Book Review | Thirteen Reasons Why

Hannah Baker dies. Suicide. Two weeks later, Clay Jensen finds a parcel sitting on his doorstep. And in it… Hannah’s voice. Thirteen tapes. Thirteen reasons why Hannah killed herself. Thirteen people are to blame. And Clay is one of them.

cant_stop_the_future

Click to Enlarge Image

Let me start off by saying this book was lovely, but depressing. Heading into it, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it–it was, after all, a book about a teenage girl’s suicide. Looking back, I think it was just simply that.

It is the story of Clay Jensen listening to the story of Hannah Baker, his crush–the girl who committed suicide.

It is a tale, with a enlightening and disturbing moral: Watch your actions carefully. Even the slightest thing, even the most careless action, could make someone take their own life.

TH1NGS 1 L1K3D

One thing I’d have to say is that this is not even a slightly funny book. Looking back, I tried to come up with a moment that might have even made me smile. I found none. Even when Hannah was sarcastic, I knew the end result–and that just made me feel like I shouldn’t get too attached to her. I found this to be a good thing in a book dealing with suicide–when Hannah joked about her death, it was sickening and disturbing. I didn’t want it to be funny, because suicide and death aren’t funny things. They’re serious matters, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

I loved that Clay was a sort of “bland” character. A good guy who never lies to his mom and is about to become valedictorian. This lets the reader become Clay, in a way. As Clay listened to the story and we heard his reactions, I found myself agreeing with him, too. The things he found disturbing, I found disturbing. When he was shocked, so was I. The fact that the book was an interaction between Hannah and Clay–Hannah’s narration and Clay’s reflection on it–made it richer and more powerful. When we first meet Hannah, all we feel for her is pity. But with Clay’s thoughts, we get to know Hannah better, the Hannah she really was, and not just the Hannah the rumors say she is.

One thing I loved was that the novel addressed the concept of peer pressure and problems from peers. Hannah faces problems from her peers throughout the book, and it eventually kills her. While the book doesn’t preach morals, it teaches us that our words and actions matter, and can lead to a bigger, cumulative event.

I found Hannah to be very well-characterized, albeit a character with low self-esteem, making her seem “weak”. Rumors are something most people face in high school, and although many people feel like they do not have friends at some point in their lives, not all of them kill themselves. The fact that her peers affected her to such a degree that she felt the need to kill herself speaks volumes about Hannah. It tells us she doesn’t see that the future could be different from her high school years; it tells us that she doesn’t understand that rumors are just rumors. Even though Hannah knows most of the rumors about her are wrong, she chooses to be hurt by false words, rather than be kept strong and alive by what she knows to be true.

I liked the fact that Hannah forces Clay and the other twelve people to go through the entire tapes, with a threat to them if they did not finish them. The threat acted upon the reader, as well, so we feel compelled to finish reading through all 13 tapes.

Personally, I enjoyed having a pessimistic main character. Clay is very optimistic-and-bright; he’s sort of a Mr. Perfect type of character. I think most readers identified more with Clay’s voice because a large quantity of people classify themselves as optimists. However, I found myself drawn to Hannah’s voice, because she was a pessimistic, female protagonist, quite like some of the characters I have written. It certainly made a change from the typical cynical male protagonist and the bright-and-jolly female protagonist that are often featured in books. In this aspect, Hannah’s voice was unique. But honestly, it wasn’t worth it–speaking from the character perspective, I wanted the best for Hannah, just as I wanted the best for every protagonist in (almost) every book I’ve read. From that standpoint, I would rather have had an optimistic protagonist that lived than a pessimistic protagonist that died.

TH1NGS 1 D1DN’T L1K3

At the beginning of the book, Hannah says, “When you’re done listening to all thirteen sides–because there are thirteen sides to every story–rewind the tapes, put them back in the box, and pass them on to whoever follows your little tale. And you, lucky number thirteen, you can take the tapes straight to hell. Depending on your religion, maybe I’ll see you there.” (pg. 9) This creates a little bit of suspense–is Clay the thirteenth person? Where does he come into the story?

The problem is, the very first scene of the book is Clay shipping the tapes off, so we already know he isn’t the thirteenth person. This kills some of the initial suspense. There are too many characters who drift in and out, without adding much depth or complexity to the story–while the title required thirteen stories, thirteen reasons wasn’t necessary to get Hannah’s feelings across. In addition, I often found myself confused between Clay’s and Hannah’s points of view–while the commentary was necessary, the two voices weren’t different enough. Although I felt I knew Hannah better than Clay by the end of the book, it felt like she was recording the tapes just to make the people who hurt her feel guilty–especially Clay (I would say more, but no spoilers!).

F1N4L TH0UGHTS

All in all, I enjoyed the book. I would recommend it to you if you are okay with strong, sometimes disturbing, and dark topics, such as suicide and depression. While the book was a compelling read, it was not emotional–I steeled myself for a main character’s death from the moment I picked it up, because Hannah’s suicide was revealed on the back cover. Although I didn’t like some aspects of the book, I found it to be an interesting read, which I enjoyed and will definitely be keeping on my bookshelf. I found Hannah’s voice unique–perhaps because I have never read a book focusing on a main character contemplating suicide–but I found it to be on the plus side nonetheless.

Overall, I absolutely LOVED and agreed with the themes and ideas of this book. Teens (or anyone else!) should never, ever be driven to take their own life. Please, consider your actions before you take them. They could be simple jokes, but could end up having implications far beyond your knowledge.

________________________________________________________________

thirteenreasons-bookThirteen Reasons Why is Jay Asher‘s first book. The debut novel made the New York Times Bestseller List and has been translated into over 31 languages, receiving praise from around the globe.

Thirteen Reasons Why is available to buy on Amazon for $6.72 (Paperback Edition) with additional shipping for non-Prime members.

Advertisements

15 responses to “Book Review | Thirteen Reasons Why

  1. I actually just finished a short story that starts off with a guy’s suicide, so I was interested how this person dealt with it and the effect. I didn’t set out to write a story about that, it just happened XD Mine is told from the view of the person that tries to kill themself. His memories, and altered reality as he comes closer to death. It’s told in a non-linear manner, for now at least. I’m not sure if I’ll end up changing the order of it because I feel like starting a story off with suicide is kind of cliche. Mine actually started off with the character in heaven and then going to hell, but a friend of mine said that was too boring to start the story off. But it’s interesting how you distanced yourself from the protagonist because you knew she would die. That makes me think maybe I should change it. I only have two characters, Kyle and Emma, and the story is exclusively from Kyle’s POV, but this is a short story. I enjoyed reading what you liked and didn’t like about a book. Things like that help me as I write my own stories. Thanks 🙂

    • Truthfully, I think Thirteen Reasons Why deals less with Clay’s thoughts on Hannah’s simple suicide (what happened right after he got the news), and more about how Clay felt when he realized why Hannah had done what she did, and why Hannah did what she did.
      Starting with the suicide definitely lessens the suspense and the emotion… starting in heaven and going to hell sounds interesting, though…

      I think distancing yourself from the protagonist is a natural thing that many people do–like in real life, if you meet a person who you know is going to die the next day, you probably won’t become their BFF. You might be kind to them and help them through their last day, but you won’t be absolutely crazy over them. Plus, the whole will-he-die will-he-not-die suspense is also great. It’s also harder to pull of a suicide in the beginning than the end (not that I doubt you… you’re writing is plain amazing! But just my friendly observations :)).

      I’m glad my likes and dislikes helped you think about your own writing. 😀

      – Sabrina

      • Thank you for your honesty 🙂 I’m torn about how I should start it. Originally it started with him in heaven and he goes to hell, but my friend said it was too boring, so I don’t know XD One of my best friends is a good writer and I’m hoping she can help me. The story starts out with him shooting himself, so it’s unclear if he will make it or not until the very end. I think the focal point is about why he did it, and his relationship with Emma. I’m going to try to get friends to read it as well and see how they feel about it. Maybe I’ll post the beginning on Snippet Sunday. The next part of my fantasy story is really too confusing without knowing the backstory so I wasn’t going to post that anyway.

        • Oh, no problem! 🙂 I’m always happy to help. I think the idea of heaven to hell is neat, but it’s honestly your call. And if you’re calling your friend a good writer by your standards, she must be absolutely AMAZING 😉

          If its unclear whether he shoots himself, then it creates suspense while addressing the main issue. Everybody wins!

          Ooh, yes please do! I’d love to see the beginning possibly both of them? of it… Sounds very cool, and, as we all know you can definitely pull it off with a short story…

          Looking forward to seeing more! 😀

          – Sabrina

          • Sure I’ll post the rough draft tomorrow 🙂 It’s pretty rough so I could use some concrit and honesty about what works and what doesn’t. Well my friend is better at storytelling than I am, lol. I’m worried some parts of it won’t make sense. I mean it’s supposed to be a bit cryptic but if it’s too confusing people will stop reading. Thank you so much :$

  2. Pingback: What’s Up Wednesday Week 3 | In Loving Memory | Books and Bark·

  3. Pingback: Book Review: “Thirteen Reasons Why” | The Cheap Reader·

    • Thanks. 🙂 Yeah, I definitely think a book with heavy topics such as this one is not for everyone—but again, that’s what reviews are for, aren’t they? 🙂

      – Sabrina

    • I guess the main thing that made me want to read through the book was the fact that I wanted to find out what Clay’s role in all of this was. I was a little disappointed in it…

  4. Pingback: Let’s Play Diversity Bingo With NYT Bestsellers | Books and Bark·

Tell me your thoughts, minions!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s