Review: 13 Reasons Why



*Taken from Goodreads*

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 doesn’t want anything to do with the tapes Hannah Baker made. Hannah is dead. Her secrets should be buried with her.

Then Hannah’s voice tells Clay that his name is on her tapes– and that he is, in some way, responsible for her death.

All through the night, Clay keeps listening. He follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his small town. . .

. . .and what he discovers changes his life forever.

You can’t really go anywhere on the internet without finding some mention of 13 Reasons Why. I was aware of this book before it was a Netflix series, mostly because an English major buddy had it in her top ten books she’ll hold dear forever. When everything broke with the show and suddenly there was a polarizing debate where you either supported the show and the story or you held fast to the argument that it is inappropriate and trivializes suicide. So, naturally, my other English major buddy (not the same one from before mind you) decided to read it and see just what all the fuss was about.

Honestly, I don’t get it. After reading the book while surrounded by all this whistleblowing and hype I was expecting something that would affect me. I was expecting either outrage or for it to tear me apart, and honestly it did neither.

From a book perspective, I feel like suicide was handled well. The entire premise is to show Hannah Baker’s trajectory towards ending her own life, the people who pushed her towards it, and her reasoning for reaching this point. I’m going to go ahead and let the record show that I disagree with every reviewer who says Hannah’s reasons aren’t good enough for committing suicide, because by saying that you’re acting just like the class who demanded to know more about the person committing suicide in Hannah’s communications class. Suicide isn’t a pretty little package where you can assign “the right reasons” to it my dudes. But I digress. What I did like about this story is the realness of it, these are things people do every day and things people endure every day. It helps put things into perspective for the reader to see how some actions, no matter how small, can affect someone greatly.

Despite this honesty in the storyline, I did not expect this book to focus so much on Clay. I mean, come on its Hannah Baker’s story and her tapes that she left. This book shows much more of Clay’s apparent wanking over Hannah than it seems to about her. Every time the story broke to focus on Clay’s feelings, his denial about having a reason to be on the tapes, his inner monologue of “I would have listened Hannah” I could feel my eyes roll back farther into my head. His Nice Boy TM act was so annoying and unnecessary, especially when I just wanted to focus on the girl who’d been pushed to the edge. I was particularly annoyed by the ending, when Clay decides to reach out to another girl after listening to all the tapes, assumedly to prevent another suicide. As admirable as this is it made the whole story seem like Clay’s redemption tale to me. If anything, I think that Clay’s obsession with Hannah and his apparent redemption distracts from her own story and existence.

All in all, I wasn’t too impressed by the hype surrounding this story. Perhaps the show is a bit more graphic, but from a literary stance I was a little disappointed I wasn’t more impacted by the story. However, I suppose it’s up to all of us to make our own decision about it. But, wait, I’m not done! Stay tuned for the first ever discussion post on this blog, featuring the now A Through Z Books famous Erin Green. The two of us will be answering five questions on 13 Reasons Why and sharing our thoughts on it together since we read it together! (Are you excited yet?)


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