Crystal Starr Light's Reviews > Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
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Bullet Review:

There's a good message here, about responsibilities and actions and how they play out in ways we can't imagine in others. Good stuff - only it's hard to be sympathetic when our characters are drama kings and queens, being insanely petty and whiny.

A great example of a book I've obviously outgrown, regardless, this book still has a good message for teens and doesn't deserve it's banned status.

I'm waffling on writing a full review, because I can almost guarantee that when people read it, shouts of "Victim blamer!" will be heard near and far, and, to be honest, I don't want to have to argue why it's OK for me to criticize a Message Book. We'll see how I feel - maybe I'll spoiler tag it to keep people from peeking without warning.

Full Review:

A shoebox of cassette tapes arrives at Clay’s home. As he starts to listen to them, he hears the voice of Hannah Baker, a girl who committed suicide, and learns the 13 reasons why she decided to take her life.

Once upon a time, I was a teenager. (I know, hard to believe, eh?) I lived a very isolated, sheltered life with few friends and confidantes. The only place I had to reveal my inner thoughts was my journal – my mom had her own burdens, my sister was too young, my dad was always at work, my extended family too distant, and I was homeschooled, so I had no peers.

Once, I was clumsy and broke my mother’s ceramic cookie jar lid. It upset me for days.

Once, I was trying to print something on the printer, and it wouldn’t stop printing. I was afraid of the printer for years. (OK, stop laughing people!! It was the mid-90’s, I barely knew how to use the computer, and things not being able to stop is my absolute worst nightmare!!)

Once, I ordered the wrong CD from online. I was upset for weeks.

Once in Sunday School, the youth leader asked for questions. I didn’t have any idea of a real question to ask, so I tried to make one up. But when you are cramped on time and have no idea what to ask, your question (and handwriting) gets messy. So when the question was read, everyone laughed at how stupid the question was and how sloppy my handwriting was (they didn’t know who wrote it). I went home that day and sulked in my room.

By the logic that Hannah Baker uses in “13 Reasons Why”, I would probably have a good set of excuses to commit suicide.

Please don’t get me wrong: suicide is a SERIOUS subject. It’s also a very REAL problem, particularly in conjunction with bullying, slut-shaming, coming out, religious differences, etc. It is not to be trivialized. Unfortunately, in many ways, I think that’s what “13 Reasons” did. It trivialized Hannah’s suicide.

Just like I was being overdramatic with breaking the ceramic cookie jar lid, Hannah blew some of her situations out of proportion. People have gone through a lot worse and didn’t choose to commit suicide; why Hannah chose to let some of these incidents affect her so badly is hard to understand.

And that is the biggest reason why I don’t like “13 Reasons”.

The other biggest reason is Hannah’s cowardly reaction to a rape that she observes – after whinging for 200 pages about all the horrible things people have done to her, she then cowers in a corner as a boy rapes a drunk girl. After the horrendous actions in Stubenville, Ohio, where a virtually identical case happened, it’s kinda hard to have sympathy for a girl who sees something wrong and doesn’t say anything.

Oh, and Clay as our Main Character – not a fan. Just so you don’t think I’m playing a sexist, I thought he was a pretty overdramatic character too – of course, part of that could be because we hear Hannah’s thoughts and then read Clay’s actions or thoughts the next paragraph, making his every action MELODRAMATIC. But other than to give us some eyes to see the events through, why was he here? On the freakin’ tapes, Hannah herself says he really didn’t belong as he hadn’t done anything wrong to her – oh, how convenient! Our Marty Stu is there to fret over her and clutch his head in agony, but no worries, he didn’t do anything deserving of guilt! Good thing too – would hate to have to live with actual guilt!

I can see where the author was trying to put an emphasis on how our actions, purposeful or accidental, can have unrealized responses to another. I also appreciate how slut-shaming and sexism was addressed. And I do think that this message book has some good messages for teenagers. But how the message was delivered, the reasons for Hannah’s suicide and how she blamed people for what ultimately is her choice (and didn’t take blame for being complicit in another girl’s rape) make this book “not for me”.

Some people will probably read this review and go, “You are victim blaming! How dare you!” That is NOT my purpose; I don’t mean to victim blame Hannah. If she were a real person, I would accept her reasons, even if I didn’t agree with them. But when a FICTIONAL CHARACTER records 7 cassette tapes of Blame Game, blaming everyone but herself for her decision, send these to the people who Done You Wrong, how can you expect me to think anything but that the character is being overdramatic?

In review – I’m not that impressed by the book. I think there are better Message Books out there that handle this topic. Do I think it should be banned? Absolutely not – there IS a good message here, one that some teens will appreciate and need. But as for me – yeah, it’s not my thing.

(OK, so that's not 13 Reasons Why I Didn't Like This Book - but the title is catchy, no?)
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Reading Progress

09/28/2013 marked as: currently-reading
09/28/2013 page 103
35.0% "While I can tell the MESSAGE is very good, I am irritated by the characters. Hannah smarts of being a whiny, vengeful brat, and Clay is a spineless, brainless chunk of meat. I most certainly do NOT approve of the REAL TRUE bullying she endures, but this cassette tape thing is contrived and overdramatic."
10/08/2013 page 134
46.0% "Hoping to finish this pretty quickly. It was supposed to be for Banned Book Week, but I got a bit bored by it."
10/08/2013 page 156
54.0% ""No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people.""
10/08/2013 page 174
60.0% "I can totally see how this is an important book for teens to read. And I get what bugs teens is way different than what would bug me (I'm not so old that I don't remember being an overdramatic teenager). But...yeah, this book is just not for me. Hannah feels like a drama queen and Clay overreacts to everything. Call me insensitive, but that's how I feel."
10/08/2013 page 210
72.0% "Of COURSE Marty Stu did nothing deserving of being in the list!! We can't have our protagonist be anything but perfect! Geesh."
10/09/2013 page 220
76.0% "This is one of those books that, if you dare to criticize it, people will be like, "OMG, you wretched person!! You are victim blaming! How dare you!" And that's not my point at all. I can dislike a message book but still support the overall message."
10/09/2013 page 227
78.0% "You little b!tch!! Whine and moan about how bad your life is and then when YOU COULD STOP A RAPE, you do NOTHING! You're just as bad as the people you blame for how miserable your life is!! What a horrid little girl you are!!!" 8 comments
10/09/2013 page 258
89.0% "It's funny how I can read so quickly through books I don't like. Of course, I'm also trying to clear up my Currently Reading to add some new books, so there's another impetus."
10/09/2013 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Kelly (and the Book Boar) They can all suck it. I agree with you. I love the idea of books like these, but REALLY? This chick was soooo not bullied.


Laura My exact thoughts! I'm very glad you wrote this review so I don't have to, because I fear I would just be a rambling lunatic. Your thoughts make sense. :]


Crystal Starr Light Thanks so kindly!

I hate to undermine the (good) message of being anti-bully, but God, this book drove me nuts! I'm glad you enjoyed :)


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