Thirteen Reasons Why – book review

Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher
Release Date:  October 18, 2007
Publisher:  Razorbill
Stand Alone
Number of pages:  288
Kindle Edition
Source: borrowed from MCL
Rating: R
Read 6/17/17 to 6/23/17

I’ve had this title on my TBR post for YEARS.  When I found out they made a Netflix show based on the story I decided the time had come to finally get the book read.  I absolutely hate seeing a tv show or movie based on a book before I read the book.  Of course, there had been a surge in popularity of the book due to the show so there was quite a waiting list.  Finally!  It was my turn.  I just hoped the hype wasn’t going to leave me disappointed.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed.  I’m not going to go around saying this is the best book ever, or even recommend this book to all I meet.  There is a certain type of personality that really will not like this story.  And there’s another type of personality that just shouldn’t read the story because it could be a trigger for them.

The way Jay Asher wove Hannah’s recorded narrative into Clay’s real-time reactions and feelings was different and wonderful.  It definitely meant paying attention so I knew who was “talking”, but I got down the rhythm and tone of each character pretty quickly so it wasn’t an issue.

Without giving too much away on particulars (I think we all know what the book is about after all), I appreciated the author’s ability to show there are so many sides to suicide. By turn, Clay felt guilt, sympathy, anger, and shame.  Should person X have known how their actions were going to be used by Hannah in the future?  Sometimes, yes.  But sometimes it’s a big fat NO.  She gives one or two people a pass even while including them in her tapes.  Yet some that she doesn’t give a pass don’t deserve to feel any guilt for what Hannah did to herself.  I was glad the author used Clay’s voice to call her out in these cases to a certain extent. 

I didn’t go back and read all of the reviews, there are way too many for that.  I did glance through after reading the story and found that those that were rating this story low maybe didn’t quite understand depression and how it works.  There is a lot of talk about her reasons for killing herself weren’t valid or realistic enough.  Depression (at least severe depression that leads to harming yourself) is caused by a chemical imbalance.  Hannah could have led a perfectly normal life (which she pretty much did) and still felt hopeless about that life.  Someone with that level of depression who decides they want to end it all will use any excuse to go through with the act.  As Clay says in the book, she was looking for a reason.  She goes through the motions of reaching out to a couple of people, but she doesn’t truly follow through.  So many times she could have said a few words and gotten help but she didn’t really want to.  She just wanted to convince herself that she tried so she could be more at peace with her decision.

Although I felt so many things in this story rang true I just can’t give it a 5 star rating.  I almost feel bad because my rating is not a reflection on the writing or the story or even the editing.  I believe in giving artists a platform to express themselves and that we shouldn’t try to choke off that expression.  Yet I felt that maybe something more could have or should have been added about getting help for suicidal thoughts.  I’m not sure exactly how it should have been incorporated…perhaps an epilogue on another character that maybe did get help.  I don’t know.  I just feel this story could be very dangerous for a person to read if they were in a certain mindset.  I am glad there is a Q & A section (at least in the edition I read) with the author because it addresses some issues.  Here is my suggestion to you if you haven’t read this book yet and you are a teenager or young adult, an adult who suffers from depression, or an adult close to a teen who wants to read this book: Read it along with someone else and keep a running and open dialogue on thoughts and feelings throughout the story.  I think you will get much more out of the story that way and it will provide a safeguard for anyone in a delicate place.

4 stars

About Cheri

I'm the mom of two boys and wife to my high school sweetheart. Our oldest, Josh, is living at home while working and paying off student loans. Our youngest, Griffin recently left his active duty Army job and is now National Guard here at home. He moved back to Michigan with his wife Kirsten and our beautiful granddaughter Hazel. I work part time and try to fit as much reading into my life as possible.
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