Thirteen Reasons Why // A Problematic Read Which, For Me, Was About Actions Having Consequences

24 July 2017

Thirteen Reasons Why
Published: 16th September 2009
Source: Netgalley
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
My Rating:
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 returns home to find a strange package with his name on it. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and first love – who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

Hannah's voice explains there are thirteen reasons why she killed herself. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why.

All through the night, Clay keeps listening – and what he discovers changes his life... forever.
I had been wanting to read this book for a long while because of the Netflix series (which I'll be watching... maybe) but also because I'd heard plenty about the book. I actually enjoyed it and I wasn't sure I would after all the problems I’d seen people raise with the show (thus, it logically applied to the book as well).

I am reviewing this book purely based on the enjoyment I had of it. I am aware that this book is triggering (it’s about suicide) and I know many felt it was problematic both as it romanticised suicide but also because of the message it sent out about suicide. I know more about these issues raised about the show, I remember this article on Buzzfeed and then mentions of glamorising suicide and the show even depicts graphic suicide. Now all of these articles relate to the show and the show is the reason I decided to read but a lot of these problems can be applied to the book. I want to put that all out there before you read my review because I get it. This book is flawed and doesn’t do anywhere near enough to help those with suicidal thoughts but I felt it did highlight taking more care with your actions.

My Review:

The reason I read Thirteen Reasons Why so quickly and got into a story I would normally avoid is simple: I liked the characters. I instantly liked Hannah and cared about her. I genuinely wanted better for her because she got dealt a shit hand. And I liked Clay although I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and to find the flaw in his apparent nice guy act but he was genuinely this nice guy who wasn't perfect but wasn't malicious with his niceties either. He cared about others and although he didn’t always make the right choice (who does?) he cared about others and tried to help them.

I respected the book for highlighting suicide and the warning signs to look for. In the book, it does seem like Hannah is trying to pinpoint individuals to blame for her suicide which is never really how suicide works. There isn’t a select group of people to blame, there are a multitude of issues which have built up until someone thinks that suicide is their only option. I didn’t like that blame was being placed, that made me a little uncomfortable, but then I did like that Hannah stated that there was a multitude of reasons she made the choice she did and that even her tapes and the selection of 13 people wasn’t truly an accurate record, but instead a simplified list of reasons. I felt this was more about explaining that suicide didn't occur for a single reason and there is no easy fix to help those contemplating suicide but there are signs to look for.

I also liked that a lot of people on Hannah's list are people who many would like and get along with, they are not necessarily bad people. They weren’t all maliciously bullying her and out to get her but instead they were teens making dumb choices (as anyone does at that age) and whose actions which are a joke or harmless to them can be perceived as an attack by another. Do I think their actions should be blamed for one person’s suicide? No, but I did like how it highlighted that actions have consequences and so to think first.

I am conflicted about this book even now, after reading about the issues of the book and thinking on my own thoughts whilst reading and I am conflicted. I enjoyed it. It was a book which easily hooked me in and I sped through it. I wanted to know Hannah’s reasons and wanted to see what would happen to Clay. I wanted to know how listening to the tapes would affect him and learn the story of Hannah’s suicide. Even whilst reading I knew there would be a whole heap of issues with this book. I know I felt uncomfortable with the blame being placed on others and I certainly felt bad for Clay who was included but never could be blamed. I hated the pointing of fingers, that was the worst part. Yes, there were people who acted terribly to a person and certainly didn’t help make lives better but it’s very simplistic to think that certain people’s actions can be blamed. I enjoyed reading, I’m glad I did read it so I can now understand the conversation and I do still think I will watch the show but from reading the book and then reading about the issues many had with it I certainly feel more well informed.

For me, I take the message that actions have consequences. That was the key theme I got from reading but I realise that there is more to this story. It is a difficult book to review because the more I inform myself on what the issues were the more I felt I couldn’t endorse the book. I enjoyed it, I won’t say otherwise, but I can see issues with glamorising suicide and it definitely doesn’t do enough to explain why Hannah committed suicide as her actions seem rational from her tapes but there’s not enough mention of mental health, there are mentions of contacts at the end for suicide prevention but the book should have done more in it’s pages to address it too.

This book is very much like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. have you read it and which side of the fence do you sit on? And have you seen the show? Should I give it a shot or is it not worth it?
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