book review · book to show · young adult

Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • YA Contemporary Fiction, High-School, Mental Illness, Suspense
  • My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟 (2.5 – 3)

“You can’t stop the future
You can’t rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
…is to press play.”

Of course, I had to give into all the hoopla over the show and pick up this book, lest I wanted my co-workers and bookish friends to judge me for not having done so already.

So for those of you who also live under a rock like I do and don’t know what 13 Reasons Why is about, it is told through a combined narrative. Shy high-schooler and contender for valedictorian, Clay Jensen, comes home to find a shoe box filled with numbered cassette tapes which were recorded by Hannah Baker, a friend of his who recently committed suicide. Hannah uses these cassette tapes to delineate 13 reasons why she killed herself, with each reason being focused on a particular friend or classmate (a.k.a, the people instructed listening to them). Each person is to pass the tapes to one another afterwards. As Clay anxiously listens to all of Hannah’s stories, he visits various places around town which she mentions in her recordings.

I actually liked the dual narratives of this book. I thought it was cool how Hannah’s voice intertwined with Clay’s throughout the story.

I  really disliked how Hannah came off as really spiteful and mean…I just can’t imagine someone sounding so bitter right before the end. I don’t dare speak for anyone who has experienced or felt what Hannah did, but she sounded more like a vengeful ghost than someone trying to teach others about the consequences of their actions. Hannah’s desire for payback was so prominent, which just isn’t the right message to send out to young readers reading about something as heavy as suicide.

My heart broke for Clay, a.k.a. the only likable character in the whole book. His hurting over not realizing how much Hannah needed his help was believable and I like how it conflicted with his feelings of frustration with her. How can you be angry with someone who wouldn’t let you help them and took their own life without victim-blaming? I hate that she emotionally and mentally scars Clay for the rest of his life, by making him listen to these tapes because *subtle-spoiler* he didn’t actually do anything wrong.

I didn’t want to hate Hannah…but she was really hard to like. By the time you’ve read this post, I’ve probably finished all the episodes of Netflix adaptation and while my love for Clay soared, so did my dislike for Hannah. I’m totally biased because I think Clay is a cutie pie and I’m obsessed with Dylan Minnette, the actor who portrays him. But every time Hannah was mean to him, I wanted to cuss her out! I’ve been quite nervous to continue watching because I heard about some really graphic scenes that make me uncomfortable just thinking about them. I know it’s just a show and these kinds of things are re-enacted all the time, but my negative feelings toward the book made me unhappy with the fact that this show actually happened. I’ll be back with tomorrow with a post detailing my thoughts on the show as a whole.

Verdict: While the subjects this book discusses are extremely important and worth talking about, the whole stream of events leading up to Hannah’s suicide was unrealistic. I felt like the author took every terrible thing that happened to teenagers ever and threw them into – what was it? – 2-3 months? The book was definitely a page-turner, but I was more concerned about what was going to happen to my baby, Clay, than Hannah’s final declaration. There was no real evidence of her progression of mental illness and she claims that people and events were the cause of taking her own life, therefore using her suicide as payback…that is not okay.

 

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11 thoughts on “Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

  1. Great review, Jasmine! We have SUCH similar thoughts on this book! Hannah was DEFINITELY not an easy character to like (in fact, I didn’t like her at all when I read this book) and I also found the events leading up to her untimely end to be quite ridiculous. My dislike of the book has kept me from watching the show, but I’ve heard that the show is better? I dunno, I’m quite apprehensive about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The acting in the show is really good and some aspects of it were really interesting and thought-provoking. But it’s very dangerous territory because it’s essentially a problematic adaptation of an already problematic book. Sure, I was ogling some of the actors and yelling at the screen and laughing at times…but there are some really graphic moments that made me truly uncomfortable. It’s so cool that we had some of the same feelings, Kalli!!! If you ever watch the show I’d love to hear your take on it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmmm…I don’t think I’ll be watching the show anytime soon (I’m already binge-watching so many ABC Family shows right now 😂) but if I do, I’ll definitely let you know!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely despised the way everything was handled in the show. The book was a little bit better but with such an impressionable audience they should have thought about it a little more. I loved your review❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have like this “like/hate” relationship with the show because the acting is so good and the story development is so interesting because it feels so different from the book. The book made me dislike everyone without sympathy but the show made me feel guilty about hating everyone because you’re no longer seeing things from just Clay or Hannah’s POV. It’s mostly the graphic-ness of the show that made me anxious because the show is obviously targeted toward teens but it’s really really dangerous territory because it’s ridiculously triggering. Thank you so much for reading my review and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t read this book or seen the show yet, but on a panel at YALL West, some of the writers were upset about it, saying that the author hadn’t had the experience of someone going through what Hannah did and therefore shouldn’t be writing about it. Maybe you were picking up on that. i imagine it’s crafted so well that people are hooked on the plot and discovering what happened, but you were sensitive to the feelings and truth of the characters and were aware of the parts that were hand of writer. I wish I could remember the name of the panelist that started the discussion. Many of the other authors chimed in in agreement. Ugh. I may have to read this just to see for myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is so interesting because a few of my Instagram friends and I were having this whole discussion about how some people consider books problematic, but we can’t blame the authors for writing “what they know.” And in this case, it seems like Asher was writing about “what he doesn’t know.” And you’re right – the plot itself is interesting because you want to know what tape Clay is on and what is the final moment that supposedly “drove Hannah over the edge.” And I think the author focused more on the idea of the mysterious pre-recorded tapes when writing his story and the sucidiality concept was added to make it more interesting. But it actually made the story problematic to readers. If you do read it or watch it, I’d really love to hear your thoughts. The show, for sure, made me squirm. It was not easy to stomach at times.

      Like

  4. Your wrote a great review. I got the attitude of the story and I can see the issue. It really wouldn’t be fair to burden someone innocent with such dark and painful experiences; she basically does to Clay what others supposedly did to her.

    Liked by 1 person

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