Thirteen Reasons Why


Jay Asher

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Thirteen Reasons Why Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Jay Asher

Jay Asher was born in California. He attended community college and California Polytechnic State University, where he took a children’s literature class that ignited his passion for writing for young readers. Asher left university in his junior year to pursue a career in writing. In 2007, he published 13 Reasons Why, which sold over three million copies in the ten years following its release and was adapted into a Netflix series in 2017. Asher has published three subsequent young adult novels: The Future of Us with co-author Carolyn Mackler, What Light, and Piper with co-author Jessica Freeburg. He lives in California.
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Historical Context of Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why explores the topic of teen suicide. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide is the second-highest cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 24. At this age in particular, suicide isn’t always due to mental illness—the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that determines executive control, doesn’t fully develop until a person is in their mid-20s, meaning young adults are more impulsive. It can be very difficult to tell that a person is at risk of ending their own life, though some common warning signs—as readers will remember from the pamphlets Hannah’s peers receive at school after her death in the novel—include sudden changes in appearance, giving away belongings, and taking dangerous risks. According to the CDC, the suicide rate in the United States increased 30 percent between 2000 and 2020, though it started to decline slightly in 2018.

Other Books Related to Thirteen Reasons Why

Another young adult novel with a focus on suicide is Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places. Like Thirteen Reasons Why, All the Bright Places emphasizes the importance of a supportive community and the difficulty of processing guilt after a friend’s death. Other novels that feature teenage girls struggling with suicidal thoughts are Helena Fox’s More than This and Jasmine Warga’s My Heart and Other Black Holes. Matt Haig’s memoir, Reasons to Stay Alive, also depicts suicidal ideation, but in a more hopeful light; it tells the story of the author’s journey through a period of intense depression as a young adult. Within the novel itself, Clay mentions filling out the Valentine’s Day matchmaking survey under the persona of Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of J. D. Salinger’s classic novel, The Catcher in the Rye.
Key Facts about Thirteen Reasons Why
  • Full Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
  • When Written: Mid-2000s
  • Where Written: California
  • When Published: 2007
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young Adult Novel
  • Setting: A small, unnamed town in the United States
  • Climax: Hannah witnesses Bryce raping Jessica.
  • Antagonist: The novel doesn’t have a single main antagonist, but Bryce Walker is perhaps the character who threatens and abuses Hannah most directly.
  • Point of View: First Person

Extra Credit for Thirteen Reasons Why

Getting Help. Though Hannah doesn’t feel as though Mr. Porter is able to help her when she shares her hopeless thoughts with him, there are many resources available to people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts or whose friends may be struggling. The National Suicidal Prevention Lifeline, for one, is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-8255 or via their website.

Listening In. Jay Asher got the idea of telling Hannah’s story in taped installments when he took an audio tour through a museum and realized the format would work well for a novel.