Sep 18, 2011

Review: 13 Reasons Why

Jay Asher
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Razorbill 
  • Language: English
  • Source: borrowed
  • My rating: 4/5
  • Goodreads Summary: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.
    Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

It's not an easy task to write a review for a novel like 13 Reasons Why. It rocked my world-but that doesn't mean by far that I thought it was perfect, maybe not even awesome or amazing or whatnot. If you asked me yesterday when I finished the book, I would have told you it deserved no less than five stars. Today emotions settled down a bit and I was lowering the rating to 3 stars.

The major problem-and I sincerely hope this was not the author's main idea because it was lost on me-was Hannah's reasoning for committing suicide. Sorry, maybe I'm apathetic, but to me Hannah's reasons are not good enough. (No reason is ever good enough to kill yourself. I hope that much is clear. If that's what the author wanted to prove, mission accomplished.) Hannah, for the most part, is self-destructive. By the end she was just groping for another reason to add to her list. Take the last two reasons and you'll see what I mean. And the previous reasons? Not nearly enough to get someone depressed, let alone kill herself. Again I say, maybe it's just me. I've seen suicides in my life. People don't go through their lives keeping a list with reasons to kill themselves. If it were so, most of us would have been dead long ago.
Another thing. You go out and send tapes to people to make others feel guilty for what you did? Sorry, darling, they ARE bitches and bastards, but you didn't need other people to be your enemies. You were your own worst enemy.

That being said (and by now you already think I'm a completely insensitive bitch), here's why this novel had such a huge impact on me.
Suicide is a touchy subject and you got to be a brave person to write about it. This novel is not about Hannah. It's about those who stay behind and go through hell trying to understand why you did it. How you read this book largely depends on your opinion on suicide, and I'm not sure that I can separate my feelings about the subject from my opinion of this book. I think suicide is selfish. But what do I know about what's going on in their heads? If it's the only way out of misery, can you seriously call them selfish? But where's the line of too much? And it goes in circles, and I don't want to turn this into an essay.

One thing this book excels in is emotion-anger and confuse. I'm angry at Hannah for what she did and how she did it. I hate it that I don't understand her reasons and by the end I was angry with Clay as well. He did nothing wrong, and it's just that. He did nothing. Just like the counselor. Asher makes you one of those who stay behind, wondering whether there's something you could do, hating yourself for not doing better.  

If you haven't already, I urge you to read it. It's a compelling read, engaging and emotionally exhausting. You may love it or not, but it won't leave you indifferent. It's great material for debate and discussion and will have you thinking about it for a long time.
Could you ask for more in a book?
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