Clay is confused but interested when he gets a box of outdated audio tapes in the mail. After digging out his old stereo and beginning to listen, he is horrified by the voice that speaks: his old crush Hannah, who committed suicide mere weeks before. She committed suicide for a reason, she says. Thirteen reasons, as a matter of fact, and each of those thirteen reasons will receive the tapes in the mail, and have one tape dedicated to them. The novel is set up as a dual narrative, simultaneously telling Clay's story while also telling Hannah's. Both stories compliment, parallel, and overlap constantly.
When I started reading Thirteen Reasons Why, it became apparent very quickly what kind of story it was going to be, and I wasn't sure if it was going to be particularly effective at it. Suicide stories, especially ones like this, can turn out extremely heavy-handed, melodramatic, and insincere.
But I was surprised in a good way at how excellently Asher told the story. I think the most effective part was that we get into Clay's head and REALLY understand how he is feeling at each given moment. We get his side and Hannah's, and his dialog to Hannah and her dialog to him, even though they're not actually speaking to each other, and we can come up with our own conclusion about how justified each of them is (as well as the other 12 characters who are featured on her tapes).
Asher also dealt with the dread of what was going to happen very well. This book was intense and a bit soul-crushing at times, but not so much that I wanted to stop reading (which I also feared would happen). This wasn't a Mockingjay for me. Yes, it was tragic and I was dreading each new revelation, but it was a well-told story and made me empathize with Hannah, but also Clay and Tony (Tony, btw, is a delicious, fantastic minor character) and various other characters. AND there was enough hopeful moments stuck in that it didn't feel like you were being keel-hauled with no break for all 300 or so pages.
The high school setting and various scenarios were also very believable, which I appreciated a LOT because, well, I've been reading a lot of books set in high schools lately, and soooo many of them are trite, cliche, OR just really unbelievable. The world here is very realistic but still interesting and keeps you on your toes. Sometimes things turn out how you think they will, but often they twist around and do something else.
Did I mention I liked Clay? He was a fantastic narrator. He's a good guy, he has flaws, and overall he's just a normal high school guy who makes good choices, makes mistakes, and owns up to everything.
Recommended for: Everyone