***Disclaimer: suicide is a serious issue- I in no way take the matters this book deals with lightly***
A lot of people loved this book- I mean the book has over 400,000 ratings on goodreads and an average rating of 4.05. So I’m pretty sure I’m going to be in the minority for not liking it. But that’s okay, as Greenday said “I wanna be the minority” :p
Now while I found Thirteen Reasons Why compelling in parts, I just had too many issues with it to enjoy it. So here were the 13 reasons why I had problems with this book:
- This book was not a believable representation of suicide. I did not buy her motivation or even believe she was depressed. People do not kill themselves for “reasons”- depression is a mental illness and much more complicated than that.
- Even if you’re going to accept the whole “reasons” thing, her reasons sucked. Most of the people on the list did not deserve to be there. Not least of all Clay. The only one that deserved it was the peeping tom and the rapist- who wasn’t on the list because he wouldn’t have passed it on
- In fact, the whole plot hinges on something that does not make sense. I mean, let’s start with the fact that there’s no way a lot of these people would actually bother passing this cassette on. Least of all Clay- who shouldn’t have been on the tapes in the first place. I also don’t get why Tony would enforce this either- I mean what was she to him? There were a million better ways of doing this idea. I liked the premise but it was just not done well.
- A lot of the incidents in the book were unclear and did not make sense. For example, I spent huge amounts of time wondering why Jessica thought she had stolen her guy and why she didn’t bother correcting her. And what did Courtney actually do wrong in the first place. I mean, so what if she wasn’t really a friend?
- Because of all these inconsistencies, the whole thing came across as petty and juvenile. One of the main reasons for this was because, like I said before, she every single insignificant person- and I know that was the point of the book- but it made her come across as petty and vindictive rather than depressed and suicidal. I felt like she was killing herself out of spite more than anything else- which makes no sense, because suicide is far more personal than that.
- This did not sound even remotely like a suicide note. Firstly, the whole tone of Hannah’s voice was angry and not depressed. But more importantly, the whole thing was too well-structured and thought out to resemble a suicide letter. Clearly, the author has never written a transcript- and especially not one of someone in extreme distress. Those things are far messier than this book represented. Now, I’m not saying I wanted this book to be all over the place structurally, but it would have been far better if it had least shown *some* raw emotion.
- I’ve mentioned this quite a few times now, but just in case it was not totally apparent: I did not like the heroine. I could write a whole list just on how much I hated Hannah. She came across as self-righteous, childish and self-centred. The author tried really hard to make her seem like this super empathetic person, but in reality she commandeered victimhood of other people’s suffering. Take, for instance, when she claimed that watching other people fist fight made her sick. Or, even worse, when she witnessed a rape and didn’t do anything- but had the audacity to use it as a reason for her own suicide. And I don’t buy that she felt guilty about it- because then she wouldn’t have broadcast it on the tapes and made the real victim listen. I hated that she somehow commandeered other people’s pain and twisted it round so it was all about her. It kind of reminded me of 17th century Sentimentalism: where the well to do would go and watch people suffering in mental asylums so you can have a good cathartic cry over it. It’s beyond a shitty thing to do.
- With that in mind, I have another charge to level at this book: it exploited serious issues and turned them into melodrama. In a blatant attempt at being a serious book, the author felt like no incident was out of bounds. But the fact that it was all handled so badly just made it feel tacky and cheap.
- It was also trying too hard to be clever. Case and point was the car accident- which was tangential and loosely connected at best to the actual plot. It just made the whole message of the book- that everything is connected- just seem silly.
- In fact, the whole book rammed a lot of messages down my throat. I hate books that moralises in a really blatant way because messages like that have a way of backfiring. For instance (and this is where it gets really controversial) she retroactively played the “victim blaming” card to ward off any criticism over the Peeping Tom incident. This just didn’t work for me, because she actively chose to play the guy at his own game and plot her revenge from a rooftop- rather than doing the sensible, sane thing and PHONE THE POLICE!! (Incidentally the whole incident actually brought flashbacks from Pretty Little Liars– when will fictional people learn to close their blinds and phone the damn police!?!)
- And speaking of blaming people- I hated the whole blame game the main character played throughout the entire book. Not only did a lot of people not deserve the blame, but I hate the fact that this book encourages people to feel guilty when someone kills themselves. It talks about victim blaming- well how is it right to blame everyone else? Why would she even want to make everyone feel guilty? I hate when people blame people for committing suicide- but this takes it to the other extreme. I mean she even blames her teachers for not realising that having a haircut was a warning sign! Give me a break. *Newsflash- people have haircuts all the time!* Unless they actively handed her the bottle of pills- it’s not their fault!
- By blaming everyone for her suicide, this book took a dangerous path. Instead of bringing to light the dangers of suicide, the irrationality of it, and even the devastating after affects, this book turned suicide into performance art and glamorised it.
- And just like this book, I shall end with the most anti-climactic of issues: it fizzled out. I expected this book to build to a crescendo, but in the end… nothing happened.
So after all that, bearing in mind that it was a compelling read and I liked the idea, I’m giving it:
Agree? Disagree? Have you read this book? What did you think of the way it handled suicide? Let me know in the comments!