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Book Club Kits: Thirteen Reasons Why

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list. Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

Discussion Questions

  • How does Hannah and Clay’s dual narrative enhance the story? What additional details are revealed through this method of storytelling that might have otherwise remained secret if the book had been written from only one of their perspectives?

  • Do Hannah’s tapes have a different impact on the people who listen to them than the impression a suicide note might have left? How and why? Why do you think she recorded and left the tapes?

  • At the beginning of the first tape, Hannah says, “. . . there are thirteen sides to every story.” What does she mean by this? Are there sides to her own story that Hannah doesn’t know? Do you think she would have made different decisions if she had had the chance to listen to each of the other thirteen sides?

  • Are each of Hannah’s thirteen reasons of equal importance? Which do you find to be the most unexpected? Who is responsible for Hannah’s death? Why do you think Hannah committed suicide?

  • What is a rumor? How are rumors and truth connected? Is one more powerful than the other? Can rumors ever be positive? Why do we spread rumors? Does Hannah’s story change your original point of view on this subject?

  • During Jessica’s tape, Hannah says, “. . . you would rather believe some made–up rumor than what you knew to be true . . . It was easier to accept. Easier to understand. For [you], the rumors needed to be true.” What does Hannah mean by this? How can the truth sometimes be more difficult to confront than a lie?

  • Discuss the phrase “The truth will set you free.” How does this apply to the story Hannah tells? Does truth really gift freedom? Is there power in knowing? Is there always peace in knowledge?

  • Hannah mentions reputations and their consequences repeatedly on the tapes. Why is her reputation important to her? What sort of reputations do the other people on the tapes have? How many of them are disproved through the information Clay learns from the tapes? How does Hannah’s reputation influence Clay’s interaction with her? What is he afraid of?

  • Why did Clay leave the room after kissing Hannah? Do you think he had to? What else could he have done? Why does Hannah consider Clay one of the thirteen reasons why she killed herself? Do you think he deserves a spot in Hannah’s story?

  • What roles do adults play in what happened to Hannah? Do you think any adult could have done something that would have helped Hannah? Why do you think Hannah decides to include only one adult on her tapes? Why does she open the truth of her story to an adult at all? Why Mr. Porter in particular?

  • Why do you think that Hannah chooses to record her conversation with Mr. Porter rather than comment on their interaction afterwards like she had done with the twelve previous stories? Does this tactic have a different effect?            

  • Mr. Porter tells Hannah that besides filing charges with the police, she has two options for dealing with what happened at the after party. He tells her she can confront the other person or move on. Do you agree that these were her only options?

  • Discuss Skye’s role in the story. Compare and contrast her to Hannah. What do you think Clay says to Skye when he catches up with her in the hallway?

  • How do you think Clay is changed by listening to Hannah’s tapes? Do you think the tapes had similar effects on the other listeners? Do you think they all followed Hannah’s instructions in the same manner that Clay did? How do you imagine their experiences to be different?

  • Could anything have saved Hannah? If one link in this chain of events had been different, which one do you think would have made the most difference for Hannah? How would a change in that specific event have impacted the remaining portion of the other thirteen reasons that followed?