Genre: Young Adult / Realistic Fiction
Page Count: 352 pages
Publication Date: October 2007
You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.
Disclaimer: I have NOT seen Netflix’s adaptation of Thirteen Reasons Why. I have only listened to the story on audiobook through my library’s app, Overdrive.
This book has been sooo hyped since Netflix announced it’s screen adaptation, that I was a little surprised when I found this book has been around for 10 years! TEN years!
I was going through Overdrive a couple of days ago, looking for a short audiobook to listen to over the weekend, when I stumbled onto this massively hyped up book. I have to say that, despite the hype, it was surprisingly good! I mean, it wasn’t the best book of the month or anything like that, but it was still a good story.
The book was extremely compelling, and because it’s so short you can devour it in one or two sittings (The audiobook is about 6 hours long). The characters seemed realistic and most were unlikable, but I supposed that was done on purpose. After all, we’re supposed to see Hannah Baker, the girl who committed suicide, as the victim. Since most of the other characters contributed to her final act, and we see them through Hannah’s eyes, it’s not surprising that they come off as being the worst kind of people out there.
It was an engrossing story. A page-turner, if I had read the book in physical format, I’m sure. But if you’re going to read Thirteen Reasons Why I’d recommend you listen to the audiobook. It’s brilliant! It’s narrated by two different actors, one who plays Clay (the guy listening to the tapes and reacting to them throughout the story) and another who plays Hannah Baker (the girl who recorded the tapes before committing suicide).
Despite all that, I’m not sure I would recommend this book to young readers (ie. teens) or people who might be having suicidal thoughts. Thirteen Reasons Why glamorises suicide. There, I said it.
It shows suicide as an easy way out and as a reasonable strategy to deal with your problems, and that’s just wrong. There will always be people out there who want to help. Just like Hannah had Clay, she didn’t think he was interested in helping her but in reality he was desperate to get closer and make her happy. He genuinely cared for her. She was just so absorbed with everything else going on around her that she didn’t notice him, trying to be there for her.
Especially since the target audience for this book is so young and impressionable (I’m not undermining teens in any way. That’s not my intention) I know most teens wouldn’t end their lives just because of a book they read, BUT if someone is already thinking along those lines this may very well be that last nudge they need to actually go through with it. So, I would be extra cautious before recommending this book to just anyone.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about Thirteen Reasons Why. Especially because I, as the reader, was supposed to empathise with Hannah Baker and see her as a victim, which just didn’t really happen. More often than not I felt she was judgemental and bratty (Is that even a word?), but that’s just my opinion.
All I’ll say is, read it at your own risk.
PS: If you experience suicidal thoughts or if you’re worried about someone who might be feeling that way, there are things you can do to help. The following are NOT religious organisations and they’re available 24/7 online or by phone.
The rest of the world: I couldn’t possibly list every helpline in the world here, but a simple google search will bring up the most relevant service for your own country.
Or, if you feel like talking to someone (with a degree in Psychology but not much experience) in a completely anonymous and private setting, you can always send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org