with Hannah because he is afraid of what other people might think of him if he hangs out with an 'easy girl'
- Although Clay has fallen in love with Hannah, his love is overshadowed by the rumours he hears about Hannah. He is afraid to find out if these rumours are true or not because if they were, this would hurt him enormously
- When Hannah and Clay kiss at the party, Hannah suddenly draws back because the accumulation of all the bad things that have happened to her do not allow her to enjoy this innocent and pure moment of love
Like driving along a bumpy road and losing control of the steering wheel, tossing you - just a tad - off the road. The wheels kick up some dirt, but you're able to pull it back. Yet no matter how tightly you grip the wheel, not matter how hard you try to drive straight, something keeps jerking you to the side. You have so little control over anything anymore. And at some point, the struggle becomes too much - too tiring - and you consider letting go. Allowing tragedy... or whatever... to happen (p.124 Cassette 3, Side B)
What is Hannah talking about here? Explanation of the symbolic message.
Hannah is comparing her life to a bumpy road and she is talking about how at the beginning she manages to stay on the road despite the bumps, which means that she is able to control her life. However, with the time the car keeps sliding off the road more and more often, which symbolizes that the increasing number of rumours spread about her are making it more and more difficult for her to keep control over the direction her life takes. Finally, she is too tired to fight back and it seems easier to her to give up the control and to let go of her life.
- Bumpy road = difficulties you encounter in life
- Losing control of the steering wheel = losing control over the direction your life takes
- The wheels kick up some dirt = the rumours which are spread
- But able to pull it back = able to forget the rumours and to go on with your life
- No matter how tightly = it is not in your hands how your life turns out, others have too much influence
- Finally, it becomes too hard, tiring and painful to regain control over your life, so it is easier to give up
In what way are these lines representative of Hannah's story?
- From the beginning, her life at the new school was difficult because her schoolmates spread rumours about her which not only gave her a bad reputation but which also destroyed her hope for and chance of a new, clean start
- At the beginning she 'pulls back', which means that she tries to disprove and to ignore the rumours so as to be able to get on with her life
- She pushes away Bryce and Marcus, which should prove that she is not an easy girl
- However, she gradually realizes that she has no control whatsoever over her life, which is dictated by rumours spread by other people
- In the end she gives up because she has not enough strength left to keep fighting back