Michelle's Reviews > Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
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Sep 24, 2011

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bookshelves: books-at-sf-library, young-adult
Read in April, 2012

Have you ever read a book and thought, hmmm??? Did I like that? I honestly can't tell if I did or not. I'm giving it three stars because it gave me much to ponder, and that is always good. But it could have easily been a two star read or a four star read...I'm very confused!

I knew the premise of the book before I started reading, of course, but I was skeptical nonetheless. Hannah Baker, a girl who has just committed suicide (and no that is not a spoiler) sends out a set of tapes, all seven of which are to be passed on to the various people who played a role in her depression/suicide/teen angst.

Maybe I've read a little too much about teen suicide (I just read The Pact), but the minute the tapes started and I realized that this was going to be a blame game...and like I said, I just read The Pact...I was on my guard. Suicide is tragic, and it isn't something to take lightly, but I'm not so sure that I feel right about the way fingers were pointed in this book.

Really, I'm not sure if I believed that someone who had the level headed sense to talk her way through seven tapes and thirteen reasons for her suicide was really suicidal. Of course, I'm not a seventeen-year-old girl anymore, and I'm not sure that even with all my long since passed teenage angst that I ever felt as close to as hurt as Hannah quite obviously did. Still, it seems like she was completely capable of logic when it came to detailing the horrible behavior of her classmates, which would indicate to me an ability to see it for what it was. But maybe that is the adult in me, expecting someone who is still emotionally immature to understand that when other people act like jerks, it has nothing to do with me.

And then I guess I thought some of the reasons were not enough, or at least the connections between the people that she is "blaming" really mattered. Again, though, I don't know how I would have reacted to her reasons when I was a teenager. Maybe I would have totally felt her pain and thought about how awful those things were.

HOWEVER, living means that bad things will happen to you. It means that people will treat your poorly sometimes. It means that sometimes you will have to live with pain. And sometimes downright awful, horrible, terrible things will come into your life even if you did nothing to invite them in. And the other reality is this. Sometimes I have caused others pain. I hope I'm never one of the awful, horrible, terrible people, but I do know that I have done and said stupid, thoughtless, cruel things. I hope that they were never said or done on purpose.

Another awful reality: some people are going to commit suicide. Some people are going to get to a point where they are that hopeless. And it is important to think about the way that you treat others. But I guess what bothered me about this is that Hannah had to take responsibility at some point, but she didn't (at least not really, in my opinion). Instead, when Clay (the narrator here) or Mr. Porter (who apparently should "rot in hell") tried to talk through things with her, she walked away, not them. People were reaching out to her.

Okay, so a few people on this list of thirteen did some bad things, but some of those bad things weren't even done to Hannah. Rather, she seems to feel some guilt I guess for their bad behavior because she was around when it happened, and so I suppose that's why she decided in the end it was best to take her own life. I sort of felt like this was Asher's way of putting some of the blame for Hannah's suicide on her own shoulders, as if to say that Hannah wasn't entirely blaming others. I'm not sure, but I felt like in the end that all she was doing was "getting even" with some mean kids at school.

Again, I couldn't help but think about the times that I've been not so nice to people. I'm not proud of it, but would I want to get a message from beyond the grave from some poor soul who'd done this to himself, telling me that I might have played a role in his suicide? Certainly not. When someone commits suicide, it is about her depression. I don't think the people left behind should be forced to take the blame for that. The people who knew Hannah were going to feel guilty as it was; ironically, the tapes were just as cruel, in the end, as the things Hannah had done to her.
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