First I believe an apology is in order.
In the weeks and months since graduation I’ve found myself so wrapped up in reading that I’ve neglected my writing, something equally important to me. But I’m finally learning how to balance having the time (and energy) to read several books a week and keep up with my writing too. It’s been a bit of a tightrope walk, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. For good measure, please knock on the nearest bit of wood for me (I’ll be doing the same now).
For this very special (and very late) post I read TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY by Jay Asher. I knew going into it that it was about a girl who committed suicide, leaving behind 13 mixtapes she recorded for the people she claims are the reasons she decided to take her own life. Sounds a bit f**ked up doesn’t it?
That’s because it is.
This is a deeply unsettling and disturbing novel. The narrator, a likeable and slightly oblivious high school boy, Clay Jensen, doesn’t know why this is happening to him when he receives the tapes, and frankly neither did I. It didn’t make any sense for Hannah, the dead girl, to have included him on her list alongside people who actually did or caused horrible things. The entire book I couldn’t stop thinking about that. Clay is obviously not a bad person, and Hannah claims to have liked him, but when you like someone you don’t put them through listening to you casually discuss killing yourself… after you’ve already done it.
Of course, that’s the point. Hannah Baker is not a normal girl. She’s a grossly unhappy girl, who’s been mistreated so many times that she can’t handle it anymore. Nothing about what she did makes sense. As Clay soon realizes, it’s not fair, and it doesn’t matter that it isn’t because even justice couldn’t bring her back. In the end, Hannah did the selfish thing and took herself out of the world forever, and that isn’t something that can be undone.
I thought that this was a well-written book, but I’d be lying if I said that I loved it. If anything it left me feeling hollow and grim. I didn’t cry, because I didn’t ever really connect to Hannah, even though Clay cared about her. I did connect with Clay somewhat, but not enough for me to feel what he felt. In the end it was a book that I didn’t mind reading, but not one I’d pick up for a second read.
I can’t say for sure that that isn’t what the author intended. For all intents and purposes I walked away from reading Thirteen Reasons Why feeling just like Clay feels – hollow, numb and cynical. But I think my feelings were caused by the fact that in a market flooded with books about death (and they really are everywhere these days) I expect something with a thriving pulse, something like The Fault in Our Stars or Love Letters to the Dead that still make you feel alive, and glad to be so. Thirteen Reasons Why is just a little too cold in its grave, and the lack of pulse was unnerving.
Rating: 3.2/5 stars
Overall Reaction: “Eh. I want to know why, but then I also kind of don’t.”