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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher | Book Review (and TV thoughts)

Dear reader, before I get into this review, I have something I need to say. Suicide is not an option – no matter the situation, it is never on the cards. You are special, and you are strong, and you can get through this. If you’re considering it even for a moment, please click here for some professional help, or here to send me a personal message. Suicide is not the logical choice, it is not the only way out. Please, take care of yourself, and I look forward to seeing you again when I next post!
All my love, Abby xx

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I know I’m not the most positive person in the world. I don’t give glowing reviews very often, and I don’t give out false praise or fangirl all over this blog. However, few reviews have been as savage as my What Light review way back in December. I don’t remember the last time I hated a book so much. But I hated that book.

Obviously, I need my head examined, because I chose to pick another book by Jay Asher this month after watching the Thirteen Reasons Why show on Netflix. I figured, since I liked the show, I would probably like the book. As it turns out, Mr Asher is just not for me.

Here goes, another 2-star review.

Jay Asher has a talent for creating the most superficial, dislikeable, unsympathetic characters I’ve ever read. Even after seeing the TV show (which made me cry on multiple occasions, and I don’t cry!), I despised the book versions of both Clay and Hannah.

First, let’s look at Clay, he’s easier to address. Something about the way the book was laid out, just really annoyed me. You’d hear a section from Hannah’s tapes, and then it would cut to Clay, and he’d be talking about pouring more milk into his coffee and trying to find a table to sit down, or about what everybody around him was thinking. To me, Clay wasn’t really listening to what Hannah had to say, unlike TV-Clay who was so moved and troubled by everything he heard on the tapes. TV 1 – Book 0.

As for Hannah, I think that her issues in the book felt way more trivial than they did in the TV show. The way book-Hannah talked about the incidents that lead her to suicide, were angsty and were over-dramatic and just poorly dealt with generally.

I guess this is the point where I talk about the tapes themselves. Because in the book we only saw from Clay’s perspective as he listened, I got the impression that the tapes weren’t affecting people – and that’s dangerous. The whole point of Hannah’s suicide was that people had said things about her, and they had snowballed and caused her to kill herself. In the book, we only saw Clay’s perspective and, in my mind, they didn’t affect him particularly. I don’t mean to keep comparing it to the show, but it’s a good reference point. In the show, we saw how they lead to Jessica’s alcohol problem, to Alex’s suicide attempt, how Justin was having problems at home – we didn’t see any of this in the book, and I feel like it really detracted from the message.

Then, I have my problems with the content of the tapes themselves. First of all, Clay should never have been on the tapes. He did nothing to Hannah, she could have easily told the listeners about Clay, without putting him through it all. She had no idea what sort of effect it would have on him, and including him was even more selfish and misguided than her messages for the other characters.

Secondly, from the presentation in the book, why weren’t her parents on there? They neglected her as their business turned for the worse – if they’d listened, if they’d noticed, maybe she would have been okay? They seemed to me a much more fitting recipient of the tapes than Clay.

Dealing with suicide. It’s a tough topic, and as someone who has seen what teen suicide does to a community, this book was wrong. It glamorised suicide. It made it look easy, and it made it look appealing. This book should definitely only be read by someone who’s outside looking in, not by someone who’s going through their own battle.

All in all, I’m glad that this book tried to address something that is so important to talk about. But, I didn’t like the way it was done. It felt wrong to read. If you are interested in the concept, try the series. The series has the same premise, and the same characters, but it does it in a much more impactful and thought provoking manner. I feel for TV-Clay and I mourn for TV-Hannah, but their bookish counterparts, just aren’t for me.

Overall, I gave this book 2/5 (the same rating as What Light). I’m sorry, I really wanted to like it – but he’s just not my cup of tea, and it’s not the thought provoking wonder that the series is. To a degree, I think I just don’t like Jay Asher as a writer. I don’t like his style, and I won’t be reading anything else from him anytime soon. However, I also know that lots of people love this book, so weigh it up. Listen to what your head tells you, and good luck if you try it!

If you have already read this, please let me know what you thought down below! Did you like it? I’d love to try and understand the appeal of this novel!

12 thoughts on “Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher | Book Review (and TV thoughts)

  1. At the risk of getting a severe telling off, I’m going to say I thought this was a well written book which I benefited from reading.

    I fully agree with one of the points in your review – Hannah does come across like she’s blaming everybody which makes it a bit hard to sympathise with her at those times. Although my opinion on the book differs massively from yours, I found it eye opening and interesting to read your review.

    Reading the comments section has made me wonder whether this should ever have been labelled a YA book though. I now realise that very young and vulnerable people could actually be pushed over the edge by this book… but I can’t help but think how the fact Hannah took that drastic decision based entirely on her perspective of her life could be a wake up call for those who feel as lonely and hopeless as her. She had no idea that Clay cared for her as much as he did, or that he would be ready to listen and help her. Hopefully somebody in her position could read that and think, “Maybe if I stop pushing away when somebody tries to get close, maybe they can help me”.

    Ultimately, this book would be very helpful for people who are not depressed or suicidal to better understand the mind of such a person. The class discussion scene (based on real life according to the author’s notes at the end) is such a realistic snapshot of how suicide is viewed in society today and how quick people are to blame the person contemplating it. Suicide is never the answer, of course, but a book that shows what could lead a person to it, surely, can help break down the stigma around talking about suicide and move the less understanding members of society to help somebody showing the signs rather than blame them or mock them?

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  2. I appreciate everyone’s different opinions on this book/series. I have only watched the series. I, personally, found it to romanticise Hannah as a character (naturally, told through the eyes of Clay) and her suicide, which to me seems dangerous. I also found the concept of somebody leaving tapes behind blaming people for their suicide quite offensive and bizarre. To me this story perpetuates an idea that suicide has somebody to blame, rather than being a tragic result of mental illness (of course aggravated by external circumstances). As I always say about this, I hope I’m wrong. I hope young people don’t take the wrong message away from this and I hope that there won’t be a string of “copycat” (a word I’m not too fond of) attempts as a result. It’s interesting for me to read other people’s perspectives though 🙂

    https://tenmoreminutesblog.wordpress.com/

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  3. I really didn’t like the characters in the book, I found clay boring and I didn’t like the way Hannah spoke on the tapes (I felt she was very much blaming people) and I only watched 10 minutes of the TV show before being advised not to, and I liked the characters a lot more. I have incredibly mixed feelings on the book and still don’t know where I really sit with it. Found this really interesting to read!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I see where you’re coming from but I don’t think it’s fair to say this book glamorizes suicide because it’s not the same as what you’ve seen. For someone else, Hannah’s truth is the same as theirs and it’s not fair to tell someone that their experience is invalid because it doesn’t match someone else’s.

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    1. I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree with you here. The suggestion that suicide is the only logical choice is one that I will never be able to support. If you look in the news countless mental health specialists are heralding this show/book the most dangerous in circulation.
      Teachers and parents have reported children as young as 11 are becoming withdrawn from their friends and classmates. Young people are very impressionable.
      As I mentioned in the review, I think it is important to discuss teen suicide, however I didn’t like its treatment in this novel.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t support suicide as a “logical choice” I never said that I did. But when someone is struggling with mental health and doesn’t receive the help that they ask for, to them it may seem like the only option. I’m not saying that’s okay or what they should do. The book/show itself does no glamorize suicide, people who read it do. That’s not Jay Asher’s fault but it’s still brought up important discussions and it still isn’t okay to tell people that their experiences are invalid

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      2. “I don’t support suicide as a “logical choice” I never said that I did.” – Um, I was actually taking a point from my own post there where I said ‘Suicide is not the logical choice, it is not the only way out.’. Sorry for any confusion.

        “But when someone is struggling with mental health and doesn’t receive the help that they ask for, to them it may seem like the only option.” – Okay, let’s use an example. Say an 11 year old girl reads this book. They’ve just started at a new school and they’re being bullied by the other kids. They’re being called fat and stupid and other things that can really affect an 11 year old. This child doesn’t know what to do and isn’t sure who to turn to. Then they read this book and they start to think that no one can help them because Clay or Mr Porter or the Bakers couldn’t help Hannah, so that child, who may not even have been thinking about suicide to begin with, takes their own life. Are you really trying to tell me the book has contributed in this situation?

        “The book/show itself does no glamorize suicide, people who read it do.” – Surely an author, particularly a YA author, has to think about the way people can read their work. Yes it’s art, but if art is responsible for a teenager adopting a toxic mindset, that isn’t okay in my eyes.

        “…it still isn’t okay to tell people that their experiences are invalid.” – It really upsets me to think that people are going through things like this. However, to be blunt, we’ve already lost the people like Hannah. Our focus as a society should be to reduce instances of teen suicide, and we can only do that by making our help more evident and more effective.
        Even looking beyond those already suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, this book could be equally detrimental to those who’ve lived through a suicide in their community. They may begin questioning their memory of that person, perhaps start to feel responsible, and thus damaging their mindset.

        I think there’s a difference between representing a person’s experience and making something like suicide seem like a viable option.
        I hope you can respect my opinion.

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      3. So no good can come from this book or show? All of the conversations that its started don’t matter? And anyone who relates to Hannah just doesn’t matter?
        Whether the book had been written or not this is still some people’s reality.

        Just with the example that you gave, that 11 year old could choose to confide in someone or get professional help.
        Yes our society needs to do better, conversations surrounding this show can do that. It shouldn’t take a tv show to address these issues but unfortunately a lot of people needed to realize that this was an issue in the first place.

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  5. I love your points. Suicide is not a simple thing to address, and if you address it so loosely, that could give the wrong impression to many people who are on the outside looking in on the topic of suicide.

    Liked by 1 person

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