Review of ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’

Thirteen Reasons Why written by Jay Asher is an “eerie, beautiful, and devastating” (comment by Chicago Tribune), novel. Clay Jensen is a regular high school student of present time America. Hannah is a girl in his class that has died but she left behind a sort of gift. When Clay receives the tapes that Hannah left behind, he isn’t sure what to do but to listen. As she explains the darkest parts of her life leading up to her death, Hannah tells Clay he is liable for her death. As Clay listens he is torn apart and his life changed forever.

I do talk about a few specific parts that might give away portions of the book, but I do not use details. Either way, I recommend this book to everyone on the planet.

I have been wanting to read this book for some time. So I was pretty excited to finally buy it and add it to my library. I have seen the Netflix Series as well. Both the book and the TV show portrayed a life so delicate in a way that everyone can, in some way, relate.

The book was actually very different from the TV series. Naturally, they couldn’t make it just like the book or the show would have been very short and hard to tell. So I understand why the Netflix series chose how to express this story. It gave details that you don’t get in the book, which helped to paint a clearer picture. But the book was written beautifully and made you think a certain way, which I believe was on purpose.

Thirteen Reasons Why was a scary in-depth story of a girls downfall. Her spiraling life, dwindling into nothing. Hannah felt betrayed, guilt, paranoia, madness, useless, and much more. She had a very delicate soul and was scarred easily. There are many things I wish I personally could have told her like, “You’ll get through this”. Clay Jensen also expressed these thoughts of mine as he was listening to her tapes. He pointed out the obvious communication skills that Hannah lacked, in return the lack of those skills hurt her and continued. When Hannah would explain something about herself, she never seemed to feel like she could trust or depend on anyone, not even her parents. So she locked herself up and never told anyone how she truly felt. When you do that, you detach yourself from support of others. Then you feel alone. Hannah always felt alone.

I personally think this book should be in all high school English curriculum. During that age period there are tons of emotions running through our bodies. Jay Asher projected them very well. I think many people have already benefited from reading this book and it has opened their eyes to a new understanding of what it’s like to be human, specifically a teenager.

The one characteristic about this book that I thought was brilliant was the lack of description to all the characters in the story. Jay Asher doesn’t describe anyone in detail, just small things like “he is tall or they are average looking”. He puts the reader at the wheel and forces them to see the characters for themselves. This made me think, “Anyone can be a bully, anyone can be a victim; anyone can look like either”, “Anyone can be sad, deeply hurt, or going through changes.” We are given the responsibility to fill in the blanks and see for ourselves. “What do these types of people look like to you?”  But mostly, it tells us that bullies don’t have a physical description. People thinking of suicide don’t look a certain way. Anybody can be any of these characters.

Another point about the blank character spaces is how Jay shows a bit of immaturity for that age group. I know if I had read this book when I was in high school, I would put certain people or see certain physical characteristics in these blanks based off of the kids that I did or did not get along with. Jay was portraying these thinly detailed characters to force the reader (and I think mostly teenagers) to put themselves into each character. Force to see yourself as a bully or victim or someone stuck in between. Think about how your actions affect others. How judgement and being a bystander are opposite ends of the spectrum that should not go unnoticed.

There was a part in the book where there was an anonymous note about suicide in a class. Many of the students thought the person was just asking for attention or it was a joke. So they reacted as such, that it was just a joke, not a cry for help. They didn’t take the time to consider that someone in their class had written it and put it up for discussion. The majority of the students didn’t want to or couldn’t take the subject seriously. Maybe they were uncomfortable talking about. Some of the students were plain heartless. I felt terrible at this part in the book. Feeling like the world of your peers against you is a very tough thing to go through. As a teenager, we are all tested with this emotion. We have all been there. How you see yourself and the world will determine how you get through it. I don’t need to tell you that suicide is very serious and that it should never be treated like a joke, the book does that for me.

Now to be the devils advocate a little bit. Hannah was a very delicate person. Her personality was great and lively, but she was a bit dramatic. She let many things get to her and could not find a constructive way to let go and move on. Hannah’s character was easily hurt, therefore she didn’t like most people because she felt everyone would hurt her. Since she trusted no one, she felt she could not confide in someone to help her get through her toughest times. There were many positions where Hannah could have taken control of the situation at hand, but just couldn’t find the courage. There were many times she could have found friendship that would benefit her. She never found herself in the right crowd that cared for her, so she thought very little of herself. Now, this is not excusing anything that happened to her in the book. It was all very terrible and no one should ever have to experience the bullying that she endured. This is just an observation of her character.

A favorite scene in the book was at the end with the discussion between Hannah and Mr. Porter. I think the Netflix series nailed this part. She goes to Mr. Porter for help. She tries to explain in her own way how she was feeling, but she also sets Mr. Porter up for failure. He tries to ask the right questions to lead her toward the deepest parts of her heart and the problem, but he just doesn’t do good enough and she doesn’t let him see her true feelings. I loved Clay’s reaction to this part as well. Clay kept screaming out all the right things that both Mr. Porter and Hannah should have been saying to each other to help the conversation head in the right direction. But it was also sad to know that at the end, Hannah’s attempt didn’t work. It’s no secret at the beginning of the book, she’s dead. Clay also felt this I think. He wanted her to do the right things in order to get help and live, but he forgot, it didn’t work.

This book is a great read for teenagers and adults alike. It can speak to everyone on a different level. Some of us have felt like the victim and others the bully. Either way there are lessons to be learned from this novel. Lessons to take into account, to practice yourself so you don’t cause harm to anyone. Things to keep in mind and to be a better person towards others. We aren’t all going to get along, but we can be civil and polite.

You never know what the other person’s life is like or what they might be going through. Your words or actions could be the catalyst that starts a reaction.

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