4*. Before I begin, a trigger warning, but the same that goes along with the book itself: discussion of death, suicide & mental illness. Be warned4*. Before I begin, a trigger warning, but the same that goes along with the book itself: discussion of death, suicide & mental illness. Be warned. If you can't handle that on a personal level, this review may not be for you. (Or the book - but read it anyway. Just be careful, all right?)
I just read this in one sitting. Two hours, just over. I finished it 10 minutes before writing these words, but I still have goosebumps all down my arms and neck.
There aren't many books - even or especially in the YA genre - that have ever had that effect on me. I suppose for anyone who knows me, that will say plenty about my response to this novel. (And yes, I absolutely want to see what they've done with the Netflix version, after that.)
Where did I identify most in this story? With Hannah, and I'm sure those of you who know me very well - those few - will be thinking "of course".
I first attempted suicide when I was 14 years old. I tried twice more before I turned twenty. Like Hannah, I could easily have made a list of the events - some of them, at least - and people who pushed me, whether by purposeful action or something else, down that path. I never have. Whether I ever should, that's something I didn't think about - because so much of my life since my nervous breakdown at the age of 19 has been focused on trying to move forward. Well... let's be a little retrospective today, shall we? Some of you will know the names that go with the incidents below, but I'd prefer you didn't write or speak them in full, in this public post. Even if you think they belong to you.
I won't make a full list of events & people. Not here.
If I did, though... if I did... it would have to feature, among others, the group of girls who humiliated me for my attempts at dressing appropriately for a retro-themed school disco in year nine, after my dear late mother very kindly did her best to do my makeup in a way that would suit the era. That was the night I tried to hang myself on school grounds. Their behaviour directly set me off, though I'd been resisting it for months if not years. I went down into the old changing rooms all by myself, as I'd come, and tied my silk-rope necklace around a coat-hook... and there in the dark of a humid summer night, in a comparatively public place, the clasp of my necklace broke under my weight and spared my life -- though at that point that was nothing I wanted. I never did explain to my mother how the necklace was damaged. I still wouldn't want to, if she'd been here to read this. (She's not; she died of cancer 2 years later, but though her slow path of 14 years in & out of remission certainly contributed to my state of mind, that wasn't her fault.)
As with many other people I know, failing only made me feel worse.
Those girls are not the only people who would make it to my list. My so-called friend, my Bryce, would decidedly have to be there. As would the first person I ever dated and the first person I thought I loved. Both had their contributions. I won't go into that.
I got through to the far side of my darkest place - eventually. But it took a lot of work, and I had very little support to do it. If I hadn't had the internet, I might not have made it here to write this. This was before cyberbullying was really a thing (fortunately), and my friends & acquaintances in other countries helped hold my head out of the water, as it were. Some of you are still around, and still appreciated.
In retrospect I'm glad of all every one of you did to try to help me, but back then I was just trying to stay afloat. I know too well what it feels like when you can't. How it feels to have people mocking you for the only thing you think you're good at, simply because your taste is not theirs. To have rumours and names murmured behind your back in class. To have your possessions stamped into fragments by someone who will never own up to it. To have your name transmuted into something that can be used as a constant insult. (Yes, that's part of the reason I dropped my birth name when I left school, and I've yet to regret doing so.)
High school - in any sense of the term - is not an easy ride. Not for most people. For some it's worse than others. Worse still when you have problems outside of school, too, like one parent dying inch by inch while the other drowns their head in a bottle of vodka & doesn't care what their friends say or do to their children; like doctors ignoring physical pain that makes you want to knock yourself unconscious just to make it stop, and fatigue that means you can never finish your homework because you're constantly exhausted, simply because you're a teenage girl (or appear to be); like mood swings even you know are too far beyond "normal", but people assume you're mentioning the problem just for attention...
The teenage years are no easier a time to endure or live through than adulthood, even if they have different foci and responsibilities.
I should get back to the book itself, shouldn't I? But I suppose in a way I'm not really off-topic just yet. Because all these things floated to the surface of my mind while reading this novel.
As did other things & people, friends I've lost; J, for one, who hung herself aged 17, and whom I didn't even know was struggling until she was gone. We all bear some measure of guilt, whether we deserve it or not, and I'm not sure whether or not we do really matters. We are all so self-centred in some ways.
What matters is what you do next. So listen, speak, speak up ... there is always someone out there to find. Even if you don't know them yet. And there's always a path through the dark...however rocky and difficult it looks halfway through.
Gah. Shivery goosebumps again.
I am 31 years old. I have bipolar disorder, OCD and PTSD, but I am alive. I am a suicide survivor and I am not ashamed to admit it. If I can help anyone else to cross that pass back into life as it should be, then I hope all of you reading this know that I would be more than happy to try.
Everyone affects everyone else no matter what they do. That's one thing this book explains very clearly, and it's a definite truth, whether you own your guilt or not. None of us lives in a vacuum.
Just think about it.
Edit: I'm glad I read the book before reviews, because I saw things I might not have seen otherwise. Please do note that this is my review *on first reading*, and that I usually read a second time before I figure out everything I want to say.
I think Asher got inside Hannah's head pretty well - but I think perhaps too well. Suicide is a very self-centred act, even if the self-centred attitude is a negative one rather than a positive. It doesn't surprise me that Hannah magnified so many little things into something that major... or that she basically told anyone who was at the party she mentioned exactly what happened to a certain character, because they would know who the people were that she didn't name if they remembered, as Clay does - and perhaps the girl hadn't known before that what really happened to her. I can see and understand Hannah and her reasoning.
However, that doesn't really excuse the part where Jay Asher should have taken an objective run through this book before submitting it. There are things about it that if you're reading it from a totally removed point-of-view come across as very dodgy, and some things he probably should have covered in other ways - and I do hope the Netflix series won't be so very much focused from the inside of Hannah's head. It doesn't sound as though it is, from the interviews in the back of my copy of the book. Perhaps if they alter that, the story will be better in this way. It's something that does need thinking about.
Do I think this book glamourises suicide? No, I really don't. But I also thought that it could have gone either way with Hannah's survival in reality - I did start wondering towards the end whether perhaps she hadn't actually died. I'm not sure what that says about the book. But for my part... no. I think it portrays the thoughts in the mind of a teenage suicide very well - having been an attempted one at a similar age myself - but the objective parts of the story are where it falls down....more
3.5 stars. Not exactly my favourite in the series... I always found the reasoning behind the killer's pattern to be clearer than Christie makes it out3.5 stars. Not exactly my favourite in the series... I always found the reasoning behind the killer's pattern to be clearer than Christie makes it out to be, and the characters a little less sympathetic in nature, consequently making the earlier part of this book frustratingly (& unusually) rather more dull & predictable for me than otherwise. With many of her novels that I've read before (because I have read every one of her detective stories), predictability isn't such a problem, as my memory loss issues actually come in handy to make me forget the fine detail of a book I've read before, if it's been a while...but, not with this one. Ah, well!...more
3.5 stars. Bit too easy for me to identify the killer even when I didn't remember who'd done it, though the method is, as usual for Agatha Christie, a3.5 stars. Bit too easy for me to identify the killer even when I didn't remember who'd done it, though the method is, as usual for Agatha Christie, always a little more difficult to work out, even on a re-reading......more
3.5 stars. The plot is well-drawn, but I think I remember it too easily to forget what happens in the end so it loses something in the re-reading I th3.5 stars. The plot is well-drawn, but I think I remember it too easily to forget what happens in the end so it loses something in the re-reading I think I might have rated it 4 the first time, if I'd done so then, but now it's been so long that I can barely recall exactly what I thought!...more