Study Guide

Thirteen Reasons Why

By Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why Introduction

Full disclosure: this one doesn't have a happy ending. From the beginning of Thirteen Reasons Why, we know that our protagonist, Hannah Baker, has already taken her own life. We hear her stories through audio recordings she made before she died, and everything in the novel is tainted by the knowledge of her death.

But don't put it down just because it's tough: that's the beauty of it. Suicide is a more common issue for teens and young adults than for any other age group. The success of Jay Asher's novel shows that there is a real need for books dealing with topics – like suicide – that are hard to talk about. This novel, along with the 13RW Project it inspired, tries to create a safe, comfortable space where readers can explore the issue. It's not a fun topic, no; but it's one many young people grapple with every day.

After it came out in 2007, Asher and his publishers were a little surprised at how successful it turned out to be (it was his debut novel, after all). So how did Asher get the idea to write a book like this? Well, as so often happens with great stories, it was born from a few seemingly unrelated events. Asher himself had confronted the issue of suicide when his relative attempted to take her own life. An audio tour of King Tut's tomb inspired the novel's unique multimedia format. And finally, an icy Wyoming road inspired the suspenseful plot. (Interview in source.) Put it all together and you get a phenomenal novel that won pretty much every award out there. Including the Shmoop-loves-it award.

You won't be let down by this grim journey into the mind of Hannah Baker as she records her last words on the eve of her death. If you'd rather listen than strain those precious eyes, be sure to check out the excellent audiobook. We wonder if it's available on cassette.

What is Thirteen Reasons Why About and Why Should I Care?

This one's easy. Thirteen Reasons Why has actually saved lives. How often can a book stake that claim to fame? By touching teens who are suicidal and making sure those who aren't are more sensitive to their peers, Jay Asher has inspired a boatload of people.

That's not to say that this book will give you any easy answers about suicide, or that it represents the way all suicidal people think, feel, or act. Instead, it starts a conversation about a controversial topic that many of us will face at some point in our lives. In her tapes Hannah complains, "a thorough discussion [of suicide] did not begin in our class."(9.227). The novel argues that open, honest dialogue about suicide can help prevent it by providing needed information and empathy for those considering suicide or who might know someone suicidal.

The National Institute for Mental Health states that suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the US in 2007. But get this – it was the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24. This is incredibly sad, but it's our reality. And books like Thirteen Reasons Why allow us to face that grim reality and hopefully do our part to make a change.

Thirteen Reasons Why Resources

Websites

The Book Comes to Life
The official website for Thirteen Reasons Why, where you can see Hannah's map and listen to her tapes. Pretty neat stuff.

The Project
A fancy website where you can write your own review of the novel and read the reviews of other readers – turns out it's had a pretty big impact on a lot of people.

We <3 Jay Asher
Readergirlz has lots of fun info on our author. For example, he uses Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream to cure writer's block. Click away for more tasty tidbits.

Blog It Up
Get all the latest on Asher and his work, in his own words.

Blog It Up: The Sequel
This is a blog Asher shares with two other writers. We direct you to the Thirteen Reasons Why section of the blog, which includes lots of fun pictures of Asher at his old job at a public library.

Movie or TV Productions

2013 Can't Come Soon Enough
We are excited about the movie version of Thirteen Reasons Why, which is still in development.

Articles & Interviews

Chatter on Casting
According to this article, Wizards of Waverly Place star Selena Gomez is being cast as Hannah Baker in the upcoming film adaptation of the novel. What do you think of this choice?

"Jay Asher on Taboo Topics"
In this interview with the e-zine Today's Teen Writers, Jay Asher talks about his favorite scene in the book, and much more.

Readers Impacting Authors
Listening to actors recording the audiobook version of this novel changed Asher's thoughts about his own novel. Read about it here.

Saving Lives
Here's an interview with Jay Asher in which he talks about why novels for teens should deal with touchy subjects like suicide.

Videos

Banned Books: Bad
Jay Asher talks about how important it is for young people to be free to read the books they want to read.

The Trailer (Well, Almost)
Check out this fan-made trailer for a movie version of Thirteen Reasons Why. Pretty impressive.

Audios

Audiobook!
Thirteen Reasons Why is totally made for the audiobook format. Click here to listen to an excerpt from the beginning.

The Tapes
On the book's website, you can listen to recorded versions of all thirteen tapes. Do you think Hannah's essence is captured in this interpretation?

Images

Passion Makes Perfect
We love this shot. Asher looks really excited about the talk he's giving on Thirteen Reasons Why.

Il Copertino (The Book Cover)
The cover of the Italian edition of the Thirteen Reasons Why is way scary!

One More
This is the eerily tragic cover of the edition we read.