Study Guide

Thirteen Reasons Why Setting

By Jay Asher

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An Unnamed Town, Sometime in the 2000s

It's the Real Thing

Hannah was all about setting: her tapes even come with a map! She wants the people on her list to not only listen to her story, but to walk in her shoes, so to speak. Of course, the people on the list have already been to most of these local places, but she wants them to experience their setting in a new way – from her point of view.

The different places in Hannah's life are actually a lot like the people she knows: threatening, uncomfortable, and not at all what they're supposed to be. The locations on her map are where things went wrong since she began high school as the new kid in town.

As we note in the section on "Genre," some of Thirteen Reasons Why's flavor comes from its realistic setting. We feel like all the places that Clay and Hannah describe could really exist – anywhere. This community could be just about any small city in the US. But as it turns out, author Jay Asher says that the story is based on the (real) California city where he grew up: San Luis. Places like the Crestmont Theater and Monet's Café are based on the real thing (source). Thirteen Reasons Why reality tour, anyone?

Now let's take a closer look at a couple places that stand out to Shmoop (and hopefully to you, too).

The Crestmont Movie Theater

But first, the theater where Hannah and I worked for one summer. A place where she was safe: the Crestmont. (8.235)

[. . . ] maybe it's not a red star on her map, but it should have been. […] It's a red star to me. (8.239-40)

The movie theater doesn't get a star on Hannah's map (meaning it's not one the places she wants her listeners to go). This is a good thing, really; it means that it doesn't represent her fall toward suicide. But even if Hannah doesn't associate the movie theater (and in turn, Clay) with her demise, Clay feels otherwise. He starts to feel like he really let Hannah down; and even if she doesn't realize it, the Crestmont is where this happened. He got the job there just to be close to her, and he still didn't reach out.

The Parties

This book seems to be very anti-party. Beer, fighting, drunk driving, hot-tubbing, rampant (and probably unprotected) sexual activity… Hmm, the only thing missing is the drugs.

Hannah dedicates four of the stars on her map to parties or bad party-related events. Courtney Crimson betrays Hannah at a party. Hannah turns away Clay at a party. Jessica Davis' alleged rape happens at the same party, as does the subsequent drunk-driving-with-Jenny Kurtz episode, which might have led to the death of another student. And finally, Hannah has sex with Bryce Walker (the alleged rapist) in the hot tub at Courtney's after a party she doesn't even go to.

The fact that so much of Thirteen Reasons Why goes down at parties just centers us more in the realm of high school drama, helping us remember the super-emotional world in which our characters live.

Thirteen Reasons Why Setting Study Group

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