Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher Audiobook Review

Book: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Listening Library, October 1, 2007

Audiobook Info:  YA Realistic Fiction, Library audiobook,  Audio length: 6 hours 24 minutes, read by Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone.

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

More Info: Audible | Goodreads

Thirteen Reasons Why is one of those books that it seems everyone has read, and I felt like I had an obligation to read it, though I wasn’t particularly eager to. I read plenty of issue-type books, but the suicide topic is one that I generally stay away from. The bully related suicide reports on the news re-ignited my interest in the book, as well as my recent read of Jay Asher’s The Future of Us. At the very least I thought I could learn something about suicide trigger symptoms, and how our everyday actions affect those around us. Thirteen Reasons Why is a perfect match for the audiobook format due to the cassette tape recordings used in the narrative of the story. And at just over six hours long, there was no excuse to put off listening to the book any longer.

The story is that Clay Jensen comes home from school one day to find a package with 7 cassette tapes inside, recorded by his classmate Hannah Baker, who had recently committed suicide. She explains on the tapes that there are thirteen reasons why she took her own life, and that if you are one of the recipients of the tapes, you are one of those reasons. Clay spends the night listening to all the tapes, baffled to find out what he did to contribute to his crush Hannah’s depressed state.

The book unfolds like a mystery, as the reader waits to find out what went wrong in Hannah’s life to cause her to take her own life, and how does Clay figure into the story. After acquiring a Walkman from a friend, Clay listens to the tapes and visits the sites Hannah references in her recorded confessions.

Hannah’s tone in the book isn’t what I expected someone suicidal to sound like. She is matter of fact about the incidents and doesn’t sound particularly sad, but more vindictive. It’s not good or bad, just an interesting choice I thought. By themselves the reasons Hannah sites that took her on this path may not seem horrific, but the point I took is that these things have a domino effect that is difficult to climb out of. You never know what someone has been through what will take her to the breaking point. There is a lot of food for thought in this book, and it would make an excellent book club choice to debate the issues of bullying and suicide, and the role classmates, parents, and educators play.

Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone narrate the audiobook and they both bring a lot of emotion to the story.  In the book the two voices are layered so Clay reacts to Hannah’s story as he listens to the tapes. Since there are two narrators it made it easy to tell the two voices apart, and I wonder if that is confusing in the print version. There is a different person called out in each side of Hannah’s tapes, and part of the suspense is waiting to hear which tape Clay is featured in. Listening to the audiobook is like listening to the thoughts of the dead girl right along with Clay, something that makes the story even more haunting.

I’m glad I finally listened to this book, and it definitely made me think. This would be a good book for classroom discussion, and maybe it will help bullies stop and think about their actions as well. There is a movie in the works with Selena Gomez attached, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing about this book for a long time.


10 thoughts on “Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher Audiobook Review

  1. tinalinatime says:

    It is a great book for discussion! Glad you finally got to it; I felt the same way before I read it but I’m glad I finally did.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    I liked this book but didn’t love it as much as the rest of my book club did. I thought Hannah brought some of her problems on herself and was very quick to blame other people. I know that’s typical teenage behavior, but it still bothered me.

    1. Lucy says:

      You’re right, that’s part of why I think this is a good discussion topic. Hannah is unlikable in a lot of ways so it’s hard to always feel sympathy towards her. I was glad Clay’s reactions were in the book to balance Hannah’s voice.

  3. Your first sentence is exactly how I feel about this one. Everybody seems to have read it but I don’t have any particular want to read it beyond doing it just because everyone else has. The two narrator aspect is probably a clincher for me to listen to it. I see it at the library all the time:) Thanks!

    1. Lucy says:

      I was totally reluctant to read this too, Flannery. I think you’ll like the audio though, and you can easily listen to it in a day. Yay for libraries!

  4. VeganYANerds says:

    Great review, Lucy. Like you, I read this because everyone else had read it and I think you make a great point, it would be a great book for high school kids to read and discuss at school. I reviewed The Future of Us today, I really enjoyed it 🙂

    1. Lucy says:

      Glad you enjoyed The Future of Us. Wonder what Asher is working on next. It’s good for kids to talk about this issue at school and hopefully it will help someone out.

  5. bookgoonie says:

    I know how you feel. I bought this book, because of the topic. But that doesn’t mean I want to sit down a crack open a book about it. I know it will be good, but… Im going to have to see if my library has it on audio. With the audiotape part, I bet it is a good listen.

    1. Lucy says:

      I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the book/audiobook, Amy. It’s definitely worth a listen.

  6. […] Based on the book by Jay Asher:  Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | IMDB | My Book Review […]

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