Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why Literary Elements


Crime Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Young Adult Problem Novel

Setting and Context

Thirteen Reasons Why takes place in a fictional suburban town called Crestmont in the United States. Though the temporal context is not explicitly mentioned, it is evident that the story is set during the 2000s.

Narrator and Point of View

The narration of the book flips back and forth between Clay Jensen and Hannah Baker. Clay narrates in real time, whereas Hannah’s narration is a prerecorded summary of past events. When they narrate, both Clay and Hannah speak in the first-person point of view.

Tone and Mood

The tone of Thirteen Reasons Whys is somber and serious, with elements of dark humor interlaced. The mood is tense and anxious as Clay waits for his tape to begin, and then tragic when Hannah reaches her breaking point.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonists of the novel are Clay Jensen and Hannah Baker. The antagonists are bullying, rumors, and rape culture, all of which are personified by the baker’s dozen.

Major Conflict

The major conflict of Thirteen Reasons Why is Clay grappling with the possibility that he played a role in Hannah’s suicide.


The party where Hannah and Clay have “their night” is the climax of the book (316). This party is where all of the baker’s dozen and their stories tangle and collide.


Hannah’s story has many recurring elements, and the stories of her classmates are all connected. Because of this, Hannah makes frequent use of foreshadowing in her tapes, often taunting her listeners by hinting at the revelations and exposed secrets yet to come. Below are several examples from the text:

“I should have waited till after school. I should have given Jenny one final day of peace. Though she doesn’t deserve it.” (10)

“And Justin, honey, stick around. You’re not going to believe where your name pops up next.” (50)

“Plus, he’s got a whole tape all to himself…” (74)

“Which is very unfortunate, as it turns out. But that is for a later tape.” (87)

“Let me tell you that there is a much bigger, more important party later in the tapes.” (153)


When Clay goes to Tony’s house to borrow the Walkman, Tony asks him what’s going on. After thinking, “Oh, well, since you asked, I got a bunch of tapes in the mail today from a girl who killed herself. Apparently, I had something to do with it,” Clay responds to Tony, “Not much” (52). This is a macabre, yet comedic, use of understatement.


When discussing her and Clay’s relationship, Hannah quotes lines from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Clearly, she sees connections between the famous tragedy of the star-crossed lovers, and her and Clay.


See “Imagery” section of the guide.




There are several uses of parallelism in Thirteen Reasons Why. Clay sees parallels between himself and Hannah, and between Hannah and Skye:

“We walked those streets together, Hannah. Different routes, but at the same time. On the same night. We walked the streets to get away. Me, from you. And you, from the party. But not just from the party.” (392)

“But Skye’s walking down the same stretch of hall where I watched Hannah slip away two weeks ago. On that day, Hannah disappeared into a crowd of students, allowing the tapes to say her good-bye. But I can still hear the footsteps of Skye Miller, sounding weaker and weaker the further she gets.” (449)

Metonymy and Synecdoche



Hannah anthropomorphizes the scar Jessica gives her, and describes how it says “good morning” to her when she starts her day and “sleep tight” when she goes to bed (106).