Understanding adolescence through Thirteen Reasons Why

By Keomuda Vanly

©Keomuda Vanly/2017

According to Psychology Today, adolescence refers to the group of age between 13 and 19 which can be considered as a transitional age from childhood to adulthood. This period can be the most confusing period for teenagers because they have to go through both physical and psychological changes, such as the issues of finding self-identity and sometimes emotional break-down. In spite of being the most popular genre, there are not many young-adult (YA) novels that can accurately describe the puzzling state of being a teenager. Even so, out of all the YA novels that I have read, I was fortunate to come across a book that understands the fragile state of mind of adolescence. The book is called Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Thirteen Reasons Why is a story about a high school junior named Hannah Baker whose high school experience drove her to commit suicide. Two weeks after her death, a box of seven cassette tapes were mailed to her friend. Hannah’s instructions were for the person who received the box of tapes to listen to the tapes, then he had to pass the cassettes down to the next name that is mentioned on the tapes. The process continued until the tapes reached the 13th person, who is the last one on the list. On the tapes, Hannah had made a recording on both sides explaining the thirteen reasons that had dragged her life to an end and how the thirteen listeners of the tapes had contributed to her suicide.

By using the experiences of the protagonist, the author has conveyed the message of how fragile teenagers’ state of mind can be. Reading from one reason to another, it was clear to me that Hannah Baker had gone through a lot of emotional damage before she decided that there were nothing left to live for in this world. Her first heartbreak had started with a false rumour that was based on a kiss. The rumour had twisted her first kiss into something darker which changed the perspective of people on her throughout her high school life. Because of that rumour, Hannah’s reputation was dragged into the mud which led her to be bullied, betrayed, taken advantage of, and eventually to be raped. In the book, Hannah had solely gone through her despair without seeking for help or for emotional support from her parents or her supposed friends because she believes that she would not be understood.

The reason why I highly recommend this book is because I think this book would have a huge impact on both teenagers and adults.

For adults, Thirteen Reasons Why allows them to understand the struggles that teenagers are going through as they can get a better image of the confusion, the pain, and the fear that teenagers suffer. As a result, I believe this book would help adults find a better and more effective approaches in assisting adolescence through their transitional stage. For teenagers, because of the beautifully crafted plot of the book, the author has shown that there are adults who understand the challenges of being a teenagers. For this reason, I think the book could encourage teenagers to be open about their feelings and seek for help from the adults in their life.

Maintaining healthy mental health is vital for teenagers in going through adolescence; therefore, I highly encourage you to read Thirteen Reasons Why in order to get a better understanding of the significance of teens’ mental health.

Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.

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