Thirteen Reasons Why takes readers (and now, viewers) and its central character, Clay Jensen, through the 13 reasons why Hannah Baker committed suicide — as narrated by the dead teen herself on a set of seven audiotapes (or 13 sides).
However, as the story unfolds and Hannah reveals how each person mentioned in the tapes is responsible for her death, the audience and Clay himself begin to question what it is that he could have done that may have contributed to this tragic outcome. Upon reaching the side involving him, it is revealed that Clay (who was in love with Hannah), is innocent and is only featured because she had thought he was the nicest person she’d known and had wished she’d had more time with him because she’d also had feelings for him.
“When I first started writing Clay’s character, I didn’t even know what he was going to do,” Jay Asher tells EW. “I knew the 12 other reasons, but I didn’t know his. I realized, obviously, that that’s what people are going to be waiting for.”
So why did he take a more positive approach to Clay’s appearance on the tapes, unlike the reasons we learn about some of the teen’s high school classmates? Asher says there are two motives.
“One, if what he did was really bad, the second he got the tapes he would go, ‘I know I’m on here.’ There goes all the suspense,” explains the best-selling author. “Clay is also the eyes and ears for the reader. That’s the person you’re connecting with. It would have totally changed the reading experience in a negative way if all of a sudden you’re disgusted with this person you’ve been following so closely.”
Asher adds, “I know a lot of people talk about how they’ll start having a really strong reaction to what Hannah’s saying and then all of a sudden Clay will have the same reaction. It’s intentional.”
Thirteen Reasons Why (the book) is available for purchase here. 13 Reasons Why (the series) is streaming on Netflix.