Thirteen Reasons Why
Standalone
Jay Asher
Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Razorbill
October 18th 2007
288

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and crush - who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why. Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah's pain, and learns the truth about himself-a truth he never wanted to face.

"Thirteen Reasons Why" is the gripping, addictive international bestseller that has changed lives the world over. It's an unrelenting modern classic.

This is going to be a long one, so you better brace yourself.

Last warning….


You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life.

 

Yes Hannah, that might be true. But don’t you think what you just said also applies to those people you sent those tapes to?

To start with, I don’t think Thirteen Reasons Why is a bad book. It isn’t. It attempted to send a good message to its readers. I remember reading this book back in 2011 and completely loving it. This book became our book of the month for our company book club. I was expecting to love it as much as I read it the first time. Reading it a second time however, made me realize how problematic this book truly is. I think the change on how I view this book had something to do with me experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts myself.

Okay, going back, when I say problematic, I’m not talking about the writing. The writing was great. I loved the writing. It was easy to get into, which is one of the reasons why I think a lot of people love this book. I loved how you get two sides of the story at the same time: Hannah’s and Clay’s. You see through the present through Clay’s eyes and the past through Hannah’s. But Hannah’s POV is a bit one sided, I’d have to say. You never really got to see why these people did the things they did.

People make mistakes Hannah. They’re human. I’m not saying that what they did was acceptable in anyway – of course they weren’t – but I don’t think it’s right for you to pin all the blame on them for your decision to commit suicide.

Before anyone start taking out their pitchforks and attack me for victim blaming, hear me out, okay? Hannah was a victim of bullying, that is true. The rumors about her – they were wrong. Nobody should have gone through something like that. I, personally, think anyone who spread rumors and gossip are complete pieces of trash. I don’t care what people think, I think they should burn in hell because society doesn’t need people who spread lies about other people for their own fun and enjoyment.

But the thing is, Hannah had a choice. Hannah could have done something. She could have stood up for herself. Given, not everyone would be able to, I get that. Not everyone could be as strong and as another person is. She could have reached out to someone, like really reach out. That could have been a better message for this book to send out rather than making the readers think that if there’s no one listening to you, then it’s okay to commit suicide – WHICH IS SO FUCKING WRONG! SUICIDE IS A CHOICE! It is not dictated by what the people around you do. Unless of course, someone had a knife on your neck forcing you to commit the act yourself – otherwise, it is a choice.

Also, suicide does not solve anything. Giving up does not make the problem go away. Or maybe it does, for you, but what about the people you leave behind who actually cares about you, like your parents, relatives, or friends?


Which brings me to my other issue about this book – where the fuck were her parents?????

Hannah blamed everyone else who did her wrong except her parents, who I think is, if she had the right to blame anybody, the rightful people to blame. Where the fuck were you? If there was anyone in this book that, I feel, is MOST at fault here, it was her parents. They live in the same fucking house, eat at the same fucking table, and they didn’t even notice she was suffering from depression?? What kind of fucking parents are you? I get it, I get it, some people might argue that they’re busy with their shoe store that might be closing because of the new mall, but whatever!  This is your kid, you are responsible for keeping her safe, for making sure she was okay. I am enraged about the lack of visibility of Hannah’s parents in this book. I’m not even sure she ever mentioned any talks with them about her suicidal tendencies or her depression. Hannah might not be able to tell them about what she’s feeling because she didn’t want to other them, but still, they should have noticed something.

Another problem I had was that I didn’t think the book showed, clearly enough, Hannah having depression. She had no friends, yes. She was lonely, yes. Other than that, I didn’t see any other indication of Hannah showing what it is like to be depressed. I HAVE GONE THROUGH DEPRESSION, AND THIS IS NOT HOW IT LOOKS LIKE. The only sign I saw here that might point to Hannah being suicidal was when she cut her hair and gave stuff away – that’s not just it! There are a lot more to depression and suicide than what is portrayed in this book. Inaccurate representation of something as sensitive as this might give someone the wrong idea. Look, I’m not saying I’m an expert on this, but a lot of articles online echoes my exact sentiment. If you want to read more, I’m posting some of the articles below for you guys.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/promoting-hope-preventing-suicide/201704/13-reasons-why-13-reasons-why-isn-t-getting-it-right

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/05/03/opinions/13-reasons-why-gets-it-wrong-henick-opinion/index.html

The message the author was trying to send is an important one – bullying is bad. Nothing good ever comes out of it. Bullying could affect someone’s life in ways that one can’t even imagine. Hannah was right about that. You don’t know what your actions can do to someone. But didn’t Hannah’s action towards the end, sending all those tapes to those people, also an act of bullying? If she really wanted people to know about the stuff she knew, especially the ones involving people who’ve done something criminal like rape someone, she should have sent these recordings to the authorities and not fucking pass these tapes around to tell them that she knows their secret. This is just fucking wrong.

A lot of people tell me the TV show is a bit different. I’m still on the fence as to whether to watch it or not, because really, how can it be that different from the message the book already conveyed – be nice to others, it might save their life. Not really. Clay was nice to Hannah, so was Tony, but that didn’t stop her from still doing what she did.

Let’s talk about Clay. I feel so bad for Clay. I really do. What was the point of dragging Clay into this, Hannah? This could be traumatic for him. He could be blaming himself for not doing anything to help you. Are you making him feel guilty too for not doing anything?

Sigh.

The danger of writing about a topic as sensitive as suicide and depression is that some might think this is actually what is going to happen in a real scenario, which most of the time, is not. If you are going to write about the human condition, make sure there is enough research to back it up. If need be, talk to someone who have already gone through it, and survived. Take note, SURVIVED. Having a character who survived depression and suicidal tendencies is a better story to tell that someone who gave up on it. It’s not good for those who are already suffering, or has suffered, from it.

That’s my loooongg two cents about this. If you love Thirteen Reasons Why, good for you. I’m not trying to force anyone to hate this book, because like I said earlier, I can see why people would love this book. For me though, as single mom for an 8 year old girl, I don’t think this would be something I’d recommend her reading.


SUICIDE IS NOT THE ONLY OPTION. IT NEVER IS AND NEVER SHOULD BE.