Through its contrasting depictions of parental behavior, Thirteen Reasons Why shows that the support of reliable and attentive parental figures and mentors is vital to teens’ mental health. Hannah feels neglected and dismissed by her parents and other caregiver figures in her life. Her parents are absent from most of the novel, rarely speaking to her or checking in on her, and they don’t even notice when she has a dramatic haircut. They’re stressed about their business and often go out of town—in fact, they’re away the first night she hears Tyler taking pictures of her through her bedroom window, and Hannah feels helpless, unable to even pick up her phone out of fear. Similarly, when Hannah attempts to tell Mr. Porter how hopeless she’s feeling, his lack of empathy, along with his advice to try to ignore the sexual assault she experienced, makes Hannah feel misunderstood and invalidates her experiences. Mr. Porter lets Hannah down in her most desperate moment, and this seems to give her the final nudge toward giving up on her own happiness. An apparent lack of support from her parents and authority figures contributes to Hannah’s decision to end her own life.
By contrast, even though the novel only follows Clay for one night, Clay’s mother is an unshakeable presence. She interrupts Clay multiple times while he listens to the tapes at home, and she calls to check in on him as he travels around town visiting places on Hannah’s map. Her presence interrupts Clay’s frantic mindset, allowing him to take a breath and assess how he’s feeling as he listens to Hannah’s tapes. It’s impossible for Clay to feel abandoned or totally alone—the way Hannah ends up feeling—because his mother is an attentive caregiver. Similarly, Tony’s character first appears in the novel alongside his dad as they work together to improve Tony’s car. While Tony’s dad frustrates him, it’s clear he’s a supportive and present parent, someone Tony can rely on. Though Clay and Tony are deeply upset by Hannah’s death and the information on the tapes, the support of present, attentive parental figures helps Tony and Clay to avoid hopelessness, and because of this, they’re able to comfort those around them who are most in need, like Skye—and each other.
Parental Care and Attention ThemeTracker
Parental Care and Attention Quotes in Thirteen Reasons Why
I knocked his hand away with a quick backhand swipe that every girl should master. And that’s when Wally emerged from his shell. That’s when Wally made a sound. His mouth stayed shut, and it was nothing more than a quick click of the tongue, but that little noise took me by surprise. Inside, I knew, Wally was a ball of rage.
“Did you order yet?”
I swivel around. Mom sits on the stool next to me and pulls out a menu. Beside her, on the counter, is Hannah’s shoebox.
“Are you staying?” I ask.
If she stays, we can talk. I don’t mind. It would be nice to free my thoughts for a while. To take a break.
Just two more to go. Don’t give up on me now.
I’m sorry. I guess that’s an odd thing to say. Because isn’t that what I’m doing? Giving up?
Yes. As a matter of fact, I am. And that, more than anything else, is what this all comes down to. Me… giving up… on me.
No matter what I’ve said so far, no matter who I’ve spoken of, it all comes back to—it all ends with—me.