I devoured this book in one sitting earlier this week (little late to the party, I know) and am now seriously suffering from a book hangover. So, in an attempt to rid myself of a suicidal teenage girl’s voice interrupting my morning coffee, here’s thirteen reasons why I can’t stop thinking about Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher:
[*SPOILER ALERT* – do not read this if you don’t already know how the book plays out
1: The dual narrator style
It took me a little while to get used to the Hannah-Clay narration duo and I did find myself having to re-read some sections to understand who had said what but I love that it allows you to see and understand Clay’s reaction to Hannah’s words immediately without slowing the pace of the story. I thought it worked really well, and it was interesting to see how many times Clay’s thoughts were the same as mine (and how many times they weren’t at all!).
2: It was so consuming
I’ve read a number of reviews of the book and the TV show (which I haven’t seen) over the last couple of days and it’s clear that opinion is divided. However, fans and sceptics alike say they were hooked on the story.
I found myself needing to know what would happen next, I just couldn’t put the book down.
3: I want to know what happens next
I feel like this is only been half the story. It is undeniable that the fourteen people that hear the tapes will be affected forever by what they have heard, so how do their lives turn out?
Does anyone ever find out that Jenny ran over the stop sign before the accident? Is Courtney’s rapist ever brought to justice? How does Courtney deal with finding out she was raped? Did she already know? Does Tyler stop abusing women? Does Mr Porter continue to be a guidance counsellor? Does anyone else ever find out about the content of the tapes?
And most importantly – is this the last suicide that this group is going to see?
More questions than answers really.
4: I want justice
The incidents that Hannah describes on the tapes range from petty school girl arguments to full on bullying, abuse and assault. I can’t help but be angry at the perpetrators of the serious crimes and want to step in to make sure they get their comeuppance.
5: I want to shield the innocents
By the same token, I want to be able to protect some of the more innocent recipients of the tapes. Yes, sone reminders about what constitutes appropriate behaviour are due but they don’t all deserve to have their worlds torn apart. It isn’t clear what Courtney remembers about The Party; either she will find out she was raped, or she will find out that thirteen other people know her secret. All because she fell out with Hannah, had a little too much to drink at a party, and walked away from a consensual sex act. Yeah, she’s probably going to need some help. Which brings me onto…
6: I don’t want to believe that help wasn’t available
I don’t think it is unrealistic that a teenage girl that has just killed herself would feel that nobody helped or supported her, and Hannah is our story teller. So can we trust her word that everyone was so unhelpful? We know that she deliberately avoids the support that Clay could give her. It is Hannah’s opinion that her classmates’ suggestions on how to help a suicidal person are tinged with annoyance. Is she biased? I don’t know, but I want to believe it because the thought that there wouldn’t be more support available is, frankly, haunting.
7: It brings back my teen years
As school years go, mine were pretty uneventful. I wasn’t a particularly happy teenage girl but I didn’t suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts. No major traumatic incidents occurred a la Courtney’s rape or the car crash but some of the smaller incidents absolutely ring true.
Rumours about reputation were rife, and were whispered behind backs by “friends”. There was a league table of girls put together by the boys in the rugby team with points out of five given for ass, tits, face and personality. Everyone was jealous of someone for something.
I’ve found myself scanning back through my memories and seeing some of them in a completely new light.
8: I don’t like Hannah Baker
I don’t. She is not a nice person. Yes, she has been treated unfairly but she keeps a rape and the cause of a death to herself.
She sends tapes to people she feels have wronged her as an act of revenge and wants them to feel bad.
She deliberately avoids spending time with the one person that she feels she has a connection to and that could have made things better for her (Clay).
She consents to a sex act that she knows will make her feel like a victim because that’s how she sees herself.
No, this is not my kind of girl.
9: I need to know what Clay’s deal is
Even though he is the secondary narrator throughout, Clay’s character is disappointingly one dimensional. We hear Hannah and others describe him as a good guy. But there must be something more to him. He drops hints at his imperfections: this isn’t the first time he has snuck out, his mum wants to trust him, he easily lies to his mum about where he is. If he were real, I would have Facebook stalked him by now.
10: Is revenge suicide a thing?
A number of mental health experts have come forward to say that they are worried by Thirteen Reasons Why and they fear copycat suicides. I am in no way qualified to comment and know very little about suicidal behaviour and triggers but it is a scary and provoking thought that revenge could be a reason for a young life to end.
11: I want to be able to offer support
Thirteen Reasons Why has made me want to understand more about supporting people with mental health issues. One of the first things I did when I finished it was to look up warning signs; if even a tenth of the book ad TV show audience also did that, we are living in a better informed society. And that can never be a bad thing.
12: This book makes me want to be a better person
Ok, so one of the things that I do understand about depression and suicide is that they can’t be stopped by acts of kindness. BUT this book did make me think twice about how the things that I do and say everyday might be affecting those around me and it makes me want to be sure that I’m only affecting others in a positive way.
13: It has caused some pretty extreme reactions
Some people hate Thirteen Reasons Why because they feel it glamourises suicide.
Some people hate Thirteen Reasons Why because they feel the reasons Hannah gives for ending her life are completely unrealistic.
Some people love Thirteen Reasons Why because they feel it is a realistic portrayal of a young girl struggling with suicidal thoughts.
Some people love Thirteen Reasons Why because they feel it has begun a conversation about support for young people suffering from mental health issues.
Very few people do not feel strongly about it. I felt compelled to write about it. And any writing thing that can engender such passion is worth reading.