13 Reasons Why I Had Problems With This Book

***Disclaimer: suicide is a serious issue- I in no way take the matters this book deals with lightly***

thirteen reasons whyA 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:

Invisible

Invisible

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!?!)

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  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

2/5 bananas

half bananahalf banana

Agree? Disagree? Have you read this book? What did you think of the way it handled suicide? Let me know in the comments!

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89 thoughts on “13 Reasons Why I Had Problems With This Book

  1. blakeleyy says:

    I think at the time this book was published, Suicide was really starting to be talked about more. At least in my town it was. Personally, I think that this book turned into one of those ‘You’ve got to read this book because it’s about a really big issue and is so profound, you just have to read it’ nonsense. It seemed to be more about the drama than the actual issue. Overall, I have to agree with everything you have said here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thanks very much. I understand that- and I get why people want to talk about it- in fact they should talk about it. But this feels more like it’s riding on the coat tails of the issue more than actually dealing with it :/ Yeah I agree- it’s more about the drama than the issue. Thanks so much! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

        • theorangutanlibrarian says:

          No they weren’t!! Exactly. It made her seem really petty- especially given the very serious reasons people actually kill themselves. In fact, it actually made teens killing themselves seem really petty, when actually it can be because of some pretty intense and messed up situations. And I didn’t actually believe she was depressed when I was reading it :/

          Liked by 1 person

          • zainabshykh says:

            Yes! I didn’t believe it either! Her situation was nowhere near to many to the situation of people who have committed suicide! Her reasons weren’t convincing at all. :/
            Thank God I have found someone who doesn’t like this novel!

            Liked by 1 person

            • theorangutanlibrarian says:

              Exactly!! I particularly hated her one’s for Jessica and Courtney. They were not good reasons. Yes- I’m so pleased cos when I wrote this I thought I’d get hoards of angry fans commenting- so glad to know I wasn’t the only one that didn’t like this!

              Liked by 1 person

              • zainabshykh says:

                I don’t remember Jessica or Courtney. I read the book last year so..
                Writing a negative review of a very popular book is a big risk! You have to be prepared for the hate you’ll get. I know because I’ve been through it.

                Liked by 1 person

                • theorangutanlibrarian says:

                  Ah so Jessica was the one who thought she’d stolen her boyfriend, and when she didn’t correct her, she slapped Hannah (which in all honesty I would’ve liked to have done for being an idiot) Also she was the one that was raped. And Courtney was the one who wasn’t friendly enough to her at the party (seriously, this girl had dumb issues) and also the one that hit the stop sign (obviously that makes her *evil*)
                  Yeah I know what you mean- fortunately everyone on here’s really nice, but I do always worry about the backlash when I say things about a well loved book. Oh dear, what book?

                  Liked by 1 person

  2. yourdaughtersbookshelf says:

    I agree with 100% on every single point in this book. I find that it trivializes suicide and depression, and was completely unbelievable. What person would have passed the tapes along? I don’t think any one would listen to them at all. Your review is fantastic – I gave up trying to articulate why I disliked it, I’m glad you found such a great way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you so much!! It really did- partly because the reasons were so daft and partly because of all the melodrama and partly because of all the blatant messaging. Yeah- exactly- I just couldn’t figure it out. And I didn’t get why Toby or even Clay would have helped her- or most of the people who did nothing wrong and had nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I would have thought that Toby and Clay- who were supposed to be good people- wouldn’t have wanted it shared given that it would humiliate the girl that was raped. Yeah, I know I wouldn’t- and not out of anything other than finding it weird a girl I barely knew sent me a message from beyond the grave- most people would think they could do without that. Thanks so much- after I was finished I had trouble articulating it all immediately, cos it left me with such strong feelings of irritation and frustration! Glad you liked it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. RoseRead says:

    Wow! I’m glad I read this review because I own the book but haven’t yet read it. (It was at a used sale so I didn’t pay much for it lol). I’ll probably still read it, but I must say I’m not surprised at your thoughts. Very nicely put!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      haha thanks so much! Yeah I wasn’t a fan, but you may as well read it cos it’s quite a compelling read, and it’s not badly written, so you might get something out of it anyway 🙂 haha and I know what you mean about second hand book sales- they’re great for getting cheap books you don’t need 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. hashtaglovebooks says:

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who disliked this book. I didn’t like how the author was trying way too hard to make the storyline thought-provoking and clever. I hated how the author made the book a whole blame game- it was superficial and it got on my nerves whilst I read it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one too!! Exactly- couldn’t agree more. I’m never a fan of books that try too hard to moralise. And I hated the blame game thing- especially as a lot of people experience guilt when someone kills themselves- why encourage that?

      Like

  5. J. Bookish says:

    Just to throw in a different perspective here, I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 16, right around when I read this book. Reading Hannah’s story gave me hope because I didn’t feel like I was so alone. It is a medical condition, but it makes small things that normal people think are small feel big, because the brain can’t absorb positive hormones that help you get over those little things. That being said, I completely respect that you didn’t enjoy the book; everyone has different opinions! I think I just read it at exactly the right time or I probably would have felt very similarly to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. Since you’re being so candid, I thought it would be best to just say that I have had personal experience with this issue too- and it was for that reason that I found the book so problematic. I get what you mean about small issues being inflated- which was why I liked the whole concept of the book- but reading it I thought she came across as angry rather than depressed, which undermined the idea and made her seem petty rather than overwhelmed by her feelings. Obviously though, everyone has different experiences and reacts differently to things- and I completely respect that you liked it! I’m really glad this book helped you and helped you realise that you were not alone 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. mudandstars says:

    I couldn’t agree more! This book made me angry. Suicide and depression are seriously misunderstood as it is, and this book just further adds to that misunderstanding. It’s been a while since I read it, but I don’t remember depression even being mentioned (although I could be wrong about that), but if it was, it certainly wasn’t accurately portrayed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Yes!! Exactly!! Me too! I really didn’t like the way it dealt with the issue. I think it was handled so badly :/ No, you’re right, it didn’t mention depression even once. That’s an excellent point, because I took it as a given that she was suffering from depression, and that’s why I had such a huge problem with it (cos she doesn’t sound depressed). Now you mention it, that bothers me so much, cos it’s like the author didn’t even draw the link between suicide and depression! Which just makes me wonder what the author was thinking!

      Liked by 1 person

      • mudandstars says:

        Exactly – it came across that she killed herself out of anger rather than because she was suffering. I’d also assumed the same thing, but I felt she didn’t seem depressed at all – all of her anger was directed outward towards the people she blamed, rather than inward. Also like you said in your review, she seemed to explain everything very calmly and just laid it all out rationally – there was no point where she broke down or really showed her emotions whilst she was telling that story.

        Liked by 1 person

        • theorangutanlibrarian says:

          Yes! Couldn’t agree more!! Especially about her anger being directed outward- that is atypical of depressed and suicidal people. Exactly- I have a problem with that not because I want people who are depressed to be viewed as irrational, but because there seems to be a new trend in denying that having depression is a mental illness- which is incredibly worrying and dangerous as it’s leading to people to support assisted dying for people with depression (There was a horrific case in Belgium where a girl of 24 gained the right to be euthanised by doctors for her depression- thankfully she changed her mind- but it could have had a tragic end). Sorry for going on- this is something I just feel very strongly about- and I don’t feel like books like this help at all.

          Liked by 1 person

          • mudandstars says:

            That certainly is worrying. I hadn’t heard about that case, but it’s horrific to think about what almost happened there – I don’t blame you for feeling strongly about this, I do too! I disagree with euthanasia as it is (although I appreciate that the lines must become extremely blurred if you’re in that situation personally, and it’s not something I could ever understand) but to help somebody with a mental illness commit suicide is so wrong. Especially when there are treatments and counselling which could save that person’s life.

            Liked by 1 person

            • theorangutanlibrarian says:

              Yeah it is terrible. Thank you. So am I- I’m in 100% agreement. I do understand and sympathise, especially for people in that position- but it is incredibly dangerous and open to way too much risk of being abused (take, for example, this case). It really is- it’s effectively saying that the person is right and their life is not worth living and that they can’t be saved, because it’s saying that there is no cure- and like you said it is an illness, but there are treatments available.

              Liked by 1 person

  7. CorrosiveMind says:

    The story itself is quite well written and engaging. Definitely worth a read. My gripe comes from the plot itself. I am anti-suicide and so I had to give the book only 2 stars. wrong content written so beautifully. Quite fatalistic if you ask me…sorry (This is my review on goodreads in its entirety)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Donna says:

    I admit. I recognized the Pretty LIttle Liars’ faces and it made me click to see the link between the book and the pic. Then I read your reasons and I totally agree, even though I haven’t read the book. I love the format you gave this review. (I’m too tired to write something really useful :()

    Liked by 1 person

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  10. Codie says:

    Oh no! The reviews for this were so promising, but these reasons are justifiable and really make me reconsider reading it. With a topic as sensitive as suicide and rape, your execution has to be 100% and properly researched, which seems like this author didn’t do. This is such a great review and so well detailed, I enjoyed reading it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      That’s exactly what I thought! But honestly, I was disappointed when I read it. This book just rubbed me the wrong way. Yeah definitely. I wasn’t sure he was so in tune with any of it. I feel like it was telling when I was reading about the author’s experience with this subject, he talked about knowing a girl in his sister’s year that nearly killed herself- it was her testimony that inspired him to write the book. Which is totally fine- but he seemed way too detached from the issue. Thanks so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. viviheartbooks says:

    I have not read this book, however I know some people who have and they agree with you. So with that being said I will not be reading it. I don’t like books on suicide, because they tend to be depressing and I prefer to feel good after I read a book. That was a great review thou. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. sarinalangerwriter says:

    I hadn’t even heard of this book until now, but I do have an issue with books not representing mental illness properly! Mental illnesses like depression are such complex things, I think writers should do their research if they wish to write about them. My favourite one is people who think split personalities are the same as schizophrenia.
    You’ve done enough to convince me not to read it. I was pretty much there after your first point ^^

    Liked by 1 person

        • theorangutanlibrarian says:

          ughh. That really irks me- I hate when people are ignorant about mental health problems. A lot of people actually think bipolar is split personality disorder :/ I think it’s just because people picture “generic crazy person” as all the same thing- so all the terms and what they actually mean just become synonymous. They don’t take the time to actually look into any of it :/ It was like that with this book- it felt like the author didn’t really understand depression at all- he just conflated it with anger

          Like

  13. pageturner212 says:

    I completely agree with you on this! And I applaud how well you’ve written this too, I always feel like I’m sugarcoatingnwhen I talk about this book so as not to hurt someone’s feelings due to the issues and content, but you went about this perfectly!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. MyBookJacket says:

    Oh god yes, I thought the main character was a whiny little thing who did not want to take responsibility and blamed everyone for her issues which really weren’t issues. I mean, in an ideal world everyone would get along but we don’t live in an ideal world and so much worse has happened to so many people! I bought this because I was a depressed teen who went through a lot and thought I’d connect but I kept rolling my eyes throughout. Sigh. Such a pity when the book could have done so much with the topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. daleydowning says:

    This is a very big discussion right now, what with the TV show coming out. Well, a Netflix show, but I wouldn’t be watching it anyway, based not only on the subject matter, but the intensely negative (and why) reviews I’ve found. It’s a very good point that something like suicide needs to NOT be romanticized – people need to think it isn’t an option or acceptable to glorify. Every time I read a very honest discussion on this point of view, I’m very proud of the poster for saying what more people should be. Let’s hope they listen!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      ah yes, I noticed!! It’s funny cos I was considering watching it, cos it looked good in the trailers and thought it might be done better- but after seeing all the same criticisms I’ve decided to give it a miss. Yes- I absolutely agree with you. I don’t actually object to it in books (I am a Hardy fan) but I just don’t see why it should be shown in the light it was done in this show- particularly the fact that other people are blamed for it. Plus there’s very little understanding of depression and I don’t think this book captured it in the slightest (though for all I know the show did). Thank you!!

      Like

      • daleydowning says:

        I don’t have a problem with discussing things like suicide and depression in fiction, either — in fact, if it’s done well, it can be very impactful. There was a Sherlock episode where he talked a woman out of committing suicide, and it was a very good speech, especially for that character portrayal (you know, not so great at understanding other people’s emotions). I really think whoever wrote that part of the script was drawing on some personal experience (with a loved one or friend), and it felt very honest and relatable, and it did not make suicide look like the better option at all. That’s what we need a lot more of.

        Liked by 1 person

        • theorangutanlibrarian says:

          Yes, I get that. Personally, I just wish people were honest about it and real about it- it’s why I like books like all the bright places- the outcome isn’t always good- but like you said it’s not shown as being the better option. There’s also other ways and sides to be shown, for instance in hardy novels, being suicidal is depicted as more of a consequence of depression. I don’t think writers always have to be making people socially aware, but they should be real when they talk/represent serious issues. I personally don’t think this book represented depression at all. (*Insert disclaimer about everyone bring different*)

          Liked by 1 person

          • daleydowning says:

            Well, you’re right – and I agree – having a social platform in fiction isn’t necessarily the “proper” way to raise awareness about important topics. And something like suicide most often does relate to mental illness, and mental illness is something humanity is still struggling to understand, and I think that, if we really claim to want more understanding of our world, then we need to treat it as the serious subject the families of those who have taken their own lives say that it is.

            I know you’ve decided not to watch Riverdale, but they had an excellent depiction of spotting the warning signs for suicide and trying to be supportive in the season finale.

            Liked by 1 person

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