Thirteen Reasons Why
I hate myself for not reading book cover jackets. I really do. I sometimes skip entire reviews because I don't want to know what the book is about. This mind boggling condition has screwed me into reading several books with serious topics, and it never occurs to me that hey, this book could be about a serious topic.
Book jackets really ruin a lot of things. If the book jacket to Thirteen Reasons Why isn't read: you'll soon discover that it's about you-know-what-a-cide. It's a heavy topic book and not a lot of fun. It's about Hannah. Who mails out some tapes with thirteen people listed on them. Thirteen people who caused Hannah's life to be horrid. Clay receives these tapes. He spends his night listening to them. He's on the list, although he doesn't know why, because he's Hannah's crush.
The view point alternates between Clay and Hannah as Clay retraces Hannah's steps around their little town. What went wrong in Hannah's life? Why did Hannah take the you-know-what-a-cide route? Jay Asher doesn't really give us big reasons why Hannah decided to end-her-life-a-cide. He gives us small reasons that ultimately end up being big reasons. He calls it a "snowball effect".*
This book is more about social pressure and the large amount of it teens face every day. The pressure to conform. The pressure of your own reputation. The pressure to be perfect. The pressure to fit in. The pressure to be cool. Etc. Jay Asher leads us through a few of those motions. He does an okay job of it.
There aren't many reasons for me to not like Thirteen Reasons Why. It's a heavy topic book, but sometimes I read those and enjoy the message. Sometimes, though, there's a problem. Hannah was my problem this time.
Hannah's voice--the one coming through the tape deck--came across as nothing but angry. She was never solemn. She was never reserved. Although I am certain Jay Asher wrote some of her dialogue as quiet and reserved and contemplative; it never comes across that way. She. Just. Sounds. Pissed.
Which is fine. If what happened to Hannah happened to me I'd be just as pissed. Unfortunately the anger coming from Hannah comes out as much more revenging angel than it does distressed teen. It tends to--and here I come being controversial--glorify Hannah's story. Like a "Ha ha. I got you now you fuckers."
This is not a good idea. The social pressure? Acceptable. The tapes being passed from one person to another? I can find that semi-believable. Hannah's reasons for you know? Alright. Her anger? Justifiable. The message? Muddled.
It took me seven days to finish Thirteen Reasons Why. I kept picking it up and putting it down. I kept getting bothered by it but I couldn't figure out why. It finally dawned on me this morning--after I already had another review ready--that it's because of Hannah; her voice just isn't a good one.
The book's message might get lost in Hannah's angry voice but it's still there. And I'll still be thinking about Thirteen Reasons Why next week. Which is the point of a heavy topic book; I got the message, even if it was muddled.
*Or is it affect? I always get confused by the use of this word.
Side note: I also found out that I can't remember how to spell "thirteen" half the time.
Full Disclosure: I purchased this at Half-Priced Books.