When I originally read Thirteen Reasons Why it was 2012. I just discovered who John Green was, at the time, and with me consuming his books, one after the other, I wanted more YA novels to read. So I came across this book and with it noting, in the Amazon reviews, “Thriller-like pacing” and “[…] will leave you with chills long after you finished reading.” I called bullshit.
Now, granted, I did read “A Child Called ‘It’” in 2009 [note]I’m getting all these dates from looking at my order history[/note] and that book made me cry and want to vomit. However, even with the great Dr. Maya Angelou’s books, I wasn’t left with chills. So, being that the book was only $10, and I figured that was about the same as a movie ticket, I decided to pick buy the book.[note]The review below is a mix of my original thoughts from when I first read this book with additions, deletions, and changes, based off of reading it over the last two weeks. Half of the book over the past night.[/note]
Characters & Story
Everyone considers suicide selfish, something only the weak could do, and all their thoughts and answers contain some kind of “Should have,” “I would have,” and the type of comparisons which usually only make things worse. And that’s the thing, people always have opinions and never realize, while the person was living, how those opinions build up inside someone, like cancer. One negative opinion grows and infects more and more thoughts in your head until you can’t take it anymore. That is what happens with Hannah Baker.
Now, some of you may think “The world has come to the point where coping and dealing with hardship has been disregarded as an option.” Well, this maybe true. However, even though the internet isn’t part of this book, imagine rumors about your so-called promiscuity around when you’ve only kiss 5 or less people. Imagine being a girl who is new and has no friends, yet for some reason everyone talks as if they know you intimately. Perhaps, just for a moment, imagine any and all attempts to connect with someone, and perhaps making a stable connection for a few days or weeks, leading to that person suddenly disappearing or throwing up all the stuff you said or did with them in your face.
Suicide doesn’t come as a sudden idea but can develop into a long-standing thought. We all know it is an option but, hopefully, it is never the first one. However, as you tick off the ways you think you can find happiness, if not peace, it moves up on the list. Until, eventually, it is the only thing left and while you try past methods over, the results remain the same. Leaving you with only the ultimate option. Something which we walk through with Clay, our pseudo-lead, step by step, as Hannah comes to the decision to end her life.
The Method of Storytelling
In many ways, this book is very visual and though our sort of guide, Clay, is a bit too emotional for my taste, to seriously put yourself in his position. Yet, as you put yourself into his shoes, imagine yourself listening to the last thoughts and words of a girl you not only cared about but could have possibly given hope, by the end of the book you will probably understand why he seemingly gets so distraught. Much less remains so even after his name comes up in the tapes.
Something which, in itself, made for a quality narrative. Now, I haven’t read too many books on suicide, but the question of what led up to the attempt is always a thought when a friend reveals it or when it becomes a news story. So with Hannah breaking it down, person by person, event by event, it really reminds you how connected we all are. It makes you reflect on your own life and people you had to or do interact with. For, in relation to Hannah, it seems nearly everything that happened to her was unwarranted. She was just existing, trying to be friendly, maybe get to know what love is, have her first kiss, and people exploited that. Leading you to fully realize, or need to take into consideration, how much of an effect, or affect, you can have even when you are seemingly trying to be nice. [note]One sort of related example is this story I was told in high school. I’m not sure how or why it came up anymore, but the story still resonates with me. It was about a young man, somewhere in his 30s, who lived alone and seemingly didn’t have much. Now, when I say “Don’t have much,” it seems any article I look into mentioning this story makes it seem he had a bare apartment and there isn’t anything noting family or friends. But, long story short, he left a suicide note in which he says “If only person smiles at me, I won’t jump [Off the Golden Gate bridge]” and as you come to the end of the book, as Hannah is grasping for a hand to save her, it’s hard to not realize how many people you might have known where if you did just one nice thing, like smile and acknowledge them, their life could have been different. [/note]
On The Fence
The Boring Male Lead
Like with many YA novels, the love interest is the true star while the one who has fallen for them is written to be so plain that their only significance is introducing us to their crush. Thankfully, though, Clay’s role isn’t made to attempt to share the spotlight with Hannah. In a way, he is written by Jay Asher to be someone you are sitting beside as Hannah has her one-woman show. That is, rather than Clay being generic so you could be in his shoes. Which, you can kind of do, but after a certain point, you may find yourself speeding through Clay’s dialog to get to Hannah’s. Especially since Clay doesn’t offer any perspective but his own and it pretty much aligns with Hannah’s.
Overall: Positive (Buy)
Overall, I would definitely say to buy it. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a quick read, but that maybe because it is fresh in a way. For while there are 13 reasons, it doesn’t play out like a video game. You don’t feel like you are going on the same journey over and over again as Hannah reveals each person’s part in her suicide. It honestly doesn’t drag at all and even with me revisiting the book years later in anticipation for the Netflix series, I still enjoyed myself. Heck, assumingly because of maturity, I even got a little bit emotional as you come to realize Hannah has tried everything she is willing to do and the last option is all that was left. So here is hoping with the upcoming series, they don’t f— this up.