Review: Thirteen Reasons Why (audio)

Thirteen Reasons Why (Audio)

Thirteen Reasons Why (audio)
By Jay Asher
Read by: Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone
(Listening Library (Audio), Compact Disc, October 2007, 9780739356500)

The Short of It:

An absolutely riveting, cannot-turn-off story about a young girl explaining why she decided to take her life.

The Rest Of It:

Clay Jensen comes home from school and finds a package waiting for him. Inside the box, is a set of cassette tapes made by one of his classmates and crushes…Hannah Baker. The only problem is that Hannah killed herself just two weeks prior. These tapes are her thirteen reasons why.

This is a wonderful book. I originally chose it for The Boy but when he told me how much he was enjoying it, I made a mental note to read it myself. Luckily for me, the audio was available so I snatched it up.

Hannah’s story is just heartbreaking. Here is a girl, who is pretty, popular and living in a supportive home, yet she falls between the cracks and slowly begins to lose herself. She is not bullied in a traditional sense, but she is the subject of rumors and those rumors lead to abuse of a different kind. On her way to invisibility, she reaches out for help (numerous times) but her cries for help fall on deaf ears.

The cassette tapes that she’s left behind are to be shared with the thirteen people responsible for her collapse. The story alternates between Hannah’s voice, and Clay’s, who doesn’t understand why he is included in this group, until he listens to his section of the tape. This method of sharing her story often brought tears to my eyes, because as a reader, you know there is no daring rescue at the end. You  know the outcome and all you can do is sit there, shaking your head, wondering how many young kids are out there today, thinking the same thing.

The readers for this novel are amazing. Debra Wiseman plays Hannah perfectly. The pain, the angst and the frustration all come through beautifully in her reading. Johnstone also does an excellent job portraying Clay. He has this wide-eyed, sensibility that makes you like him even more. Innocent, but not stupid. Very touching at times.

On that note, I want to share this video with you. It has nothing to do with this book, but I came across it while reading the book and it brought me to tears. My son was a student ambassador for his middle school, and when he was, I always reminded him that a kind word, said to a troubled kid, could be the difference between life and death. Plus, it includes the awesome singing group, Ahmir. I adore them. Please watch it. Such an important message.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

36 thoughts on “Review: Thirteen Reasons Why (audio)”

  1. I have been meaning to read this book since long before I moved… I need to see if my library has a copy. I haven’t read a bad review yet and it’s an important story/message.

  2. I’ve read several reviews about this book. There are a few mixed feelings but the majority of readers have expressed heartfelt sadness for the main character. I would really like to read this novel so I can see if I agree because, unfortunately, I have a few pre-conceived opinions about the act of suicide that might get in the way. I always get nervous when people who get suicide start laying the blame… Yes, of course, I understand that some people do get bullied brutally. Unfortunately, this whole blame game assumes we have absolutely no responsibility for our own lives, our own happiness. I will read this novel to see how the author addresses this issue but, until then, I remain hesitant.

    Thank you for the review!

    1. I hear you. I feel the same way about suicide. I tend to always think that there is a “way out” and that you can overcome the darkness and that suicide is a selfish act but some people don’t have the strength to push through it, or they can’t seem to separate themselves from the pain long enough to see the other options. I suppose because Hannah tells her own story, the perspective is one-sided, but having a tween myself and seeing some of his friends pull back like Hannah did in this book, makes me think that some kids really don’t see the other options.

      If you do read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.


  3. This is one that I have also read mixed reviews of, but I think after reading your review I have a different perspective on it. It does sound heartrending, but also very interesting, and like it would really open my eyes. I need to check and see if my library has this one on audio. It seems like this is something I need to check out. Wonderful review here today, by the way!

    1. The audio was great. I don’t usually care for YA on audio because the readers always sound like adults, trying to be young but these readers were great. Johnstone sounds like the guy who provided the voice over for The Wonder Years but I looked him up and it’s not listed in his credits, but he sure sounds like him.


  4. The controversy around this book! And I’ve been avoiding it because it is such a tough subject, especially since I have a 13 year old! As parents, we have to really stay focused on our kids and watch them closely. I will take your recommendation of the audio to heart. Maybe my library has it…

    1. I like to think that I am plugged-in to my kid but it was eye opening how certain things, often said with little or no intent to hurt someone, can be hurtful to a person depending on where they are at that moment in life. I think you would enjoy the audio.


  5. I’ve given a lot of thought to reading this book but up until now had decided against it. I think you changed my mind. My girls are 12 and 14 and my oldest has been wanting to read it. I didn’t want her to- she’s moody and emotional. It’s a scary subject for me.

    1. It is a scary subject and you think you know the signs, but every kid is different. I didn’t read it so that I’d recognize the signs in my own kids, I read it so that I could have a conversation about it with my son. He read that book and began to see the kids in his school differently. I say, you read it first and then see what you think of it before letting your daughter read it. My son is moody as well, and he was okay with how it was handled.


  6. This is certainly a moving book, and sadly, much needed story to tell. I don’t have young ones in the school system anymore, but I hate to admit, it looks like issues like this is getting worse. Another point is, I’ve been listening to some audio books and find it a good way to ‘read’ while driving or doing chores, or even lying in bed. And I agree with you that the voices are very crucial in the storytelling.

    1. I think it’s more difficult for teens these days, because of social networking. Before, you had to worry about walking home from school, but now…the bullying could be going on 24/7 in a very pubic forum. And it’s sooo hard to scrub something from the net once it’s out there.

      Kids these days have to have a thicker skin in order to survive but having a thicker skin, sometimes means they overlook others in pain too.


  7. I found this one at the library the other day when I was browsing the audios they have. I’m going to listen to it soon. I dont think I’ve run across anybody who hasn’t liked it.

  8. The book sounds good, but I don’t think I want to read it. Not because I don’t have kids, and not because YA isn’t my thing… but because I’m coming at the book from a different angle than the rest of your commenters. For many years, the shadow of suicide was my most intimate companion. There were two reasons why I never chose its embrace; one of them was the fact that I knew there was no way to do it and not have my loved ones feel responsible.

    I’m leaving volumes out, but I do want to say this: My mother and I were extremely close. Extremely. Mom was a very perceptive person. Many times I’d get in a huff because she always seemed to know what I was going to do before I did it…. but she was completely unaware of the battle I was fighting. She had no clue how close she came to losing her only child. (Yes, I know I just scared the crap out of any parent reading this.)

    I smile when people say they’re against suicide. It’s a coward’s way out. There’s always an alternative. It’s a matter of perspective, folks. Unless you have personally experienced the sheer volume of pain we weaklings have, you have no idea of how seductive the mere thought can be of simply having it all stop.

    1. I completely understand, as I have been there myself. Thank you for feeling comfortable enough to share this. I think it is important for people to consider all sides. Especially with this particular topic.

      1. If 99 people read my comment and think, “Oh oh. There’s a time bomb with a faulty ignition switch!”– so be it. If one person reads the same comment and thinks, “Maybe I’m not alone. Maybe I can hang on for the rest of the afternoon….” — it’s worth it.

  9. I read this with my book club and I didn’t love it as much as everyone else did. I felt like Hannah created some of her own problems and blamed it on everyone else. I know that’s typical of kids, but it still bothered me.

    1. She did, Kathy. However, at that point I don’t think she cared anymore. Once you are past the point of caring, or thinking that you can make a difference, you just turn yourself off and let things happen to you. It bothered me that these things happened to her, but I also could see why she didn’t do anything to stop it.


  10. Great review. I too loved this book and the impact it made on me had me in tears. This is one that parents and teens could each read and then have a real discussion. I also thought it would be great for a small teen group.

  11. Great review. I was not interested int his book. One of my son’s friends took his own life and I thought it might be a difficult read. it might be interesting though as I have seen what suicide does to those left behind. It might be interesting to see it from the other side of the coin.

    1. It’s interesting that you pointed out the flip side. I listened to an interview with the author and he said this was a story about a boy (Clay). Initially, I felt that it was really her story, as we are listening to her tapes but it’s all filtered through Clay and after thinking about it, it is most definitely his story. That said, you would get that other side of it that you mentioned in your comment.

      So sorry about your son losing his friend. I had a friend in middle school whose mother took her own life. That was tragic in so many ways. How she was found by my friend, the fact that her family moved over the shame of it… me losing a wonderful friend. Sad all around.


  12. I’ve read so many reviews about this book and always made a mental note to read it one day but your suggestion to listen to it on audio struck a chord. I’m going to make it my next Audible download and my next audio book. Thank you!

  13. This book was, I am not even sure what adjective to put here. While I don’t have kids to worry about, it did make me look back and cry a ton for the younger Gwen. While I wasn’t successful and didn’t use cassette tapes, I was Hannah. If it wasn’t for a neighbor that needed to borrow something and had no sense of boundaries, that could have been me.

    What I loved about this book is that it is out there, available to open discussions with teens. There was nothing like that when we were growing up. Fiction, whether written or in a movie is such a great way to be able to discuss all of those things that people don’t want to just throw out there. (like, I remember watching To Kill a Mockingbird in class and then talking about race)

    1. Thank goodness for that neighbor.

      I agree, the fact that it opens everything up for discussion is probably the most important thing here. It’s so easy to feel as if you are alone or the only one going through something. Just having the discussion is sometimes enough to pull someone out of their hole.


  14. Wow…Ti, what a perceptive and insightful review. I appreciate the honesty and the comments here are a great discussion. I have a 13 year old who has had some issues with bullying and struggles in life. I have put off reading this book as I thought it would be painful to read. I am reconsidering that now..I like the idea of reading it together with my son. That would be a good thing to do over the summer possibly. I am going to look for the audio as well. This is a such an important issue in our society today…kids struggle with so much. Thanks for sharing the video as well…powerful, realized the true meanings of the words.

  15. I wanted to read this book but have heard so many mixed reviews… I think I’ll go ahead and read it now. I thought it sounded touching and was disappointed when I heard otherwise, but since you liked it I’ll definitely give it a try.

  16. Great video. For the first time, I actually appreciated the song for its words and message. They do such an amazing job! Thank you for sharing it!

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