Girls, Boys and Suicide

SPOILERS AHEAD!

I downloaded Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher ages ago, but it’s only now that I got around to reading it. It was easy enough to convince me to get it since the reviews on it were pretty favorable and the summary was kind of intriguing. Here is the summary of the book from Amazon.Com:

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.

I must have zeroed in on the word “suicide” which of course has always been a rather attention-grabbing topic. When you think suicide, you get blood, death and angst and there are times when I am a sucker for such things. Plus, there’s a long suicide note recorded in cassette tapes. My curiosity was piqued, so the book was downloaded and I went through it yesterday, finally.

Honestly, I can’t help not really enjoying it. I want to, but it just didn’t seem possible. I really don’t think this is a book you enjoy rather than experience. First reason is the subject matter. A girl narrating 13 reasons why she killed herself in every gritty, painful detail. It’s disturbing and you can just imagine how Clay and his classmates who receive the tapes must feel as they listen to them. It’s almost like a voice from the grave and it’s telling you you’re one of the reasons why she swallowed a handful of pills. I imagine it’s perfectly chilling. The second reason is how the story is presented. I really can’t say that the way the story is written is beautiful. There are hardly any witticisms here, no carefully and lovingly crafted turns of phrase, but what I can tell you about the writing is that it’s very real, very raw. You have here a teenage girl in pain, at the end of her rope and it’s very convincing. It’s not really a fun read when you take all that into consideration. But I think that was the point. You’re not supposed to enjoy this book as you are to experience it and for that I think Jay Asher managed to make a book that does exactly that. Suicide isn’t pretty and the circumstances and method cinched that.

I can appreciate the style and concept of the book as a reader and reviewer but just as a person, the book left quite a bit to be desired. This is probably very insensitive, but at times as I was reading, I wished Hannah would just get over herself and get some help. Actually go up to someone and tell them she’s got problems. Well, she did, but I guess it was too late for her. Clay’s right there before it all felt like it’s not going to get better. They had “a moment”. Why didn’t she tell him right then? Another frustrating theme in this book: missed chances. I know I wasn’t there and I may not really know what I’m talking about (as someone who hasn’t been a teenager in high school for a long time and whose high school experience was quite good), but at times Hannah and the idea of why she did the things she did was really grating and I wanted to yell at the book and stop reading. But I plodded on because maybe the ending would be good.

It wasn’t, not really. For me, it was kind of underwhelming. I get why it ended that way but still. It could have gone another direction to make it feel more satisfying as far as I could tell. I can’t tell you how to end it in a way that would make me feel better about it, but I just thought the ending felt kind of hollow, disappointing. Realistic, sure, but disappointing. I thought this book missed the opportunity to reach its full potential. It’s kind of good, but it could have been better.

But anyway, if after you read the book and you loved it, I suggest you check out the book’s official webpage here. It’s got a couple of cool features, including recordings of Hannah’s tapes which should give you a first-hand experience of what it was like to be in Clay’s shoes, sort of. Can I just say that this site is pretty cool? I love how books are becoming more interactive now and the publishing business is really trying its hardest to catch the attention of very picky and flighty readers.

Over all, I can understand why Thirteen Reasons Why is considered a good book for teenagers or others to read as the subject matter is quite serious and relateable in some ways, but I’m just not that into it as I could be, I guess. Maybe it’s because I had a pretty good high school experience, who knows? But yes, other people will probably appreciate this book more than I did.

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