Review: Thirteen Reasons Why | 13 Moments Leading Up to One Timely Suicide

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why

Author: Jay Asher

Publisher: Razorbill

Publication Date: June 14, 2011

Rating: 4 Stars


” For the longest time, from almost day one at this school, it seemed that I was the only one who cared about me.

Put all of your heart into getting that first kiss…only to have it thrown back in your face.
Have the only two people you truly trust turn against you. Have one of them use you to get back at the other, and then be accused of betrayal.”

Dear fellow Babblers,

Tell me: is it possible that a single stack of pages onto which patterns of letters, forming fluid and meaningful sentences, could be capable of touching my heart in a way that not even a person has ever managed to accomplish before? This is exactly how I feel upon finishing 13 Reasons Why. From beginning to end of this raw, perhaps romanticized, novel about a victimized girl, Hannah Baker, recounting the 13 individuals who, in one way or another, served as catalyst for her fatal decision, my throat was in knots and tears were on the verge of flooding my eyes. And let me tell you why… 

Goodreads Review:

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 from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

Babble:

This book is marvelously told by the perspectives of two victims: Hannah Baker, who kills herself, and Clay Jensen, who listens to the thirteen tapes onto which Hannah records the motives behind her timely death. During the weeks leading up to her suicide, Hannah records the stories and connections each of these 13 people who will listen to the tapes, only to watch their lives changing forever, and then pass it to the next listener.

Clay is the ninth to receive the tapes as a mysterious package arrives on his front doorsteps only two weeks after Hannah’s suicide. The novel takes place over the course of a single evening as Clay walks through his neighborhood visiting diners, gas stations, and parks, according to a complimentary map drawn out by Hannah that gives the location where each incident motivating her decision unraveled.

I won’t go too deep into what Hannah says in each of these tapes, as I do not want to give too much away for those of you who have not yet read the book.
What really caught be in this book was the domino effect that Hannah incessantly alludes to. All these minor, perhaps potentially non heartbreaking events that occur in her life from being bullied, to having rumors spread about her, to witnessing a rape, all, in one way or another, connect back to one another. We all have either been victims or perpetrators of high school dramas and have enjoyed, thrived off of, and participated in all of its meaninglessness and consequences. 13 Reasons Why gives us the ultimate extreme, showing us what could happen from these actions that we, as teenagers, have once thought of as just “fun and games.”

Many readers criticize the book for its romanticized treatment of a very complex subject, suicide reasoning that nothing really “that bad” even happens to Hannah. Who is anyone to judge what is “that bad”…? We all have our own coping mechanisms, distinct histories, and distorted memories that shape our tolerance levels for pain. Sure, perhaps Hannah should have been a bit stronger. Maybe she was already damaged upon moving this this new town and starting this new school and these thirteen individuals only catalyzed a decision that was already heavy on her mind. As readers, we will never truly know. But this book is not simply about that.

With multiple pauses in the tape to direct attention to Clay, we are shown that things are not really as they always appear. Clay never knew and he admits that he never tried to know or understand the truth behind Hannah’s plastered smiles, betrayed by watery eyes. He often saw her at school, worked alongside her at the movie theater, and made out with her at a single party, but he never got a chance to truly get to know her, and now, never will.
Hannah felt alone, betrayed and with no other choice but to end her life. Clay, along with all the other people mentioned on the tapes, had they tried even a little bit harder, and laughed just a little bit less, maybe there could have been hope for Hannah. Clay repeatedly says that she was not alone and he could have helped her if she had only opened up. Either way, by this point in Hannah’s depression, she was far from being helped. As soon as one makes a decision as this, believe it or not, there is no return.

I know many of you may not agree with some of the statements I am claiming her about suicide, and I am sorry if I am offending any of you. Although this book gives a hidden message that “you are not alone,” at the same time, there comes a point in the mind of one contemplating suicide where all help and hope is no longer an option, as we see in the last tape when Hannah visits Mr. Porter’s office.

This book left me breathless and I still feel the rawness and evocativeness of emotion that carried me through each page. This book is deep and powerfully warns us of the dangers underlying seemingly light actions. I agree with the message that no one is alone, but I also could understand the invisible line that at any moment could be crossed,, rendering all help and hope a faulty illusion.

Yours Truly,

I recommend this book for all readers: bullies, those being bullied, and those witnessing bullies bullying. You are not alone, but don’t test the bounds, you may just add fuel to the fire….

I have not yet watched the Netflix adaptation of 13 Reasons Why, and though I heard that it more or less coincides with the book, I’m always a bit skeptical of watching adaptations of books I loved because I feel as though it can disturb and change the way I perceive the book should I decide to reread it. 

(Book image credits go to Goodreads)

20 thoughts on “Review: Thirteen Reasons Why | 13 Moments Leading Up to One Timely Suicide

  1. I thought the reason people didn’t like this book/tv show wasn’t because nothing “that bad” happened to her. I thought they were upset that it portrayed suicide as a way to get back at people. Romanticizing suicide as a weapon. I don’t get the impression that 13 Reasons Why has the message of “suicide is okay” (I admit I haven’t read/watched it), but some of my friends felt that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. That’s what a lot of people are saying but I don’t feel as though one can really judge what is considered “that bad.” I mean, where can one really draw the line between what is bad enough to cause someone to contemplate suicide and what is not? Everyone deals with their emotions differently and everyone suffers differently so to say that she had no reason to kill herself or victimize others because nothing “that bad” happened to her simply is not a good enough reason, for me, to criticize a book.

      Like

  2. thanks for you review 🙂 i liked the tv show a little bit more, because the impact was way worse. you can see everything with so many pictures and not just imagining. this felt so much more real to me! will you watch it?
    and i liked your statement: “Who is anyone to judge what is ‘that bad’…?” that is so true. everyone has his or her own way to deal with things. everything bad that is happening to someone, is bad!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your reply! I didn’t think of it that way but I just may start the series now, as there were some parts in the story that were hard for me to imagine such as the last moments when Hannah is in the hot tub and allows that jerk to start touching her – that was heartbreaking.
      It just bothers me so much for some people to feel as though they cn meansure the extremity to which some people are affected by events. Sure, the things that happen to Hannah are not unusual, but they haven in a domino-effect manner and it seems as though she was already a sad girl to begin with, having to move to a new town anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. yes, give it a try! there are a lot of things different from the book because you see a lot of the other characters, which i loved btw. it has a much bigger impact, to see everything visually!
        i didn’t know that there are people out there who say such things. that’s awful! all that happened to her was bad and if you add that up, that is so so much! nobody has the right to say that it’s not so bad to take her own life. that’s frustrating me, because come on people, did you see what happened to her? 😱

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Exactly. That really bothered me about the reviews I read on goodreads. A lot of people didn’t like the book just because the author didn’t create some traumatic scenes that no one would have believed anyway does not make it okay to say Hannah made a big deal of nothing!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Amazing review! I read this book a long time ago and flew through it, I loved it. I know it’s something people will never all agree on, which is perfectly understandable, and I liked what you said about how we can’t judge each other’s reactions. I’ve seen people say that this book made them feel comforted, and for others it made them feel worse. There is no right answer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same here! I just could not put this book down and I’m so glad I read it while I was at home and not in public. Words can’t even describe how emotionally impactful this book was for me. That’s what has been bothering me most about the discussion of this book: criticisms that the suicide subject was being overly exaggerated.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I thought it was done so well and doesn’t glorify or exaggerate suicide at all, and I’m not going to try to change anyone’s opinion if it bothered them, but what I remember most about this book isn’t even the act of the suicide at all (honestly I hardly remember how she even did it), but just how people all connect and impact each other’s lives. The whole book is such an interesting way of explaining that.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review! Delphine!! Yes, I feel the same way about ‘the domino effect,’ and I was one of those people who thought each of her reasonings was not ‘bad.’
    That said, what really struck me is that, in Hannah’s case, they came in Droves; we could handle one or two of what Hannah experienced, but I wonder if I’d get to ride them out if they came in succession. It was a haunting read. Beautiful review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Noriko. To be honest, I was expecting some much more traumatic experiences on Hannah’s part. Halfway into the book however, I realized that it was not about the magnitude of her experiences, but rather the fact that she was singled out and all that each thing that happened to her was, in one way or another, connected to the event that came before it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Do you think the book would have as much impact on someone who never got involved in high school drama? (We are out there!) I went to public high school for my junior and senior year, heard about 2 sentences of gossip (to which I did not respond), and read books the rest of the time. (I’m also very oblivious and tend to read the meanness out of interactions unless it’s overt.) In college I got involved in drama that lasted exactly 1 hour and resolved itself with tears and hugs. (I’m not even kidding.)

    All this to say…when I read books about high school and small town drama, I often wonder, “Is this really how it is, or are they just dramatizing it for greater impact?” It fascinates me, but I don’t have anything to judge it against.

    I would say be careful about talking about suicide having a “point of no return,” because as that may be true, it might cause someone to be even more hopeless. And it might discourage someone from trying to help another, if there’s no point. You can’t spend your life worrying that every little thing you do might cause someone to spiral, but you can do your best to be a good person.

    As someone who was once borderline suicidal, I do want to say that you can’t fault people for not trying “hard enough” to get you to open up. It is in a way as you said; there are times where no matter how hard someone tried I probably wouldn’t have responded. I know people who are similar; I’ve tried to get close to them but they won’t let me. It’s more valuable just to have someone there for you all the time, and it sounds like Hannah didn’t have that. I haven’t read the book or watched the TV show, but what bothered me most about it was that it felt like it was blaming people for her suicide. Even though they made bad choices, they alone did not cause her decision, and it seemed unfair to fault them like that.

    (Of course someone who is suicidal already isn’t thinking logically, but I hope the book didn’t make it sound like faulting them was an okay thing to do.)

    Anyway this has been a long comment. Thanks for reviewing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for this thorough comment Faith.
      If we are getting really technical here then I will claim that we can never really know what high school “truly” is like as cliques, trends, and the norm changes from one school and metropolitan world to the next.
      However, I do stand by my phrase that there “comes a point of no return.” In my experience, no matter the medication or help one may receive, the trauma, the thoughts, the memories of ever having suicidal thoughts remain in one’s unconscious regardless of being effectively helped or not. I believe this was true in Hannah’s case because, as we see in the very end of the story when she attempts to seek help from Mr. Porter, in the end, the pursuit fails because Hannah basically already has her mind set up.
      I do not speak for all suicidal or depressed patients out there. I speak from my perceptions and my own experience as having battled depression, anxiety and mania , and having been hospitalized for suicidal intentions. I have been there, just as many individuals have and regardless of getting help, the stir of emotions and thoughts linked to the illness do not just disappear.
      Yes, Hannah was blaming others for her suicide but I don’t think it was just about that. She linked all these seemingly minor events together and someone does not just wake up one day deciding they want to kill themselves. Thoughts like these grow out of a source and in Hannah’s case, these 13 inherently linked events was her source.
      Thank you again for the comment and I appreciate and fully respect your opinions of this extremely touchy subject. ❤

      Like

  6. I read the book years ago and it’s always left an impression on me. I haven’t watched the show, and I’m not sure that I will. Like you, I’m always skeptical of movie/TV adaptations. I want to re-read the book, at a minimum.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many of the people that I have been speaking to in the last few days have been telling me such positive things about 13 Reasons Why like you can actually feel the rawness in Hannah’s emotion more watching the series than simply reading the book. So I’m thinking that I just may make an exception this once! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The way you stringed your words together to form this review is beautiful. Wonderfully said.

    I watched the Netflix show and I loved it. I think it strays from the book a bit, but all adaptations do it feels like. Honestly, I felt so many feels reading the book and then watching the show. It was heartbreaking and eye opening.

    Happy reading! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Christina, that means a lot to me, especially for this post. I was extremely hesitant posting it, given some pretty strong claims I was making that I knew many would not agree with and be angry about.

      Oooo, did you really? Everyone’s been telling me how good it is and I’m still hesitant. But now I’m almost sure I’m going to start it. Right? I’m so glad I didn’t read it in public because this book literally tore my heart apart.

      Happy reading to you too, it’s such a pleasure babbling witcha! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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