Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

Quick review for a complicated read. I say complicated and not complex for reasons. I remember "Thirteen Reasons Why" being one of the first books I added to my Goodreads profile when I joined back in 2010, and it's taken me this long to get to it. I knew it would be a rough read, but I didn't exactly know what to expect from it. The story revolves around a boy named Clay who gets a series of tapes following the suicide of one of his classmates and crushes, Hannah. He listens through Hannah's final tapes with dreading curiosity and anxiety considering he realizes that he has a "role" to play in the unfolding events leading up to her final moments.

I get that it was supposed to be an emotional read, but a few things left me bothered by this narrative. The first was Hannah's motivation to use her suicide in a revenge plot situation - that felt sketchy and off to me, and I don't think it was the for the best portrayal of such a heavy topic with depression/severe anxiety and suicide. It makes it seem heavy handed, like it could be a Hollywood (*cough*Hollow-wood*cough*) portrayal trying to make a statement of tragedy, when really the grandiose handling of it actually undermines its seriousness and gravity. Granted, quite many of the people whom she calls out on the tape did some horrible things to her as well as other people (and the instances of unwanted sexual contact and sexual shaming did get to me on some level. That's a palpable issue, but somehow, I think Asher's narrative didn't treat it with as much gravity or maturity as, say, Courtney Summers's "Some Girls Are" and "All the Rage").

I was also very vexed at the unreported rape notation in this book. I won't say in what context for spoilerish reasons, but that rubbed me the wrong way as far as how Hannah points this out.

This book had me on some levels because of a compelling audio version (it was very well done, very easy to move through - the narrators did an excellent job and gave it a good range of emotional quality). I'll admit it kept me reading all the way through until the end. I didn't care much for Hannah's character, but I followed her's and Clay's perspectives all the way through. I thought Clay's character was okay, and there were palpable sentiments as far as his character going through the motions (anger, sadness, futility, etc.) as he learns of Hannah's respective experiences via the tapes. I'll admit that I thought the book would have something more substantial to follow up towards the end point, but I kept thinking "That's it?" For me, I feel like there were many missed opportunities to delve into depression and suicide with the due weight they deserve. I appreciated the expansion of the book on how things people do can adversely affect others, but it seems to shortchange other serious issues along the way while trying to portray that.

In the end, I'm mostly on the fence about this read. It had some things that had me and I could understand, but I really found myself struggling to connect with it because of the nature of the portrayal.

Overall score: 2.5/5 stars.