Clay has received a box of with seven cassette tapes. Upon listening to them he learns that they were recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate, workmate at the local cinema, and his crush, who recently committed suicide.
Hannah instructs the listener that there are thirteen reasons as to why she decided to take her own life – and if they received these tapes their ‘name will pop up’.
Clay is the ninth person to receive the tapes and when he is finished he must mail them on. The novel opens with Clay posting the tapes and then cuts back to the day before, one hour after school, when Clay opens that box that will change his outlook on life.
The rest of the novel follows Clay as he travels around his small town with a Walkman and a map Hannah left with starred locations, as he listens to her final words.
The novel has a dual narrative with transcripts of Hannah’s tape recordings italicised amongst Clay’s first person narrative.
It reads very much like a thriller with the reader learning about Hannah’s pain along with Clay. There is the suspense that one has to listen to the tapes and send them to the next person otherwise all tapes will be released publicly.
As well tackling the tough issue of teen suicide the novel addresses rape, bullying, gossip, peer pressure, underage drinking, and survivor’s guilt.
n 2016, a 10th Anniversary Edition entitled Th1rteen R3asons Why: A Novel was released. It featured a new introduction by Asher, the novel’s original ending, reproductions from Asher’s notebook that he used while writing, deleted moments, the synopsis he sent to publishers and a reading guide.
In 2011, Universal Studios purchased the rights to the novel with the intention to develop it into feature film starring Selena Gomez as Hannah. In 2015 it was announced that Netflix was developing the novel as a series with Gomez serving as an executive producer.
The series 13 Reasons Why went onto Netflix on March 31.