Thursday, 18 October 2012


Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Clay comes home from school one day to find a package waiting on his doorstep. He opens it to find seven tapes, with thirteen sides numbered with blue nail polish. He puts the first one in and hears the voice of Hannah Baker. The girl he's had a crush on for years. The girl who killed herself a few weeks ago. She wants to explain her suicide to the people she blames for it. Clay doesn't know what he did, but he knows he'll soon find out.

I started reading this novel knowing that it had been greatly hyped and that I was supposed to love it. I didn't. Knowing I was supposed to might be the reason I didn't, but that's a debate for another day. Honestly, I have very mixed feelings about this novel.

During my own teenage years, I thought about suicide a lot. Not actually killing myself, more suicide as a concept. I remember someone saying that suicide was the most selfish thing a person could do, and that stuck with me. I didn't necessarily agree with it, but it stuck with me. One of the main things I considered, and still think about sometimes today, is the leaving of a suicide note. My feeling is that if you've got someone to leave a note for, why the hell are you killing yourself? Sure, there are obvious exceptions (someone who doesn't want to go to prison for something terrible that they did but can't live with the guilt), but generally speaking, I don't believe that real people leave suicide notes. And if they do, I think they do it because fiction has led them to believe that it's the done thing. Hannah's tapes are one long suicide note, and so of course, this was immediately an issue for me.

Hannah herself was another problem for me. I wanted to like her. I wanted to feel sorry for her and care that she was dead. Sure, she was picked on a bit, but everyone gets picked on a bit. Honestly, of the thirteen reasons, I think only two or three of them are what I consider to be valid reasons for suicide. The rest of the time, Hannah seemed to be overreacting, or making these things happen to herself. I understand that there are self-destructive people in the world and maybe Hannah was one of them, but I couldn't sympathise with her, and I needed to be able to do that. I also thought that much of what she said on the tapes was hurtful. Yes, she was hurt herself, but I think it was cruel of her to send the tapes. Some of the recipients deserved them, some of them didn't. That bothered me.

In terms of the writing, rather than the story, I had a bit of a problem with the varying POVs. Basically, it's told in the first person from Clay's point of view as he's listening to the tapes, which is Hannah's point of view in first person. Rather than alternating chapters or sections, like most multiple POV novels do, everything's on the same page altogether. Several times I had to back-track to clarify something because I got confused. It might be me not paying enough attention, but it was difficult for me to follow on a few occasions.

I'd probably recommend this book to people, but I'd give them a warning, too - set aside a few hours to read this in one setting. Believe me, you'll want to. It needs to be read all at once, I think. It just doesn't lend itself to being spread out over a few days. Also, I can say from personal experience, it's not a good book to start reading at around midnight, thinking you'll just read a couple of chapters and then go to sleep. Trust me, I was still up at 3am.

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