Books contemporary fiction mental illness mystery Realistic Fiction Young Adult

Between the lines of “Thirteen Reasons Why”

The International Bestseller, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is one of the most astonishing and powerful books I’ve ever read – and that’s putting it lightly. The novel is extremely compelling, I couldn’t put it down and, honestly, it moved me more than I care to admit. Asher gave us a strong and eye-opening story that changes the way we see the world around us, and changes the way we view ourselves and the parts we play in other people’s lives. Thirteen Reasons Why is a desperate, heartbreaking, yet ultimately hopeful novel.

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 returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker –his classmate and first love — 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. All through the night, Clay keeps listening, following Hannah’s recorded words throughout his small town – and what he discovers changes his life forever.

13Reasons Why

It doesn’t matter how tough we are, trauma always leaves a scar. It follows us home, it changes our lives, trauma messes everybody up. Even the things that don’t scar on the surface, they scar us internally so that sometimes it’s only ourselves that can see it. And even then, in trauma we’re concerned with one overriding question: How did this happen? What was the mechanism of injury? Every part of trauma tells a different piece of a story, and until you look at each and every injury, you can’t see what went wrong.

This is what Hannah Baker does in Thirteen Reasons Why. Using the tapes, she goes back to the beginning and points out all thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Each tape blaming a specific person. However, I don’t really think she meant to blame these people specifically, only their actions.

Things that they did to her started a snowball effect of everything that happened to her. The things they did to Hannah started a reputation about her that other people believed in and reacted to, and this had a snowball effect. So what seemed like small and insignificant actions of others, actually majorly affected her life.

These actions caused the biggest trauma that anyone could ever experience: suicide.

Despite having her thirteen reasons, Hannah’s main point is that she can’t really blame one thing, one reason, or even one person, for the reason she decided to take her own life. She tells us that everything is connected, everything is interlinked. There is no one reason, it is a build up of everything that has happened to her.

“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything.” – Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why.

We talk about the mechanism of injury, about where it all started, but the truth is, it’s sort of a myth. We can’t boil every injury down to one single blow. What hurts us is cumulative. It happens over time. We absorb blow after blow, shock after shock, painful hit after hit. But even then, even if we know exactly how we got there, it doesn’t mean we can fix it. This is what happened to Hannah.

When reading Thirteen Reasons Why, everything I’ve mentioned perviously was what was the most intriguing to me and compelled me to read further. However, a deeper message stood out to me the more I progressed through the book.

I realised that the message that Asher was trying to get across was that we don’t really know the depth of how we impact other people in our lives. Even if someone shrugs off a joke or a comment you made at them – doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. If we make someone laugh or happy, we might just have made their whole day, or week. The point is we don’t know how much of what we do affects the lives of others.

“I guess that’s the point of it all. 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.” – Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why.

With a bit of research, I found that this is exactly what Asher was trying to get at in Thirteen Reasons Why. Asher has previously said that he wanted to open people eyes to the realisation that what we do impacts the lives of others, and to make people think about ho we really treat people and to remember this the next time we hold someone up for ridicule. Because when we do, we have to take responsibility when other people act on it. Asher said:

“Basically, even though Hannah admits that the decision to take her life was entirely her own, it’s also 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 rumour, 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 on the lives of others; that’s undeniable. My favourite quote came from a girl who said Thirteen Reasons Why made her want to ‘be wonderful.’ How awesome is that!” – Jay Asher on Thirteen Reasons Why.

Asher was trying to teach us about the profound affect we have on people. To make us think twice about our actions and words towards others. Thirteen Reasons Why has changed me in that way, made me more aware of the power of my own words and actions on others and made me want to strive to be a better person. To “be wonderful”. The question is, what about you?

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