When my cousin visited me last weekend, she recommended Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher as a light read. The novel is about a Clay Jensen, who receives cassette tapes from Hannah Baker, a classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier. There are 13 tapes in total and Hannah explains all the reasons and people who were involved in her decision to end her own life.
Well, I didn’t like it.
I liked some parts, of course. It was interesting enough to make me finish the book in 2 days, but it left an awkward taste in my mouth when I finished it. What mostly bothered me about the novel were Hannah herself, Clay himself, and my interpretation of how suicide is portrayed. If I had to list one thing I liked, it would be the little reminder that our actions all have an effect on other lives.
Hello, boys and girls. Hannah Baker here. Live and in stereo. No return engagements. No encore. And this time, absolutely no requests. I hope you’re ready, because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.
A lot of you cared, just not enough.
I’m not going to judge her reasons for suicide. If I were to be objective, her reasons are shallow compared to issues other people face. But this is not about her reasons or her situation; this is about her. Clearly, she was not strong enough to handle her battles and I do not condemn her for not being able to do so. What I do disapprove of is her entire idea of the tapes. It makes for an interesting plot, but it really makes me wonder about her intentions. I’m sure one of her intentions is to simply explain her side of the story and the struggles she was going through. But to make these tapes and send them to the 13 people who have hurt or betrayed her makes her seem like quite a bitter and resentful person.
What about that guy who put her name down for best ass of freshman year? Did he really deserve to be included in the tapes? Ironically, Hannah acknowledges he doesn’t but defends herself by saying that even if he didn’t mean to, his list was responsible for many events that came her way later on.
If you say so, Hannah. You’re the tragic heroine, I guess.
Surprise, a Gary Stu
I just couldn’t believe someone could be that good.
Even though Clay is on the list for the tape circulation, it is revealed that he did nothing wrong to Hannah. He is only included in the tapes to complete her story. Clay is Mr. Nice- nobody has anything bad to say about him… ever.
How boring. Perfect protagonists ruin everything.
Do you remember the last thing you said to me? The last thing you did to me? And what was the last thing I said to you? Because trust me when I said it I knew it was the last thing I’d ever say.
Indirectly, I believe this novel actually promotes suicide. It is not forwardly saying it is a good thing, as I am sure all of us readers have more common sense than that. What I really think is lying underneath the pages of this book is a recurring thought that suicidal people believe: They’ll be sorry when I am gone.
Unfortunately, this book seems to follow this underlying message. Hannah dies and instead of dying quietly, she leaves these tapes to be circulated. She goes on and on about all the bad things people did to her, therefore showering them with guilt and blame. She sheds some light on culprits of bad deeds, but really, everything is about her. I guess with a novel on suicide, it makes sense, but Hannah’s suicide is depicted as a fallen angel. The people she leaves behind is left to deal with grievances, regrets, shame, and all the works. Her death is something like a “tragedy”, one we should all remember and never forget. If that is not glamorizing, I don’t know what is.
There is nothing glamorous about suicide. You die. People will be sad about it, but eventually they move on. You, on the other hand, don’t get to.
* Beth’s review on Goodreads mirrors a lot of my thoughts on this point.
No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.
The only thing I kind of liked about this novel was the notion that you never know the pain someone else is going through. Bad things happen to Hannah and some of them are just little things, but we can see that it affects her greatly. Sometimes it is the little things that tip people over the edge. At the same time, it can also be a small act of kindness that saves someone.