|This article is about the book. You may be looking for TV Series.|
|— Jay Asher|
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker––his classmate and crush––who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why. Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah's pain, and as he follows Hannah's recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever."
Thirteen Reasons Why was originally published in hardcover on October 18, 2007. It was released in paperback on June 14, 2011.
The Tenth Anniversary Edition of Thirteen Reasons Why included a new introduction and essay by the author along with reader reactions and a reading guide. It was published on December 27, 2016.
It has won many awards including the Abraham Lincoln Award and the California Book Award.
Thirteen Reasons Why can be seen as a segway in starting the conversation about suicide with children and young adults. Although, it was also criticized by suicide prevention groups as many thought it glorified suicide. The Suicide Awareness Voices of Education executive director was quoted saying he was worried "that young people are going to over-identify with Hannah in the series and we actually may see more suicides as a result."
13 Questions for Jay Asher
- Where did the overall idea for this book come from?
- It happened kind of backward with the idea for the unusual format coming before the subject matter. So I’ll tell you how both ideas came about, and then how they came together.
- Regarding the format: years before I began working on this book, I took a self-guided audio tour at a museum where each visitor received a Walkman with a cassette tape inside. Standing in front of each display you pressed 'play' and the narrator described what you were looking at. Then you hit 'stop' and moved on to the next display... all at your own pace. I’ve always been drawn to books with quite unique formats and kept the audio tour idea in the back of my mind. But for the longest time, I was only interested in writing humorous books, and I couldn’t find a funny story that needed to be told in that format.
- Regarding the subject matter: a close relative of mine attempted suicide when she was the same age as Hannah. Thankfully (and luckily), she survived. Over the years, we discussed the events and emotions that led her to make that decision. But she could never talk about one specific circumstance without telling me what preceded it or what followed. That idea that everything affects everything as Hannah says in the book, intrigued me.
- Both ideas came colliding together when I wasn’t really looking for a new book idea. A few weeks after getting married, my wife and I moved from California's sunny central coast to Sheridan, Wyoming for six months. I’d never driven in snow before, but there was snow on the ground the entire time we were there, which made me tense while driving. Once, while driving on an extremely dark road slicked with ice—the perfect conditions to inspire a suspense novel—the entire premise came to me: Hannah, Clay, the suicide, the shoebox full of cassettes, the back and forth narration. I pulled into the nearest gas station and sat there (with the heater running full blast!), scribbling ideas into a spiral notebook. By the time I went to bed that night, I'd written the introduction and part of Cassette 1: Side A.
- How did you go about writing to simultaneous narratives?
- Initially, I tried writing the book straight through. I’d give Hannah a few lines of dialogue, then get a response from Clay to break things up. But at that stage, I wasn’t entirely sure where Hannah’s story was going... and I had absolutely no idea where Clay came in. So a lot of his reactions were pointless, and I ended up deleting them. I went back to the beginning and wrote Hannah’s story all the way through, from the first reason all the way to the 13th. That process took longer than expected, and—for a very brief moment—I considered calling it finished and submitting the manuscript purely as Hannah‘s story. But I felt the dual narration was the only way to do it honestly. To let the readers understand her point of view in the way I intended, they needed to hear Clay's reactions immediately, and not in a subsequent chapter, as most books with multiple first-person points of view do.
- Was there any significance to choosing 13 reasons other than it being an unlucky number?
- Early on, my main female character was named Anna Baker. But I discovered several other novels dealing with suicidal characters named Anna, so I thought I’d give girls named Anna a break. When it came to deciding how many stories Ms. Baker was going to tell, it seemed obvious (because I love puns). A bakers dozen is 13, so there would be 13 reasons. When I sold the book, its title was “Baker’s Dozen: The AudioBiography of Hannah Baker.”
- When you started Hannah’s story, did you know who the main male character was going to be?
- When I began writing, I knew about ten of Hannah’s reasons, but none of them contained a character suitable to being the “eyes and ears” of the reader throughout the novel. On a road trip with my friend Robin, we brainstormed Clay’s character... and what he did to wind up on the tapes. Then I altered some of the other stories so that his tape happened at what I considered an appropriate spot in the novel.
- How did you decide on Hannah’s thirteen reasons?
- I first quizzed my wife and my female writing partners about what high school was like for them. We spoke about experiences that, at the time, they didn’t think they’d ever get over—as well as some they never have gotten over. But I also had my own teen years to draw from. Most of the real-life scenarios (either mine or those of my friends and relatives) are unrecognisable in the book because I was primarily inspired by the emotions of those scenes rather than the details.
- Are there any scenes in the book that do resemble real experiences?
- Mostly the embarrassing ones! When Clay's first meets Hannah at the going away party (where it’s freezing outside and his shoe comes untied), that’s exactly what happened when I met the girl I went on my first date with. When Zach and his friend slip on wet grass and tumble over each other while trying to impress Kat and Hannah, that also happened to me. And while Hannah’s first kiss tasted like chili dogs, mine tasted like hot dogs and mayonnaise, but my editor thought that was just a little too gross to believable, even though it was true. But there was one serious moment that made it into the book. In high school, when I was in Peer Communications, we had an almost identical suicidal note left in our teacher’s paper bag. It was also anonymous, and the class responded just like in the book. And we never found out who wrote it.
- What about the setting? Was anything inspired by actual places around your town?
- The town in Thirteen Reasons Why is a composite of the two cities where I grew up. I never liked long descriptions of what a place looks like... usually one or two small details make a setting more real than a ton of details. Setting scenes in actual locations (at least, they’re set there in my mind) helps me pick out those one or two telling details. For example, there still is an Eisenhower Park in Arcadia, California, though the rocket slide has been gone for many years. Rosie’s Diner was inspired by Rosie’s Ice Cream (which is no longer there), though I never went inside because it had a reputation just like in the book. And Blue Spot Liquor (also, no longer there), which I went into many times to load up on candy. The layout of the high school mimics that of my high school in San Luis Obispo, California. The public library is also the same. The art-deco Cresmont theater looks just like the Fremont theater. And Monet’s Garden Café looks like Linnaea’s Café... where I wrote a huge chunk of Thirteen Reasons Why. They even have scribble books there!
- Do you feel you were trying to put across a certain message with this book?
- A lot of authors answer “no” to that question, or at least say the book should speak for itself. And I can understand that, but I did have something I wanted to say; and because so many readers seem to understand it, I feel no reason to shy away from that question. Basically, even though Hannah admits that the decision to take her life was entirely her own, it’s important to be aware of how we treat others. Even though someone appears to shrug off a sideways comment or to not be affected by a rumor, it’s impossible to know everything else going on in that person’s life, and how we might be adding to his/her pain. People do have an impact the lives of others; that’s undeniable. My favorite quote came from a girl who says Thirteen Reasons Why made her want to “be wonderful.” How awesome is that!
- Goodreads — "Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher"
- ABC News — "13 Reasons Why' faces backlash from suicide prevention advocacy group"