This novel takes a suicide note to a whole different level. Instead of saying "Sorry, I just couldn't live anymore," this novel explains the events that led up to a young girl's final decision to kill herself.
In the days before Hannah Baker takes a fatal overdose of pills, she records her thirteen reasons for her decision on a series of tapes. Her reasons revolve around people who have entered her life and left a mark on her existences, most of them negative. Each person mentioned on the tapes will receive them, one person at a time. When your turn is finished, you pass them on to the next person mentioned. This novel follows one of the people she mentions, Clay Jensen, listening to the tape and wondering what he'd done to cause her to want to kill herself. Clay had a special connection with Hannah - he had a huge crush on her but was too afraid to make something of it. They had one meaningful experience where he thought things might have worked in his favor, only he learned from the tapes that Hannah was too far gone for such a thing to happen. The events leading up to their time together start from her first kiss and a rumor surrounding it and then "snowball" (as she says). There's one betrayal after another and moments in this poor girls life that really show the rotten card she was dealt. In the end, though, the knowledge of her horrible experience are meaningless because nothing can be done to change the past. The only good the comes from these tapes is knowing the affect "you" had on the girl and hopefully changing your ways.
This novel was extremely powerful. People don't think that a little rumor (It wasn't just a kiss. She let me feel her up.) will have that big of an affect on another person. Or to make a Who's Hot/Who's Not would have any pull in the actions of others. But if the rumor didn't happen, then the list wouldn't have come out and she wouldn't have lost her friend and the peeping Tom probably wouldn't have looked in her window and so on and so forth. The scary but true thing is that so many teens don't see the consequence of their actions. Something teeny tiny to them might mean the world to another person. One story completely broke my heart where someone did something as minor as taking away anonymous notes of encouragement meant for Hannah. But when the girl is fighting to make it through each day, those notes could make or break a her day. The events that Hannah went through were unbelievable, and they weren't entirely worst case scenario situations. She wasn't raped. She didn't have anyone in her life killed. She wasn't on drug. She was just a girl who drew the short straw in world of high school. To hear it all in her own words the days before to end couldn't be more impacting.
I also really liked how the novel followed Clay - the boy who loved her. If it had been any other person she mentioned, it wouldn't have been as impacting because none of the other people cared about her. More than likely, none of the others wondered what they could have done differently to keep her there on earth. More than likely, none of them even missed her. But Clay did and to see his reaction to her words, to see how they affected him, showed the true magnitude of her story.
This was a wonderful novel. The author did a spectacular job portraying the young girl's pain while still sending out strong messages. Words have consequences. Actions have reactions. And sometimes, when a person says "Leave me alone," they don't mean it at all. Don't wait until it's too late to tell someone how you feel or ask them if they want to talk. Sometimes all it takes is one person to care.