Alright readers, what’s good? 13 Reasons Why has been making waves both in the literary and visual sense. Love it or hate it the impact this story is having seems to be undeniable on several fronts. When it comes to hot topic and controversial books, shows, or movies, the best thing for anyone to do in my option is to engage with it. Watch it, read it, whatever you need to do, and then form your own opinions. It’s a great thing top have both sides, see who’s supporting it and who’s standing against it, and then look at the text itself and then forming your own opinions. That’s part of what makes engaging in culture and cultural products so much fun. So I, the humble keeper of this blog, and future talking head, political commentator, general loud mouthed, opinionated, fellow English double major Erin Green, took it upon ourselves to do just this with 13 Reasons Why.
This “Diss”cussion track will be us answering five questions about our beginning opinions and thoughts when going into this book, our thoughts and opinions now that we’ve read it, and where we see ourselves and this text going from here. So, since all good rap battles have to start with a first shot, here’s the diss track:
Hey! It’s me Leslie, except this time I’m in italics. For the purpose of this post my responses will be italicized while Erin’s are not. First of we’ll introduce ourselves, and tell why we wanted to read this book in the first place. I’m the “rotten tomatoes” of my reading circles, a notoriously harsh critic who is rarely satisfied. My current studies are in English, Sociology, and East Asian studies with particular interest in all things pop culture. I came into this book on the recommendation from one of my close friends (not Erin) and the urging of another close friend (Erin) who also wanted to read it. Even though I’m not a big TV show watcher I’ve seen all the mess about this story happening online, which certainly sparked my attention, which resulted in Erin and I putting the book on our summer TBR list. So let’s pass it to the feature himself!
Heeey readers! I’m Erin and I’m written in non-italics. I’m currently studying English, Political Science, and Creative Writing. My interests include Facebook fighting with people about politics, but every now and then I decide to read a book and rip it apart like the literary critic that I am trained to be from studying English. Had so much fun reading this with Leslie and we’re gonna have fun reviewing this book! YAS!
1.What expectations did you have walking into this book?
Leslie: I expected a lot of heartache. Everyone I’d talked to said it was so gripping and real and would tear me apart. I walked into this expecting something like We Were Liars that would leave me torn up for a year afterwards.
Erin: Honestly, a lot of my friends had been getting on my last nerves about this, but not about the book, about the Netflix original series that has brought more fame to the franchise. 13 Reasons Why was not that popular until Netflix brought the show to life, and when they did, everyone as all over watching the show. I had people almost every single day tell me, “HAVE YOU WATCHED 13 REASONS WHY?” and I’m like no, and they’re like “IT WILL MESS YOU UP EMOTIONALLY!” I’m like I doubt it, and they’re like “YOU NEED TO WATCH 13 REASONS WHY!” And I’m like, get out of my damn face. Eventually I conformed and decided to read the book before watching the show.
2.Were the expectations you had met?
Leslie: No. I spent the entire book thinking Clay was such an entitled asshole. Obviously I felt for Hannah, because all her cries for help were met with nothing but ridicule and ignorance. But the book seemed to be focused much more on Clay, his feelings for Hannah, and his heroic redemption arch than anything else. Gross. Also, I expected there to much more intrigue about everything that happened. People led me to think that there would be some mind-blowing revelations about who did what. Honestly where was it??
Erin: Hell no. This book had so much hype that the internet was going crazy over it. Some parents were saying that they weren’t going to let their children read the book or watch the movie because it was such an emotionally dangerous book. Well, guess what, nothing about this book was dangerous to me. More importantly, I wasn’t too impressed with it. Most of the characters were flat characters, bland, not interesting. And I was expecting the thirteen reasons as to why Hannah killed herself to be slightly or even remotely diabolical. THEY WEREN’T! I’m sorry, but a lot of her reasons I wanted to be like, “girl, this is no reason to kill yourself. Just turn on a comedy movie, eat some ice cream, and deal with life like the rest of us.” That may be a little insensitive, but some of her reasons were extremely petty.
3.What surprised you? Upset you? Intrigued you?
Leslie: I think Clay’s whole existence upset me. I was surprised by the lack of focus on Hannah, I mean, this is her suicide tape, you’d think the author would look a little more into her than the guy wanking over her from afar. I was intrigued by the realness depression was shown though, it always comes from a series of seemingly meaningless moments that pile up into something dark, toxic, and awful. I think this book did a great job of showing that. I guess I was also surprised by this realness, because these are things and thoughts I’ve had myself so it was interesting to see those in print.
Erin: I was surprised at how not surprising the reasons were. The prologue of the book set this up to be a real adventure in discovering who were the reasons and why. To be honest, the only person the reader is remotely concerned with knowing why they led to her suicide is the Clay. Everyone else is so boring that we don’t even give a damn what they did to lead to her suicide, maybe that’s because we hardly ever see them in action and maybe because we don’t get enough vocalization from Hannah’s point-of-view. I was upset with the characters. Character development is one of the most important things to me, stylistically. The only thing that intrigued me about this story are the helicopter moms who didn’t read the book saying this story glorified suicide.
4.Do you think the hype surrounding this book was worth it?
Leslie: Not really. Maybe the TV show since there is an actual suicide shown. But by the book alone I’m not really sure where all the outrage is coming from. I think it’s realistic and honest, and it does show characters realizing what they need to do in order to reach out to people.
Erin: Yes and no. A lot of people who hated this book hated it because of its portrayal of suicide and the suicidal victim. People said that this book glorified suicide, but it didn’t. This book had a list of characters who all had flaws and all possessed some antagonistic trait, even Hannah, the suicide victim. She is portrayed as not only this person who has been bullied to the point of suicide, but also as this vindictive, revengeful, and bitter person who wants to make the people who hurt her, feel the same pain or worse. This sheds a light that not all suicide victims are sweet, innocent, or perfect. It shows the flaws of the girl who killed herself, and it also shows the pain that she puts the people who allegedly made her kill herself. You’ll see what I mean when you read the book, the fact that she is blaming these people for her suicide and forcing them to listen to her tapes or exposing them is not innocent, but vengeful.
Erin: I would recommend it if you want to read a book that shows an uncommon side of suicide. If you want to read something that has a list of characters who are all flawed and no one in this book is the hero, but everyone is the “villain,” then I think this is the book for you, but I don’t recommend it because of the hype, because the hype around this book and the TV show is fake as fuck to me. There’s nothing exciting or life-changing about this book. Honestly, the Facebook fights about the book are more interesting to read than the actual book.
What are your thoughts on 13 Reasons Why? Think is was worth the hype? Love it? Hate it? Leave your comments below if you think you have something to add to the conversation. Have a book you want to see on The Diss Track? Recommend it below!