Thirteen Reasons Why

Jay Asher

About the Author:
Jay Asher is an American writer of contemporary novels for teens. He was born in Arcadia, California, and grew up with a family that encouraged him to pursue his many interests—from guitar playing to writing. He attended Cuesta Community College after graduating from San Luis Obispo High School. It was here where he wrote his first two children’s books for a class called Children’s Literature Appreciation.

Deciding he wanted to become an elementary school teacher, he transferred to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. But he left his senior year in order to pursue his career as a serious writer. In 2002 he married his wife Joan Marie. Those early years found him working in various establishments, including a shoe store, libraries, and bookstores. Many of his work experiences had an impact on some aspect of his writing.  (Lit Lovers)

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier.  On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.  Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

Thirteen Reasons Why is the gripping, addictive international bestseller that has changed lives the world over. It's an unrelenting modern classic. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Questions:

  • How does Hannah and Clay’s dual narrative enhance the story? What additional details are revealed through this method of storytelling that might have otherwise remained secret if the book had been written from only one of their perspectives? How might the story have changed if the book had been written from one of the other people’s perspectives instead of Clay’s? For example, Tony’s?
  • Consider the title of the novel. Are each of Hannah’s thirteen reasons of equal importance? Which do you find to be the most unexpected? Who is responsible for Hannah’s death? Why do you think Hannah committed suicide?
  • The inside of the book jacket for Thirteen Reasons Why pictures a replica of the map that Hannah leaves for each of the people named on her tapes. What does being able to visually trace Clay’s route through town add to your reading experience?
  • Discuss the role that the presence of Hannah’s voice plays as a physical presence on the tapes. Is the impact the tapes have different from the impression a suicide note would have left? Why do you think she recorded and left the tapes? If her story had been recorded on CDs or MP3 files would the effect have been different?
  • At the beginning of the first tape, Hannah says, "...there are thirteen sides to every story." What does she mean by this? Are there sides to her own story that Hannah doesn’t know? Do you think she would have made different decisions if she had had the chance to listen to each of the other thirteen sides?
  • Hannah references rumors that she hoped to get away from when her family moved. What do you imagine she meant? Define the word "rumor." What comment does this story make about rumors in general? Discuss how rumors and truth can be connected. Is one more powerful than the other? Can rumors be positive? Does Hannah’s story change your original point of view on this subject?
  • Hannah also says, "No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same." Discuss the concept of individual perception and how it contributes to how Hannah’s story plays out. What do you think she means by "pushing it"? Further on, Hannah says, "...I’m sure you must have thought, This can’t be why I’m on the tapes.
  • Mr. Porter tells Hannah that besides filing charges with the police,she has two options for dealing with what happened at the afterparty. He tells her she can confront the other person or move on. Do you agree that these are her only options? What do you think Clay was hoping Mr. Porter would say to Hannah?
  • Reflect on Hannah and Clay’s last words to each other in the hallway at school. Discuss their greater meaning within the context of the story. Compare and contrast their last words to the other times in the novel when these same words are uttered under different circumstances. How is it relevant that Clay hears Skye utter these words?
  • Discuss Skye’s role in the story. Compare and contrast her to Hannah. What do you think Clay says to Skye when he catches up with her in the hallway?
  • Why do you think the author ended the story the way he did? How do you think Clay is changed by listening to Hannah’s tapes? Do you think the tapes had similar effects on the other listeners? Do you think they all followed Hannah’s instructions in the same manner that Clay did? How do you imagine their experiences to be different?
  • Could anything have saved Hannah? If one link in this chain of events had been different, which one do you think would have made the most difference for Hannah? How would a change in that specific event have impacted the remaining portion of the other thirteen reasons that followed?
  • What will you remember from reading this novel?
  • Read Jay Asher’s responses to thirteen questions about Thirteen Reasons Why, which are printed in the back of the book. If you had you the chance, would you have asked Jay the same thirteen questions after reading the story? What else would you like to know? Which of his responses surprised you the most? How do his answers help you to better understand Hannah and the novel?

(Questions issued the publisher.)