Thirteen Reasons Why has been a huge hit on Netflix. The streaming series is currently getting a lot of attention, but did you know it was based on a book by Jay Ascher? When people discover this, they often want to read the book to compare it with the TV show.
Published in 2007, the book brings awareness to tough issues teens face, such as bullying, sexual assault, mental illness, and suicide. Trigger warnings are abundant throughout the show, and the same goes for the book.
In the novel, Clay receives a series of cassette tapes in the mail. The tapes contain narrative of the thirteen reasons why Hannah Baker committed suicide. Readers follow Clay as he listens to the tapes while trailing the route of Hannah’s worst moments, leading him to various stops around town. The point of the tapes is to show the effects that each person had on Hannah’s life – all adding up to her heartbreaking decision. According to the author, he wanted teens to take away the message that you never know what someone else is going through – and your words and actions could affect that person in ways you couldn’t have predicted.
Please be aware, the book is not a happy one. It isn’t meant to be. But sometimes the books that get people thinking and talking about serious issues are very important, indeed. The 13 books below follow in the same vein – they cover important issues that are worth thinking and talking about.
A Tale for the Time Being
Novelist Ruth finds a journal washed up on the beach, and begins to read the story of Nao. After spending her youth in America, Nao and her family move to Japan. Mercilessly bullied by her classmates and constantly feeling like a lonely outsider, Nao plans to end it all. But first, she wants to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun, and as she does so, things start to change. As Ruth reads, the journal starts to exhibit some weird behaviors. How will Nao’s story end, and by reading it, can Ruth change the outcome? Also available as an ebook.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story
After calling a suicide hotline, 15 year-old Craig checks himself into a psychiatric hospital. The other patients he meets while admitted will give him new ideas about himself and his situation. This is a realistic story of a young man’s experience at a mental hospital, inspired by author Ned Vizzini's personal struggle with depression. A movie was made based on the book, if you want to compare the book with film version. Also available as an ebook.
All the Bright Places
Violet Markey meets Theodore Finch at the top of the school bell tower, where they’re both considering jumping. Violet is coping with grief, while Finch is trying to figure out all the ways he can die. From that moment, they become partners on a school project to explore the wonders of their state, Indiana, discovering new places together. The two have an intense, short-lived relationship, culminating in tragedy. Also available as an ebook.
Anderson, Laurie Halse
Published in 1999, Speak has been a must-read book for teens (and adults) ever since. After she calls the cops at a high school party, Melinda becomes increasingly isolated from her peers. She can barely talk at all, and it’s only in art class that she can truly express herself and finally face the terrible event that transpired the night of the party.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
On Leonard Peacock’s birthday, he hides his grandfather’s pistol in his backpack, with a plan to kill his ex-best friend, and then, himself. While saying his goodbyes to four people he cares about – his neighbor, classmate, teacher, and crush – we learn Leonard’s story. Meanwhile, letters from people he would meet in the future beg him to stay. Also available as an ebook.
My Heart and Other Black Holes
Sixteen-year-old Aysel is obsessed with physics – and with the idea of killing herself. Unsure whether she’ll be able to go through with it on her own, she makes a suicide pact online with a boy named Roman. Aysel begins to wonder whether she’s making the right choice, but if she changes her mind, will she be able to convince Roman to change his mind too?
Annabel was seen with her best friend's Sophie's boyfriend at a party, and is immediately ostracized. But what everyone thought was an act of betrayal was something much, much worse. Caught between her own secrets and her crumbling family life, Annabel connects with fellow loner Owen, who has problems of his own.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Johnston, E. K.
In Palermo Heights, cheerleading is a sport and the team wins championships. This is team captain Hermione Winters’ last season and she’s determined to make the most of it. But at a summer party, someone slips something into her drink and rapes her. This is the story of a young lady’s survival and determination, and how everyone rallies around her.
Asking For It
The night after Emma and her friends attend a summer party, her parents find her unconscious on their doorstep and she can’t remember how she got there. She doesn’t have to wonder what happened for long--a vicious social media account is created, with horrific pictures. Now that it’s become a criminal investigation, everyone in this small Irish town has an opinion. Once media coverage begins, there’s no hiding the events of this terrible night from the rest of the world.
When Harper finds that her older sister June committed suicide, she is naturally devastated. As Harper navigates all her feelings of sadness, anger, and hurt, she finds herself wondering why. When Harper’s divorced parents plan to split up June’s ashes, Harper takes the urn and her best friend on a road trip to California. There’s only one catch, Jake Tolan, who mysteriously showed up during June’s wake, insists on coming along. And he’s hiding some secrets of his own.
Reeling from grief over her best friend Ingrid’s suicide, Caitlin finds Ingrid’s journal hidden under her bed. As Caitlin reads through the journal, she finds that Ingrid had been suffering for years, without ever telling her. Caitlin works her way through the journal, and her own grief.