Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
This is the third novel I've read for Mental Health Awareness Month, and this one reached out to me the most. I had actually purchased the book back in March with my birthday money. I have always heard amazing things about Thirteen Reasons Why; it's on a few of my lists: my Must Reads list, my Suggested by an Article list, and Suggested by a Person list. But I have always put it off because, lets be honest, it's a dark subject matter: girl kills herself and then forces 13 people listen to how they played a role in her suicide. But from the minute I picked it up, I couldn't stop. I needed to know why she did it and how it got there; I needed to know each of the thirteen reasons that led to the premature death of this girl. And I would be lying if I said I didn't cry multiple times throughout the novel. This book has definitely changed me.
Two weeks ago, Hannah Baker killed herself. But before she did that, she recorded 6 tapes with 13 reasons why she did it. And now, those tapes are being circulated around to the 13 different people that have in some way played a role in her ultimate decision. The tapes have shown up on Clay Jensen's doorstep; he is reason number 9. He has also had a crush on Hannah since she moved there before freshman year, but he has never had the guts to tell her, until one night they make out at a party. But partway through making out, she freaks out and he leaves, and a few days later, she's dead.
Because with this book I really don't want to give away any of the names of the people on the list, I'm not going to say much more on the subject. But the reasons started when Hannah was a freshman and the first person on her list ruined the moment of her first kiss. Rumors quickly flooded the school of the easy new freshman, Hannah Baker, and since then, Hannah has had a reputation. And each person on the list played into that reputation in some way or another.
Clay spends his evening walking/riding around town, visiting different places of importance to Hannah, seeing how they played into her story, waiting to find out how he plays into her story. Every emotion under the sun fills Clay during the night: sadness, hatred, rage, happiness, loneliness. He recalls different rumors he had heard about Hannah and how he thinks he could have stopped them; he thinks of her changed behavior and how he noticed but said nothing, did nothing.
When the tapes are over, Clay mails them to the next person, Reason #10, knowing that he will never look at any of these people the same way ever again.
What I Liked
- This book doesn't just touch on suicide. In it, there is depression, bullying, emotional abuse, sexual harassment, rape.
- The fact that the book is from the POV of both the person who committed suicide and someone who is dealing with the after effects gives the book an interesting perspective.
What I Didn't Like
- This really isn't an issue with the book, but with Hannah. I know she's not a real person; I know that this fictional character went through some horrible things; but all I could think while she went through her different reasons is what if one of these people commits suicide because they feel so guilty about the role they played in Hannah's decision to kill herself. Some of the things are seriously messed up. But Hannah was the one who ultimately decided to take her life. And she's putting her guilt on these 13 other people. I just couldn't live with that.
I feel like in this day and age, everyone knows someone who's committed suicide, or attempted suicide, or has contemplated or attempted suicide themselves. Maybe that's why this book had such an impact on me; I fall into more than one of those categories. It's scary to think of how prevalent suicide is in our society. When a celebrity dies, it's always a question of if they took their own life. It makes me sick that it is so commonplace that people aren't surprised when someone says "Oh yeah, that person, they killed themselves," and then dishes the details of how they did it.
You never know the role you play in a persons life, what they're going to remember about you. This book shows how each person effected Hannah's life, and how their actions went much deeper than what they thought it did. One of Hannah's reasons even says:
"I don't belong on those tapes. Hannah just wanted an excuse to kill herself." (p. 110)
Well I'm sorry, but you do. And Clay felt that way too. Hannah didn't just pick these people at random, they all had a perfectly good reason to be on the list, and each of them has to live with what they did for the rest of their lives.
When I was in 5th grade, I had a choir teacher. I hated her, she was always mean. I always felt like she was always finding stupid excuses to yell at us. She never smiled. One day, I was telling my grandma about her and my grandma said something that has stayed with all these years later, and that I apply to every person. "Smile at everyone, no matter what they did to you, smile at them. You don't know what they're going through elsewhere. Just smile. It might be the only good thing they see all day." So I do, I smile at everyone. When I'm walking through the store, I smile at the people I pass down the aisles. When I'm jogging at night, I smile at the cars that pass me. When I'm with my friends and family, I smile. Because when you see someone smile, even if you don't smile back, somewhere deep inside, you feel it. And I never want someone to feel like I was disappointed in them, or disgusted by them, or whatever. I don't want to be someone's reason.
I think this book should be required reading; coincidentally, it has ended up on a few banned books lists. It's amazing. It is easily the best stand alone novel I have read this year. I really hoped that Hannah hadn't killed herself, that her parents found her in time and she was off at some rehab facility getting help, but she still decided to send out the tapes so that when she came back, the people would know what they almost caused her to do. But no, Hannah did kill herself. Luckily for me, she's a fictional character in a book. But there are people out there exactly like Hannah, and people like the ones on her list who have to live with the decisions they make.
Because this is Mental Health Awareness Month, and because I want everyone to have options and know what to look for, these are some of the warning signs of suicide from the SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) website.
- Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself.
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as research or buying a gun.
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or unbearable pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious or agitated; being reckless.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawn or feeling isolated.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
- Preoccupation with death.
- Suddenly happier, calmer.
- Loss of interest in things one cares about.
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
- Making arrangements; setting ones affairs in order.
- Giving things away, such as prized possessions.
In an emergency, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Please, don't be afraid to get help; don't be afraid to talk to someone. If someone tells you that they have been feeling depressed or contemplating suicide, don't shut them down; listen to them and help them get the help they need.
Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction