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This review is from: Thirteen Reasons Why (Paperback)
I'm finding this book really difficult to review. The main reason for this is that it's a few years now since I was a teenager (OK, a great many years) and to do this review justice I am going to have to take myself back to those days; those days of of falling out with your best friend and it ruining your life for an afternoon, unrequited crushes, rumours and gossip that can make your life a misery for a whole day (which feels like a whole year when you're that age). That's where I need to place myself in order to get under Hannah's skin as if I don't this review will be completely different. In fact, let's go there - let's talk about what I thought reading it now and then talk about how I would have felt over 20 year ago.
I'll start by saying that the premise is brilliant. A box of cassettes lands on your doorstep and when you play them, the voice coming through your speaker-phone is that of Hannah Baker. Only Hannah Baker killed herself two weeks ago. The young boy, Clay, is one of 13 people who will recieve these tapes in turn and each one of those 13 people contributed to why Hannah killed herself. An interview with the author at the end of the book says that he got the idea for the tapes when he was listening to an audio in a museum and he was fascinated with how spooky it was to listen to someones voice who wasn't really there. That's how it must have felt to Clay when he played the tapes - for not only was Hannah dead but Clay really liked her. How can he be one of the reasons for her wanting to kill herself? Clay takes the tapes and plays them on a walkman while he follows the map that Hannah also left to point out various places that mean something within her story like the park where she had her first kiss and the party that changed everything.
OK, so now onto what I thought: while reading this I decided that I didn't actually like Hannah very much and had little sympathy for her most of the time. The things she was accusing people of doing to her (most of it unintentional) seemed (to my adult self) pretty lame in most cases. Hannah accuses people of not seeing the real her yet she makes little effort to make any real friends or to open up to others. Kids from her shcool are named and shamed as being one of the catalysts for her suicide and really they didn't do much other than be normal high school kids. Don't get me wrong, I know anyone who has read this book will be yelling at the screen "but what about so-and-so?" and yes, there were some horrible people who deserved their cummupance; Hannah was the victim of an untrue rumour that started the snowball effect of her downfall. So why am I so down on Hannah? The truth is, I don't know. It could be that I'm over all the he-said-she-said school stuff, it could be becasue I'm a northerner and we're well known up here for not being soft and "brushing ourselves down and just getting on with things", it could be because Hannah seems so angry and vengeful - fancy making people listen to your last few days on earth and accusing them of putting you in an early grave! Suicidal people, from my understanding, tend to be in a depressive state, not a state of anger like Hannah is. She is bitter and wants people to pay. In my book, that makes her as bad as the people she claims to be the victim of - they will have to live with those tapes for the rest of their lives.
Now onto my "teenage head". If I had read this book in school I would have loved it, I know I would. At a time when every little thing is magnified to epic proportions, then I would have felt Hannah's pain. I would have cried for her. She never really got the chance to fit in at her new school because a boy she liked over-egged the details of their first kiss and Hannah had to deal with the consequences for the next few years. As a teenager, I loved the dramatics and what Hannah did with the tapes would have had me punching the air for her - go Hannah! There are some very tender moments in this book too when you really begin to understand how one thing can snowball into another and before you know it you're at rock bottom.
So, to conclude: I'm still as unsure about it as I was before. Good book? Yes, it's a great book and quick read. But I still have my problem with Hannah. So my blunt northern self says "come on, pull yourself together, girl!".
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Mar 2011 18:06:22 GMT
In reply to an earlier post on 14 Mar 2011 18:20:28 GMT
Actually, I do know what it's like to feel so depressed - I suffered with it for years (as an adult), and yes I was also bullied in shcool so I also know what that's like. When people are truly depressed they are not angry like Hannah: they don't have the energy. That was my point.
If you read my review properly, I have looked at it from both the teenage and adult side. Perhaps this will come across as patronising but read this again in 20 or so years and let me know if you feel the same (my guess is you won't).
In reply to an earlier post on 14 Apr 2011 06:03:35 BDT
Boof; first of all I have to admit that I haven't read this book - but I'm intrigued. I too am a depressive (a chronic anxiety depressive, with recently diagnosed Asperger's Syndrome) I have been seriously depressed for approximately 30+ years since I was in my early teens. I have felt "near" to the sort of desperation that leads to suicide, but only "near" - and that is terrible enough in itself. However; to paraphrase your words "putting on my adult head" and having lived in a medical family, I know a little bit about real suicides. I have heard my (doctor) father tell my mother about many suicides, whom he had to pronounce dead. This is never a pleasant or lightly thought of duty; and is always upsetting, even if being upset in a professional and experienced manner. There is the "cry for help" attempted suicide type - for which I have all the sympathy and pity in the world. But for example, they do tend to do things like: take an entire bottle of sleeping capsules, then carefully leave the bottle where it will be found and commit their act of absolute desperation at a time when they are sure they will be found in time - although tragically some aren't found in time. Don't get me wrong; I feel desperately sorry for such people, they have reached the end of their endurance. Then there are the actual suicides; and nearly all of them have something in common. They carefully plan their last act and then (usually) go somewhere quiet, where nobody will see them or are be able to help them, and they most definitely intend to kill themselves. For example; the man who walked up into the mountains and cut both his femoral arteries. Or the man who walked in front of the South bound 125; as it was doing 125 miles per hour, and held his arms wide as if he were about to embrace the train which killed him. I feel desperate sadness and pity for these people too. But from the synopsis I have read, this girl doesn't seem to fit either category. It sounds like a good story, but the reasons for the suicide don't quite ring true to me. People who really mean to kill themselves just do; and they are too far beyond desperation to be interested in leaving multiple and lengthy accusations, explaining why others have driven them to do what they do - though they do quite often leave a usually confused and garbled note of explanation; and occasional apology. Again like you I am a Northerner; maybe I too am used to picking myself up and brushing myself off and getting on with it. What choice do we have? Perhaps because once when in hospital on a stretcher (for none mental illness reasons) I looked into the eyes of a man sitting rigidly in a wheel chair, who had been found by complete chance, after drinking a bottle of caustic household cleaner. He was not longer with us, he was alive at the time I saw him but I saw in his fixed, red-eyed, and unblinking stare; someone who was very far past desperation, or any form of concern for his situation. Having said all of this, as I said at the beginning, I am intrigued by this book and will buy a copy and read it. Thank you for your thoughtful, intelligent, and interesting review - and I very sincerely hope that you are now feeling completely well, and are living a very happy life.
In reply to an earlier post on 14 Apr 2011 10:29:38 BDT
David, wow, thank you so much for sharing that. Suicide and depression are such horrible things to deal with; I still suffer from depression and know just how debilitating it is (and I hope my "brush yourself down and get on with it" comment didn't come over as too flippant as I of all people know how difficult that it to do). I would love to read your review if you decide to review it after reading the book; it would be nice to see another perspective from someone older who has lived with depression and see how you interpreted Hannah's anger and revenge. If you do, please can you pop a note under this one so that I will pick it up and can go ahead and read your review?
Thank you again for sharing and I wish you a happy life also x
Posted on 10 Jul 2012 23:19:28 BDT
I would agree totally with everything you've said!
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