Title: 13 Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Genre: Young Adult
Publication date: 2007
Source: Bought it
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
The novel begins with our character, Clay Jensen receiving a mysterious package from an anonymous person. Once he opens the box, he finds seven tapes with a number on each side of the tapes, which ranges from numbers 1-13. As he listens to the tape, he discovers the voice of Hannah Baker, the girl who he had a crush on and had committed suicide two weeks prior. In each of those tapes, Hannah explains to thirteen different people how they each played a part in her death, and 13 reasons explaining why she took her life and one of them is Clay Jensen.
Let me first start by saying that I have a love/hate feeling towards this book. Even though I did buy the book because of the good reviews, I was a little bit skeptical prior to reading, after all, it dealt with a teenage girl committing suicide and I rarely, if not ever read a book where the main theme tackles the issue of suicide. The plot is really simple, and looking back, the book was just really about Hannah Baker’s suicide. It is a depressing book, and as much as I want to think of any funny moments while reading it, I recall none. There were moments when Hannah was being sarcastic, and as much as I love sarcasm–the way she joked about her death, I was uncomfortable and disturbed. Suicide is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly and it’s a serious matter so I was a bit upset with her for that.
As for Clay, I will admit I liked him. He comes off as a “boring” and “bland” character, but he is likeable- a good guy who never lies to his mom and about to become valedictorian. As he listens to the tapes and see his reactions, I found myself agreeing with him. The things that shocked him, were shocking for me as well…things he found disturbing, I was disturbed too. The book was an interaction between Clay and Hannah- Hannah’s narration and Clay’s reflection on it, I thought made the story richer and more powerful. In the beginning, all I felt for Hannah was pity; however, as the book progresses this was not the case. And as we read about Clay’s thoughts, we get to know Hannah better, the person who she really was, and not the Hannah the rumor says she is.
In the end I actually ended up hating Hannah. I do understand why people turn to suicide as the only option out. I understand the feeling of helplessness, sadness, and misery that could make a person want to make the pain go away by taking their own life. And despite this understanding, I disagree with the choice that Hannah made. I found Hannah as a “weak” character because of her low self-esteem. Rumors are something that most teenagers face in high school, and the fact that her peers affected her to such a degree that she felt the need to kill herself gives a strong indication of who Hannah is. It tells us that the she doesn’t see that the future could be different from her high school years…she doesn’t understand that rumors are just rumors. She knew that those rumors were wrong, yet she chose to be hurt by false words, rather than be strong and alive. Hannah came to the conclusion that no one cared about her and that no one would be affected by her death, but in the end we see that this was not the case. In the end I felt she is as much to blame for her death which she did acknowledge. However, she made BAD decisions that destroyed her. They were not unavoidable nor uncontrollable.
I also had difficulty understanding why Hannah went to such lengths to record her tapes and make sure everybody received them. It seemed to be more about getting back at the people who hurt her than about closure and explanation. Those people did her wrong, no question, but do they deserve what they got? Do they deserve to live with the guilt of being responsible for Hannah’s death? They probably did, but I felt Hannah was more selfish than pitiful.
I gave this 2.5 stars because I did like the concept of the book and the overall message- our behaviors, no matter their degree have an effect on the feelings of others. I think I have to put blame on Hannah’s character for me giving this book this rating. However, I did like Clay, and I did sympathize with him a lot. I thought his development was handled very well. It’s a nice book to read if you want some food for thought and about suicide.