I’ve known a few people throughout my life that have chosen to end things by way of suicide. It’s always something that leaves you wondering–what was so awful that this person felt they had to take thir own life? Some times you get an explanation via something like a suicide note, but I don’t think the reasoning is ever as involved as it was in Thirteen Reasons Why.
Hannah Baker was your typical high schooler, until she didn’t show up at school one day. Only later did her peers discover she’d killed herself. Clay Jensen, the narrator of Thirteen Reasons Why, had worked with Hannah at the local movie complex. The two were friendly with one another and even made out at a party one night, but it’s been weeks since Hannah’s suicide and Clay has been getting back to his normal routine. All that changes when he comes home from school one day to find a package waiting for him. What he discovers are a bunch of cassette tapes–recordings Hannah made before her death to explain why she felt suicide was the only way out.
Clay can’t tear himself away from the tapes. It becomes clear from the beginning that only those who are mentioned as one of the thirteen reasons why Hannah chose her fate are the ones being given these tapes, and Clay is anxious to know what role he played in her death. As he listens to the tapes on a walkman, he wanders around the neighborhood following a map that locates all the areas that Hannah references in the tapes.
I said in my Sunday Salon post this past week that I found this book slow going at first. I know that it’s had rave reviews and I expected to be drawn in right away–maybe that was the problem, in fact. My expectations were too high. I found myself getting more and more involved though as the story progressed. By the end, I was intrigued. I liked how the story weaved together to a climax, which wasn’t obvious at first. I didn’t necessarily expect there to be a cusp–more just a laundry list of reasons why Hannah chose death.
I will admit Hannah was a character I didn’t really like. That seems heartless really, given the circumstances, but it’s true. For one, I thought she seemed entitled and whiny. Yes, she had some really difficult things happen to her–who doesn’t? And then she felt the need to involve people after the fact. There were some people on the list that deserved a guilt trip–that I won’t deny. There were others though, such as Clay, who really shouldn’t have had to deal with the heartbreak all over again, now made to be a million times more personal. In the end, I felt that Hannah took the easy way out and tried to bring others down with her. As a whole, I appreciated the story and the intent, but I had a hard time sympathizing with Hannah personally.
Overall, Thirteen Reasons Why is a great book, although it has many triggers. I think that it would be something that teenagers could empathize with.
I borrowed this book from my local library.