Thirteen Reasons Why - "Everything Affects Everything"

Jay Asher. Thirteen Reasons Why. New York, New York: Penguin Group, 2007.

ThirteenReasonsWhy.jpgHannah Baker was hoping to start fresh at a new school- how many people really get second chances right? Unfortunately for Hannah things didn't go to plan and a series of events begin to take place that spiral her life completely out of control.
"I hope you're ready, because I'm about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you're listening to these tapes, you're one of the reasons why."
It all started with a first kiss that led to rumors- too soon in the school year for her peers to really understand that they were just that- rumors and nothing else. It seems like Hannah can't seem to get control of her life and when everything finally builds up it leads her to the decision to end her life.

Thirteen Reasons Why is written for readers to experience Hannah's story through a teen named Clay who is discovering Hannah's thirteen reasons why she decided to kill herself. Hannah decides to share her story through audiotapes with the people that she feels need to know the negative impact they had on her life while she was still alive.

Through Hanna's audiotapes Clay learns much more about Hannah he had ever known while she was alive. Though he wishes he could go back in time to help her through all of this, all he can do now is send the tapes to the next person on the list.

One of the most important reasons a teacher should consider this book over others that cover similar topics, is its multiple-person narrative. One of the narrators is Hanna, through her cassette tapes, and Clay, through his inner dialogue. Because of this all students have a character they can understand the story through, and connect with. The book also features topics that are hugely important to teens: bullying, depression, date rape, isolation, and suicide. Between the unique format, intriguing issues, multiple antagonists, dual narrators, and the idea that everything affects everything this book is sure to hook high school students.

Recommendations for Teachers

  • Power: Divide the class into small groups, either by literature circles or have them count off. Give each group a handout with the names of the 14 characters listed in the novel; the 13 people Hanna sends the tapes to and Hanna herself. In groups ask the students to number the characters by the level of power they hold in the story. This can be power in general, or power over the actions Hanna takes. This is an interesting activity for this book because it seems the clear answer is that Hanna has the most power over her life, but she considers these other 13 people equally in control. Have each group present their list and see where the similarities and differences lie. Would they add any other characters from the book to the list? For example Tony, who has the second set of tapes, or Mrs. Bradley, the Peer Communications teacher? What about Hanna’s parents? Discuss why certain people seem to have more power than others. Is it because of their age, gender, or social status? *This activity works well with Sociocultural Theory.

  • Bullying & Depression: Start the class by asking the students if they know of other students who have committed suicide. Obviously, being sensitive to current situations in the school’s history, you may instead want to frame the question by asking about prominent figures who have committed suicide or suicides they have heard about in the news. Ask the students if, among the people listed, there are any possible connections in the causes of those suicides. After a brief discussion, and after noting student responses on the board, watch a clip of the Dateline episode on Phoebe Prince. Phoebe Prince was an Irish girl who committed suicide in early 2010 after just 5 months at a new school in Massachusetts. Immediately after her death word of bullying in the school came out and the local district attorney eventually prosecuted six of her fellow schoolmates for bullying her to death. The Dateline episode touches on how bullying, how the reactions to bullying by students and adults, and how mental illness and depression can all play a role in teen suicide. After watching either the episode or clip students can journal and/or participate in a large group discussion about Phoebe’s case and the connections to Thirteen Reasons Why and their own communities. *This activity works well with Sociocultural and Reader Response Theory.

  • Mapping: Pass out graph paper to students so they can draw a map of their home, school, city, or other place they have visited or lived. You can also pass out a city map to mark, but this can have a limiting effect on the students’ choices. Give students 10 minutes and ask students to draw or mark 3-5 places where they have had a meaningful experience, either good or bad. Be sure to inform the students that they will be sharing this with a fellow classmate. Students then share their drawing with a partner and describe each location and tell a brief story about what happened there. Each partner chooses one story they would like to learn more about from the other. The students then write the whole story about the memorable moment on their map. *These activities work well with New Critical Theory.
    • Exposition: With exposition as a focus students can create a procedural exposition or how-to, telling someone else how to experience the same memorable moment they had. This could be about riding a bike for the first time, playing horse, or reading a book in the sun. Students could also create a description of the scene and the people involved.
    • Form: Following Hanna’s lead, students could also create a narrative by connecting the dots on their map and tell a linear story.

  • Connections:One of the main points the story tries to make is that everything affects everything. This can be a very serious idea, as in Hanna's circumstances, or it can be a fun one. *These activities work well with Sociocultural and Reader Response Theory.
    • In an effort to take this difficult topic and make it a little more light-hearted, use the Direct TV commercial listed below to start a conversation about how one thing can have a domino effect.
    • Along the same lines, using a ball of yarn, after different sections of the book students can toss the ball as they relay instances that added to the snowball effect in Hanna's life. This can also be used to talk about instances in the school, community or classroom.
    • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie - Read this children's story as a class and then have students create their own everything affects everything stories. These can be compiled or read aloud in the class.
    • Telephone - as a fun and light way to reinforce the idea of the snowball effect every now and then your class can play a game of telephone to remind students how diluted and distorted stories can get through word of mouth.

  • Found Magazine: In small groups have students look for "found" objects they can use to build a story on. These can be physical objects, notes, photos, or any miscellaneous object. Each group should create a story based on the object they have found. Talk with the students about form and how maintaining or changing the form of the found literature can change the meaning. This would also work well when using a different type of found object, because writing about that object in different forms creates unique meanings. Compiled together these can create a Found Magazine for the classroom. *This activity works well with Reader Response, Sociocultural and New Critical Theories.

Additional YA Options

If you're interested in other books on this topic to pair with Thirteen Reasons Why or to have students read on their own, please look at the list provided below.

Aimee by Mary Beth Miller
Aimee by Mary Beth Miller

//Aimee// by Mary Beth Miller

After she is accused of playing a role in her best friend's death, a young woman battles depression, anger, guilt, loneliness, and the problems of her own family as well as those of the families of her old friends.

By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters
By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

High school student Daelyn Rice, who's been bullied throughout her school career and has more than once attempted suicide, again makes plans to kill herself, in spite of the persistent attempts of an unusual boy to draw her out.

Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Hate List by Jennifer Brown

//Hate List// by Jennifer Brown

Sixteen-year-old Valerie, whose boyfriend Nick committed a school shooting at the end of their junior year, struggles to cope with integrating herself back into high school life, unsure herself whether she was a hero or a villain.

Hold Still by Nina LaCour
Hold Still by Nina LaCour

Hold Still by Nina LaCour

Ingrid didn't leave a note. Three months after her best friend's suicide, Caitlin finds what she left instead: a journal, hidden under Caitlin's bed.

Looking for Alaska by John Green
Looking for Alaska by John Green

//Looking for Alaska// by John Green

Sixteen-year-old Miles' first year at Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama includes good friends and great pranks, but is defined by the search for answers about life and death after a fatal car crash.

Skim words by Mariko Tamaki, drawings by Jillian Tamaki
Skim words by Mariko Tamaki, drawings by Jillian Tamaki

//Skim// words by Mariko Tamaki, drawings by Jillian Tamaki

In this Japanese graphic novel, "Skim" is a would-be Wiccan goth who goes to a private girls' school. The entire school goes into mourning when a classmate’s ex-boyfriend kills himself, and Skim sinks into an ever-deepening depression.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

//Twisted// by Laurie Halse Anderson

Tyler, formerly a socially invisible nerd, is sentenced to a summer of physical labor following a prank. As a result, he enters his senior year of high school with a new set of muscles and a different reputation. His life soon spirals out of control, and he contemplates darker and darker solutions to his situation.

The Wind Blows Backward by Mary Downing Hahn
The Wind Blows Backward by Mary Downing Hahn

//The Wind Blows Backward// by Mary Downing Hahn

Although they share a love of poetry and problems with their parents, a shy high school senior's attraction to a popular classmate is tempered by her fear of his moody, self-destructive side.

You Know Where to Find Me by Rachel Cohn
You Know Where to Find Me by Rachel Cohn

//You Know Where to Find Me// by Rachel Cohn

In the wake of her cousin's suicide, overweight and introverted seventeen-year-old Miles experiences significant changes in her relationships with her mother and father, her best friend Jamal and his family, and her cousin's father, while gaining insights about herself, both positive and negative.

Jay Asher


Jay Asher was born in Arcadia, California on September 30, 1975. He has one younger sibling named Nate. Asher graduated from High school in 1993 from San Luis Obispo High School. Later he went on to Cuesta Community College and then to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, but left during his final year without graduating. In 2002 he married his wife JoanMarie, and the two of them had a son in 2010, named Isaiah Nathan.

Asher spent his entire life in living in California until he and his wife moved to Sheridan, Wyoming for six months. During his time in Wyoming he began developing the idea for Thirteen Reasons Why, but it was also the bits and pieces of his personal life experiences and the experiences of those around him that he really grasped the character development that is within the book. Many of the dorky, awkward moments found randomly throughout the novel Asher admits to having experienced in his own life while he was growing up! Some of the rougher topics in the book came from life experiences of those around him, such as the concept of suicide, and some of the instances that built up to Hanna's thoughts of suicide in the first place.

Jay's newest released book is titled The Future of Us and is co-written by Carolyn Mackler. Both Thirteen Reasons Why and The Future of Us are expected to become films, but the dates for release are yet to be announced.


The Thirteen Reasons Why trailer is by no means official (there has not been an official one posted yet), but it reflects many of the themes seen throughout the novel.

Dateline NBC recently aired a story on Phoebe Prince, the 15 year old Irish girl who killed herself after bullies tormented her. This episode of Dateline talks not only about the effects of bullying, but the importance of the role of adults in the school atmosphere as well as the role of mental health. This is just part one of the episode, you can find the rest of clips on Dateline's website.

A clever Direct TV commercial that can be used as a fun way to start a conversation about the way everything effects everything,
or the "snowball effect," as Hanna says.

A Thirteen Reasons Why podcast made by the wiki authors.

Additional Resources:

  • Thirteen Reasons to Use this Book - This amazing website lists 13 reasons to use the book in a high school classroom, 13 discussion prompts,13 extending activities, and a number of other lists of 13 that you don't want to miss. An absolute must-see for great ideas on how to incorporate this book.
  • How to Say it Better - An excellent teaching resource, where we got the mapping idea. Has a number of other great inquiry and brainstorming techniques.
  • 13 Reasons Facebook Page - A fun way to interact with others about the book.
  • Jay Asher's Blog - A great resource for all things Jay Asher, including his speaking engagements.
  • Jay Asher Audio- A podcast by author Jay Asher about his book Thirteen Reasons Why.
  • Interview - A group of writers who moonlight as YA bloggers Interview Jay Asher!
  • Hannah's Map - Jay Asher provided a copy of the map of Crestmont that is seen in the novel.
  • New York Times Article - "A Story of a Teenager's Suicide Quietly Becomes A Best Seller"
  • Entertainment Weekly Article - "'Thirteen Reasons Why' Author Jay Asher Responds to controversial anti-YA article: 'I got very upset'".
  • Thirteen Reasons Why Project - An interactive website where readers can share their review of the novel.
  • Soul Alone - A copy of Hannah's poem.
  • Hannah's Reasons - A blog from Hannah's perspective both makes connections to the book and lists suicide prevention resources.
  • Thirteen Reasons Why website - Incorporates news, videos, reader reviews and links to other blogs as well as websites where you can purchase the book.

Teen Suicide Resources:

  • Suicide Hotline - National hotline for any teen or adult who needs help or someone to listen.
  • Hotline for Teens - A list of links for a number of issues facing teens and how to get help.
  • Teen Online - A website and hotline that is operated by teens for teens.
  • In The Mix - PBS provides a suicide prevention lesson plan.


--Andria Barberi, Natasha Alexander and Sarah McCoy (//The Lightning Thief// Wiki, //Speak// Wiki)