If you were Hannah Baker, would you choose to end your life?

By Nhi

After experiencing a series of traumatic events in her high school, Hannah Baker chooses to take pills as the least painful way to commit suicide. Not willing to die without telling a specific group of people the reasons why, she records seven tapes, narrating thirteen reasons why she is pushed to the point of letting herself go and sending the package to the first person in the group of people.

“The rules are pretty simple. There are only two. Rule number one: You listen. Number two: You pass it on. Hopefully, neither one will be easy for you.” — Hannah.

 Hannah is the main character in the popular book Thirteen Reasons Why  by Jay Asher, the #1 New York Times and International Best Seller published in 2007. The book deals with suicide, a pretty sensitive and heavy topic for readers to find pleasure in reading. Personally, I feel like it is very challenging to step out of my own life and understand why someone wants to end his/her life without having been in the same type of situation.

Jay Asher, realizing this, focuses on writing Thirteen Reasons Why  as a suspense novel, which keeps the readers turn the pages. He succeeds, which explains why this book gains so much popularity among teenagers. The novel is written in the form of two simultaneous narratives: one belongs to Hannah, another is Clay Jensen’s. Clay is Hannah’s classmate, a boy who works with her in the movie theater during summer and makes out with her one time, but barely knows anything about Hannah. And he apparently doesn’t understand why the tapes are sent to him either.

“These tapes shouldn’t be here. Not with me. It has to be a mistake.”–Clay

The suspense is a smart way to engage the readers. However, there is something else to take into consideration before you decide to read or recommend this book to other people. The idea of sending a bunch of tapes around after your death is a pretty … creative and cruel way to take revenge on people and haunt the rest of their lives. In fact, my friend, who has thought about suicide sometimes, after reading the book, told me: “I have my list already.” The book, which is written with many good intentions, can backfire in ways we won’t ever expect. On the other hand, I decide to write a blog post reviewing Thirteen Reasons Why because this book is compelling and powerful enough to make people think. It gets readers to question themselves about how they treat others and realize the importance of their actions, even the smallest.

“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people.” –Hannah

As I was reading reviews of the book, some people commented that the reasons leading to Hannah’s suicide are not realistic and persuasive enough to push a girl to end her life. Hannah’s tone, according to the critics, is spiteful and villainous. They may be right. To think about each of the reasons, it is pretty trivial: someone votes Hannah “Best Ass of the Freshman Class”, another starts rumors that she does more than just kiss him, Hannah witnesses a person rape her friend without being able to stop it, and so on.  However, all these events happen one after another, creating the snowball effect.

“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you are not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you are messing with their entire life. Everything…affects everything.” — Hannah

Hannah isn’t only dealing with these events. She is dealing with loneliness, insecurity and the desperate need to find someone who cares. One thing leads to another; she has no one to hold on to and no idea how to stop what is happening. She decides to let go of herself.

Many teenagers say that after reading the book, they stop having suicidal thoughts because they want Hannah to live. If you were Hannah, what would you do to get yourself out of the situations? Would you end your life?

I can’t decide if Hannah is wrong or right when she doesn’t really seek help and share her problems with others. I can’t possibly understand how she feels. I will say that she should. Everyone should.  No one deserves the suicidal thought. And, this might be a cliché, but you never know how your life will change in future. You can be the change.

The detail I like most in this book is the ending, when Clay walks out of his comfort zone and runs after to talk to a Skye, a girl who is considered an outcast in school. This powerful detail sums up the message of the story: reach out to other people. Just one question: “How are you?” may change everything, even their lives.

I have a friend who told me: “People who want to kill themselves won’t tell others about their intentions. They will just end their lives silently.” I used to believe in this observation and therefore, think of people who talk about suicide as dramatic. However, after reading this book, it occurred to me that sometimes the case may be not so. Maybe they are just finding a way to seek attention, help, to find people who still care.

And sadly, the line I hear most during my time in high school is :”I don’t care” or ” No one cares”


3 thoughts on “If you were Hannah Baker, would you choose to end your life?

  1. A very difficult subject, but you handled it well at least in my opinion. Years ago, a friend of mine committed suicide when he was 15. I had no inkling this might happen, so much so that I often wondered if it was an accident (shotgun) rather than intentional. Regardless, your point that one is often unaware of the impact of their words/actions on another person’s life has a flip side. A casual/natural (in one’s personal view) remark or action can have a deep meaning for and a positive influence on another person. A few years later, they come back and tell the story about that moment and the person who made the remark won’t even remember it. But if they are told this on a relatively frequent basis, they can conclude they have been doing something right. So, as you say in your essay, “you can be the change” and it can be for good as well as for bad.


    1. Thank you for your comment and the story about your friend. I appreciate the kindness. I think I only understand a part of what you mean when you mentioned “a flip side”. But here is how I phrase my understanding.
      This point of view opens a new perspective and inspires me to think more about it: how a person can easily say positive things to influence others, yet hardly say those with enough genuineness to remember their remarks for a long time after. For example, some of my acquaintances often say: “Who cares about what others think? Follow your heart.” This comment can have a positive impact, and I do value this kind of comment. But I hear it so frequently after expressing my concerns that I can’t help but feel the shallowness in the encouragement. However, I also wonder if that reduces the impact of the words/ actions.
      And actually, when I wrote “you can be the change”, I was thinking about how people who have suicidal thoughts can be proactive and be the change themselves. But I wasn’t making it clear in my essay.
      (I was confused a little when reading your thought-provoking comment, so I struggled to come up with my reply :D)


      1. Well, it’s a good reply and underscores the difficulties in communicating a very nuanced and complex subject. I may have chosen the wrong phrase when I said “flip side” which is a slang term and perhaps should have been more precise. Anyway, if I had continued, I might have said that one small component in this discussion topic is distinguishing a genuinely felt statement from a cliche. The “Follow Your Heart” phrase is usually the latter, especially when it is said frequently. What I was thinking of usually has to possess two qualities from the perspective of the listener: First, it should be unique, or unusual enough to provoke the listener’s attention. Second, it should provide insight to the listener to a problem or situation facing them. The listener might think, “Hmm. I never thought of it like that.” And even if the comment really hits home, the speaker likely will not know that, at least not then. And there are other components to this topic, such as the statements that have negative impacts, intentionally and unintentionally; the statements intended to be helpful but are not; and the statements that are intended to change the subject because the speaker doesn’t have a good answer to the problem/situation. But I am taking up too much space here. But I do thank you for your thoughtful response and I admire your willingness to take on these tough subjects.


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