13 Reasons Why
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Clay, a young teenager, receives a mysterious package containing a box of seven audio tapes. On them, he discovers the voice of Hannah, a student from his school who killed herself.
On each tape, Hannah describes one particular event that shaped her sadness and convinced her, one by one, to attempt suicide.
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Great concept and execution, average content
- The idea of the book format (the audiotapes) came to the author while he was visiting a museum with a self-guided auditour.
- The idea of the book topic (suicide) came to the author because a close relative of his attempted suicide when she was at the same age as Hannah. When she was discussing about the circumstances, she would always tell him what preceded them or what followed.
By Jack Anderson
on September 11, 2017
The concept of the book - one side of each tape per chapter - is very original and quite fun to experience, even though the subject is dramatic. In this novel, Jay Asher splits the book in two intertwined flows. Not only we get the character of Hannah, talking through the audiotapes, but we also get the direct reactions from Clay, a friend of hers.
Second, I couldn't bring myself to put down the book, as it feels like a thriller. Actually, by thinking about it, it is a thriller. Even though there isn't a murder story, we get to understand why someone killer herself. We don't get the identity of the killer, but the reasons behind the death of someone.
Since the chapters are also short, we quickly get from one tape side to another, without spending too much time with each main character from these sides. Therefore, the novel doesn't drag on on just one particular character.
But unfortunately, the novel drags itself in a very poor snowball effect.
My main concern with this book is that there aren't many things happening. By going through so many lines of minor things happening, we expect as a reader to be rewarded around the end. But there aren't anything really dramatic that would provide us a sense of closure.
Instead of that, the events are piling up like a snowball effect. Or so we are told. But we never real get a sense or even a light emotion when the main character is slowly going down and down in a dark place. As Hannah mentions at one point, we go through non-incidents. This is so "non-incendental" that we actually don't go through a real moment when Hannah has a strong reason to kill herself.
If we bluntly summarize, she sees a teenager being raped and she is accidentally the reason of a car crash. But the problem lays in the fact that we don't really experience those situations. In the first, she is hidden in a cupboard and doesn't actually live the rape herself. And in the second, she doesn't face the car crash. Ergo, we don't really live those emotions and don't really connect with her rationale for killing herself. It is as if anything could change her mind.
One could expect that Hannah would get strongly teased or mocked by her peers, or that she would face a family matter such as a parent dying.
But we don't see any of that.
To be fair, it could have been an original thing to actually not provide anything strong reason at all and just slowly have Hannah stopping to want to live. But she rarely talks about emotions. Instead of that, she strongly and heavily focuses on concrete things that her friends are doing, such as wanting her as a ride or not asking her the right questions.
Also, 99% of the book is about Hannah blaming everyone but herself. Every tiny thing that her friends do is bad. Of course, it's bad to do a list of good and bad looking girls, of course, it's bad to ask someone for a ride only the sake of it. But this is life. And in comparison, there are many people living much worse situations than this.
And worst of all, by spending all her time on the tapes criticizing everyone, she starts to do the exact same thing as the people she is criticizing for. Someone put her name on a list of good looking girls? What does she do? She makes a tape out of it and share it with many people.
The worst thing she does is actually with Clay. The poor guy just wanted to have fun with her and he suddenly discovers that he should have insisted and stayed with her when she told him to leave. Imagine the result on anyone? This would surely fuck up his life and his mind for a very long time, knowing that basically he was the indirect reason for her suicide. Even worse, the reason that he almost fell in love with her will also tell him that he may have lost the best thing that ever happened to him.
One other aspect I wasn't particularly fond of was the character of Clay. Many times, his reactions were kind of dull. Whatever Hannah is saying, he would comment with something like "Oh, Hannah, if only you knew."
And the way he wants to avenge her for tiny details is not very credible. And even more when we actually don't see him doing anything at all except moan throughout the book.
Also, the character of Clay is not really interesting. There isn't any meat on this one. He is this perfect teenager that everyone loves.
He doesn't have a real personality, except that he is a bit shy.
Going back to a positive aspect, I think that the author was able to provide a solid morale to the book. Even though the ending is quite rushed - the book drags itself for 235 pages and suddenly the resolution occurs in 9 pages or so - the conclusion - even though logical - is good. In it, Clay understands that even though he cannot do anything anymore for Hannah, he can still learn from it and try to help someone (and himself) through reaching out to Skye. This was a fair ending.
On page 248 of the Penguin edition from 2017, there is a quite dumb error: "(...), they wouldn't mark us absent if we wanted to attendED the funeral.")
To summarize, I really enjoyed the format of the novel, quite innovative and fresh. But then, the content wasn't there for me. I give the book a 4 out of 10 (Average).
Finally, I'll end my review with a semi-colon. Thank you for reading;
As an added bonus, I give you... 13 Reasons Why NOT To Read This Book:
13. Hannah should have recorded her on MP3. This would have saved anyone the price of shipping! Hey, every cent count, right?
12. You're telling me this book doesn't have Harry Potter in it? No, thanks.
11. Netflix did a series out of it? Why spending hours reading it then?
10. Netflix wants to do a sequel of the book. But... how? And why?!
9. "if we wanted to attendED"?!
8. Skye... really?
7. A teenage story without sex? But, I read all the Fifty Shades already, what am I supposed to read now?!
6. Milk-shakes contain way too many calories. Drink water instead!
5. Who wouldn't want to be on the list of good looking girls?
4. You're telling me Peeping Tom is not his real name?!
3. Because I said so! #OBEY
2. Couldn't we just have one real reason instead of 13?
1. Actually, go ahead and read this book anyway. It's still a page turner.
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