Book Review: 13 Reasons Why (Jay Asher)

Warning: If anybody here has read my old blog, you should know by now that I usually write book reviews of novels I did not like. So if you liked this particular book, you can skip this post. 

So I bought the book after seeing it highly recommended on Goodreads. I don’t enjoy reading about suicidal teenagers (partly because my feelings used to run towards the other extreme – I was a teenager who repressed homicidal feelings HAHA) but some of my friends have left glowing reviews, so I thoughts what the hell, I might as well read it too.

I wanted to be enlightened and inspired and touched by the book – but it mainly just made me vaguely pissed off and feel bothered in the worst way possible. 

Summary:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

My Thoughts on the Book

You might be wondering by now why I don’t like it.  Are you ready to find out why? If you are, then read on.

1. Hannah isn’t the slightest bit likeable. Seriously, who wants to root for somebody who’s thoroughly exasperating? She is so touchy about everything, no wonder she gets tormented. I know we’re supposed to see her as the victim in this mess, but she just made me angry. She’s a horrible, close-minded drama queen, she commits suicide as an act of vengeance and it gives off the peculiar vibe that she does it mainly to inconvenience all the people who hurt her.

But oh well. We all cope in different ways, after all. I’ve never been bullied in my life but I think if I were in her shoes, I’d be more likely to go batshit crazy and bomb my school rather than kill myself. That’s why you shouldn’t repress yourselves, kids. Tell an adult that somebody is bothering you.  Or better yet, stand up for yourself and punch that bully in the teeth. If you are physically challenged (i.e. not big enough, like me) I recommend cultivating the fine art of intimidation and blackmailing without, of course, actually doing anything bad.

2. The book itself is poorly written. The concept would have made for a great novel, but Asher’s writing falls short.  If this were written by, say, Sarah Dessen or Laurie Halse Anderson, I bet the dialogue and monologues would have been more effective, the characters more believable. The chapters itself are too overwrought and just wading through it exhausted me more than I would have thought. The supporting characters are poorly drawn, and – ta dah – the ending is incredibly weak.

3.  My third and final reason for disliking this book is I feel like it will actually drive an already-suicidal teen to commit suicide. Yup.  Glamorize it more, wouldn’t you? The book somehow insinuates that if somebody kills himself/herself, it will bring about a change, it will be a turning point, it will affect lives.

Dafuq. Hahaha.

It affects lives, all right. Congratulations for traumatizing your peers and breaking your family’s hearts! This “when I die, they’ll regret everything they did to me” mentality is just so purely selfish that it makes my head hurt.  This book weaves an unrealistic portrait of two very serious issues, which are depression and suicide. Instead of debunking the cultural myths that often go with these issues, the book just feeds off of them.

Do I Recommend the Book?

Obviously not. 

Final Words

First of all, thank you for making it to this part haha.

And secondly, if there are any emotionally disturbed teenagers reading this right now, I would like to take the opportunity presented to appeal to you to not commit suicide. Life is a precious gift, and when you die, you’re gone forever.  You will never be able to make your life and your current situation better. You will never see your friends and family again. That doesn’t sound very nice, does it?

You may think that your dying will bring about some sort of cataclysmic change, but most likely, it won’t. People cope. They move on. The people who have wronged you might feel guilty for some time, but they’ll eventually get over it. They’re still alive, they still have a chance to turn their lives around. But guess what? Because you’re dead, you won’t have the same opportunity to do so.

It may be hard now, but things will eventually get better. That’s a promise!

So yeah, that’s the end of my book review. I’ll try to write a nicer one next time.

Thank you for reading!

Jen 

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