Friday, June 2, 2017
Book Review -- 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Let me preface this review with this: If you need to talk -- reach out to a friend, a loved one, anyone willing to listen. If you are afraid to do that please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) anytime if you are in the United States. It’s free and confidential.
“When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything.”
When Netflix announced that they were bringing 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher to the small screen -- the Internet exploded namely because of the content. Suicide is a very touchy subject to talk about to begin with and to take a book that is 10 years old and when published did not have the advice or ways to cope like we do now, I can understand the skepticism. A lot of people feel that this book and show glorifies suicide, does not touch on the subject of mental illness, as well as does not think about the audience at all as well as many triggers.
That is why I have decided to read the book first before delving in the television show. Plus, the book is always better right?
Firat let us get into what the book is about: 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.
This book is extremely compelling - unputdownable at best- but a problem I had and that many readers have had is that the book relies on your sympathy for Hannah to effectively relay its message, and yet Hannah comes off as bratty, selfish and ofttimes over-sensitive. Many of her "reasons" are things that everyone has experienced at some point and people generally file those under "bad days" and definitely don't kill themselves because of it. I know I sure did as I was an outcast in high school. Hannah wasn't realistically suicidal or stereotypical suicidal. People like to look for clear-cut reasons that make sense. They wanted Hannah to give a good reason why she killed herself. But, in reality, it so rarely is one big reason you can point to. Most of the time, the little things all build up, day after day, one small thing after another, until the little reasons all blend into a single feeling of hopelessness. That is what this book is about. Plus it's also about taking responsibility for your actions and understanding how your small selfish acts can affect someone else. I felt so bad for Clay while reading this book. But I had an issue -- especially with the revelation about him, and the way he viewed the truth about Hannah. Clay changes his mind about Hannah based on what he hears and decides she did not deserve the treatment she did due to rumors. But - would she have deserved the treatment any more if she had done what the rumors said? I wish the book had taken the opportunity to address that. I do want to say I don't think this is 100% the best book in the world for depression/suicide, but I do believe it is an interesting narrative on how suicide impacts those affected, considering suicide is never a singular action.
If you are on the fence about reading/watching the television show due to what you have heard -- do not let that affect you. Give it a try. I did and I am glad that I did.