Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

You can’t stop the future.

You can’t rewind the past.

The only way to learn the secret is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home to find a strange package with his name on it. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and first love – who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

Hannah’s voice explains there are thirteen reasons why she killed herself. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

All through the night, Clay keeps listening – and what he discovers changes his life… forever.

×××

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why

Author: Jay Asher

Published: October, 2007 by Razorbill 

Time it took me to read: 2/11 – 3/11

Rating: 4 out of 5

×××

I discovered this book because of Becky’s post on the  new up-and-coming genre called ‘Sick-lit’. Apparently it’s sick-lit when a book is about a person dealing with mental or physical illness (or both). Probably the most notable addition to this genre is John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.  

Thirteen Reasons Why caught my attention because of the beautiful cover art. I followed the link to Goodreads and when I read the description, my mind was made up. I had to read this book. So I bought it even though my finances don’t exactly allow it. Thanks Becky ;).

Our story begins when Clay Jensen receives a package from his former crush, Hannah Baker. Which is weird and slightly unnerving because Hannah committed suicide two weeks ago. The package is filled with cassette tapes. 7 tapes, 13 sides in total. Each side is dedicated to a specific person, and each person is a reason why she’s no longer here.

Clay has no idea which number on the list he his or what he did to earn his spot. But as he starts listening to Hannah’s story, he learns more about the girl he liked from afar. More than he had ever wanted to know. Hannah takes him on a journey, and life will never be the same again.

×××

I think this book is so important. It’s not exceptionally brilliantly written (the changes in point of view left me confused a couple of times) but the subject is so so important. Because Hannah was just a girl and life got the better of her. She could be anyone.

Hannah’s story starts with the boy who gave her her first kiss, Justin. She was new in town and he was dreamy. For her, the night was magical. They kissed and talked and nothing more. Yet, Justin thought it a good idea to spread rumours about Hannah. That’s how it all started. Just one guy who thought that if he spiced up his story a little, his friends would think that he’s cool. It all snowballed from there. A joke here, a well placed rumour there and suddenly Hannah had a reputation and people decided that it was their good right to act upon that reputation. Get voted ‘Best Ass of Freshman Class’? Well, let’s have a feel then. I’m going to have to test if it actually IS the best ass, don’t I? Don’t matter if you give me permission to touch you or not.

What’s brilliant about this book, is that it reminds us that all our actions have consequences. To us it may be ‘just a joke’, to other people it may be the breaking point. One small thing can trigger a series of events that could ruin someone’s life. This is, I think, the main point that the writer tries to make. Think about what you do, and what it could mean for someone else.

The premise of this book is very interesting. Hannah made the choice to record her story and to send her tapes to all the people she thought contributed to her death the most. And you can’t help but wonder, is that fair? To these people deserve to be saddled with the guilt of being blamed for another person’s death? They will live with this for the rest of their lives. Do they deserve this? On the one hand, yes, they do. They did some really horrible things and they need to know that what they did helped destroy a person’s life. Maybe they can learn from this and become better people.

On the other hand, can we expect a teenager to not make bad choices? They are teenagers after all, they’re basically made from mistakes instead of blood and organs. Can we expect from children to always make the right choice? No. Mistakes will get made and people will get hurt. But can we expect them to not be douchebags? That we can. And that’s where things went wrong for Hannah, people were going out of their way to be assholes to her. And that takes it’s toll.

So when I finished reading, I went on Goodreads as I always do to read some of the other reader’s thoughts and I came across the review that said that Hannah was whiny and did not have enough cause to commit suicide and that people should have noticed and should have done something. I don’t agree with this person’s opinion. I’ll tell you why.

As Hannah’s story progresses, you can feel her losing faith in people, being disappointed by people over and over again. Yes, a different person maybe would have shrugged it off and pushed past it, but not everyone is that strong. And I don’t think that we can trivialize anyone’s experiences with depression and desperation. You don’t do something like this because you had a bad day. Other than that, it was also implied on several occasions that while these stories are important and (more importantly) all connected to each other, there have been many different incidents that have occurred in her life. It was implied that she dealt with rumours and bullying at her previous school, and that her home-life was not perfect either. We cannot judge another person’s life.

As for the ‘someone should have noticed’ argument I only ask: can you put that on a person, let alone a teenager, to see that someone are so far gone that they might end their life? Can you put that responsibility in another person’s hands? Hannah distanced herself from everyone, she didn’t let anyone see. As far as I’m concerned, they don’t hold any responsibility. Except the people who are put in a position to specifically notice these things. Like the guidance counsellor.

During this scene I was almost screaming out loud. Worst. Guidance. Counsellor. Ever. What he said to her.. you just don’t say that. It made my blood boil. Eugh.

-deep breath-

Okay so in conclusion, Thirteen Reasons Why, is a very important book and I think everyone should read it. Just to gain some understanding in how our actions could affect others. It’s not ground breaking literary work but it’s well written and you want to keep on reading. It’s sad without being horribly depressing. Most of al it’s educational. Don’t judge, don’t lie, treat people with respect.

I could probably talk about this book for hours. I could explain exactly why she killed herself and why she didn’t sound exceptionally depressed on the tapes. Why she chose to make jokes and laugh. I could tell you exactly what the guidance counsellor should have said. But I won’t because this review is already too long. But if you want to discuss these or other subjects, please leave a comment.

I rate this book a 4 out of 5 and recommend it to everyone who is interested in social issues, teenage problems and basically the darker sides of every day life.

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Author: EMK

Just blogging away in my free time while I try to make something of my life

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why”

  1. I felt mixed about this book, not so much because of why she committed suicide, but because I thought the book would have been better if she sent the tapes to one of her tormentors. Like Byrce. Would he have changed while listening to it, or would he have done nothing and felt nothing? Clay felt more like a cheerleader and I still don’t get why he got the tapes.

    I do like the premise though and how our actions have consequences. That’s an important lesson for all of us and I do feel like 13 Reasons Why conveyed that brilliantly.

    Great review!

    1. I agree. That’s like one of the few things i was disappointed about; that Clay ended up being pretty much perfect. It would have been better if the book was about Alex, I think. Or if Clay had done something.. anything really. Maybe the author thought it would become too heavy or something if it’s not only about suicide but also bring responsible for it or something..

      Thanks so much for the comment!

  2. Yay, so glad you liked it that much! As I said before this book has been on my to read list for ages and I need to get round to it. The subject matter and the moral issues it brings up sound engaging so I’m looking forward to reading it. Might help if I actually owned a copy though. 😛

    Sorry to burn a hole in your pocket but I’m sure it was worth it, books always are. 😉

    Great review and thanks for the shout out!

    1. Haha owning a copy would be a step towards the goal of reading it, to be sure 😛 No but it’s such a great book. Mainly because there’s so many sides to discuss. Hannah is kinda a bitch for sending those and Clay kinda hates her for killing herself. It’s great bookclub material! Arghh I want to talk about this boooooooooooook

      As you can see, it was definitely worth it 😉

      Thank youuuuu! xx

  3. this book was basically one of the best books i’ve ever read , it carried different genres that i love ! clay is the CUTEST ! but it was sad that they both liked each other and didnt got the chance to hang out 😦 !

    btw loved your review ;*

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