Thirteen Reasons Why
By Jay Asher
Summary: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.
Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.
Source: I purchased a paperback
I’ve had the book on my shelf for quite some time and it’s been on radar. At the same time, it’s been a book I’ve kind of been avoiding because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to like it. And while it was good, my instincts were right… I didn’t really like the book and I’ll explain why. I think it honestly depends on who you are and what you want a story to do.
On one hand, Thirteen Reasons Why is a must read and a fantastic read. I would 100% recommend it for teens and teachers and parents and anyone else who works closely with teens. It will no doubt open your eyes to the events that happen in a teen girl’s life and how those things can ruin someone’s life, whether actually or at least ruin their high school years.
On the other hand, I cannot seem to understand Hannah and her decision and the whole thing is incredibly frustrating. The book is certainly full of relevant information that hits hard and should be out there. We should be mindful of others and what small actions can do to other people and that’s the basic message of the book and I AGREE with that. It’s got a lot to do with women and how we are treated as objects and what that does to a girl. But to have Hannah’s character go forward with killing herself is so over the top to me and, even if it is realistic, it’s something that bothers me, that frustrates me, and is not the kind of message I think is necessary to get the other messages across so it’s just aggravating to me. Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying that Hannah didn’t have a “good enough” reason to kill herself, since reasons are subjective and suicide victims aren’t always in their right minds so I’m not trying to judge and say she’s dumb or she’s being extreme. It’s just that.. what she went through is something I think most girls can either understand or have gone through themselves and it doesn’t help those girls to get this message only to have a character commit suicide instead of standing up to it. I wanted to root for the Hannah in the tapes, the Hannah that’s letting people know they screwed up in some way, and that fierce Hannah doesn’t mesh with the suicidal Hannah in my brain. The tapes alone are proof that Hannah had a message she wanted to get across, so we know she has guts, so it just doesn’t work for me to have her be a victim of suicide after all of that. It’s just so.. out of character for Tape Hannah.
My thoughts on the book are all over the place and I think it’s solely based on the fact that Hannah committed suicide. I thought in the beginning I would get a glimpse into her life and come to understand why she made her decision. I just didn’t get that from the book. Instead of being a book about suicide awareness, it was a book about the treatment of girls. Which is fine, I’m on board with the message, it’s just that it didn’t go together with the suicide message in my opinion. I have never struggled with depression or feelings of suicide, so it’s hard for me to really evaluate if something is believable in that area. I know that Hannah’s outcome, given the same events, would not be my own and my own feelings towards that are definitely going to skew my acceptance of the outcome. The book would have to do a better or more thorough job of getting me on board with Hannah’s decision and it didn’t do that.
If I’m reviewing the book without the fact that Hannah committed suicide, I loved it. Girls in high school face some pretty awful things. We want good grades, we want to be liked, we want friends, we want to succeed, and a lot of us wanted attention. Teen girls can be boy crazy and might get themselves into more than they anticipated. As Hannah discovered, her forwardness about going out and meeting a boy was with the sole intention of having her first kiss and nothing more, but was very easily misinterpreted and snowballed into a reputation issue. Can you even win in high school? Girls are treated as objects and guys treat them as objects without even realizing it sometimes. Words like prude, cold, slut, whore, easy, etc are thrown around based on the tiniest of rumors or confrontations. Other girls contribute. We go to war with one another to get a leg up or without even realize we are bashing someone else. Teens all make awful decisions and their bodies are raging with hormones and they can’t even fully understand them. That’s what being a teenager is like. We all were one at one point.
But every time you ignore a problem, let someone take advantage of someone else, or turn a blind eye to an issue, you are contributing to the problem and that’s essentially what I think the book is about. How many people knew about the ill treatment of a girl in Hannah’s story and did nothing? When the man grabbed Hannah’s butt in the convenience store? The clerk, uncomfortable and angry, still said and did NOTHING. When a girl was raped in her sleep, two people let it happen rather than stop it or even tell anyone about it. When Hannah was being manhandled in the booth of a diner and tried not to make a scene, everyone nearby knew it was happening and uncomfortably looked away. We can’t allow women or ANYONE be treated like that and it’s up to everyone to say something. Don’t let it continue to happen. And that message is something I think anyone working with teens should be exposed to. Adults, too, but it’s imperative that teens are exposed to this issue because high school is difficult enough and without a light at the end of a visible tunnel, it could certainly negatively impact someone permanently. Or, it could have a snowball effect, like the stop sign incident in the book. Either way, it’s never too early to receive the message that what you do and how you treat people and situations has an impact on things and people around you. You are not isolated. Your feelings matter just as much as your actions and those actions impact others. Life is not lived in a vacuum.
I’m going to give this 4 stars and, despite not liking every aspect of the book, I still highly recommend it for the reasons I’ve mentioned above. It’s a great book with a message that is important to grasp.