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13 Reasons Why

I just read "Thirteen Reasons Why" by Jay Asher.

I'm not sure where to begin, in talking about this book, except that at a time when it's been taking me weeks to read things that would have taken me 2 days tops to read, I started and finished this book in one night. And I am impressed. The writing, the concept, the content... I think this book should be required reading in high school. Everyone should read it, in my opinion.

The book tells the tale of Clay Jensen, who gets a package in the mail without a return address. Inside is a collection of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, a girl he had a crush on; a girl who committed suicide. It is her form of a suicide note, explaining the 13 reasons why she decided to kill herself (but really, it's much more than 13 reasons). And Clay is one of them. So throughout the book we follow Clay through the painful ordeal of hearing this dead girl tell her tale of how lots of little things became big things, how the big things became bigger things, and how so many things people did - sometimes with good intentions - piled up until she couldn't take it anymore. We follow as Clay becomes an emotional wreck listening, trying to find his place in the series of connections of her tale. We witness Hannah's descent from a happy girl at a new school, until eventually the events of her life make life unbearable for her. And then, as if that horrible experience weren't bad enough, Clay has to pass the tapes on to the next person on the list... and she's set up things so he has no choice in the matter.

This book was engrossing, nerve-wracking, and subtle. It took a long time to get from "I've been through a lot worse than that" to "oh my fucking God!" And there was no clearly defined transition point between the two.

I also was further disturbed than I suspect many people would be, to recognize some of the signs of major depression Hannah was experiencing, in myself. Apathy, pushing other people away out of fear one would just be hurt again, being unable to ask for help, words about how I feel being hard to say, and losing hope. I'm not suicidal, like she was, but I've felt suicidal in the past, so I was able to recognize signs from my past. I remember that when I was suicidal, I also did the "sudden change of appearance" bit. Many times in high school I'd let my hair grow really long, then one day appear at school with it cut really short. I did it often. Just when people got used to me having long hair, off it went as short as I could stand it.

But don't worry: I've been far more depressed in the past than I am now, and even at my most suicidal, I never could have gone through with it. Death terrifies me, and it always broke my heart to imagine what it would do to my parents. I guess that was the main difference between me and Hannah; I knew I had people who loved me and cared about me. She didn't. Even her parents had become distant due to their own life circumstances.

All in all, a profound novel. I cannot recommend it highly enough.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Feb. 16th, 2010 07:45 pm (UTC)
I liked that book too.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


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