I’m so behind on reviews – I’m suddenly embarrassed of my writing. (Well, more embarrassed than usual.) While this book isn’t where I should start reviewing, it is the one I feel most passionate about. (Let’s be honest, I think about this review and what I want to say in the shower every day.)
Great book, but does not provide usable insights into depression. (Inaccurate descriptions do a disservice to the disease.)
Thirteen Reasons Why comes into play after Clay Jensen receives a box of cassette tapes in the mail. These tapes detail the reasons leading up to Hannah Baker’s, fellow student and former crush of Clay, suicide. She dictates that these tapes be passed on student to student in the order that they are mentioned in the tape – and has a watchdog to ensure that this occurs, or else. (Ha, I couldn’t resist, sorry.) If not passed on, her watchdog will mass distribute these tapes – causing embarrassment for every person mentioned within.
I won’t lie to you; I absolutely adore this audio book. I love the way this book was written. I hung onto every word until the end. Jay Asher is a good writer* and I can’t wait to discover other books from him.
Thankfully, Clay Jensen is as obsessed with figuring out Hannah’s reasons as I was and doesn’t dwell much on his life outside of the tapes, unless he has to. Damn outside distractions. (I say that, but the distractions all added to the story.)
Here is the elephant in the room (aka, my thoughts on Hannah)
I can’t relate with Hannah. There, I said it. I, who has depression to the point of being suicidal**, cannot relate to this teen. What gives?
She blames her depression on everyone else. This is not how most people experience depression. People do lash out at others, but typically slip into self-loathing soon after. For someone to craft hours of tape, attempt humor in these tapes, and then to follow through with sending them – I don’t buy it.
She takes minor situations and exaggerates them. This is accurate with my depression. I can remember, as a kid, crying because I may have hurt the concrete’s feelings by walking on it. Or worse – crying because I may have hurt the concrete’s feelings by not walking on it. As a teen, crying because I made a joke that the other person took as a joke, but maybe they somehow misinterpreted it and didn’t show it. As an adult, just hating myself for every conversation I had – even the simple “Hi, how are you?”s. I can honestly say that I have never thrown my depression towards someone else for an extended period of time. Sure, I’ve been angry, but for reasons not tied to my depression.
She makes readers apathetic towards her and her depression. She makes readers think that it’s her fault for how she feels, for being ridiculous. I have mixed feelings on this. Depression is ridiculous. Just look at my exaggerated feelings above. It’s not logical. It’s laughable. It’s, unfortunately, real to us. Even worse, we make helping us impossible for others. So, as much as I hate to say it, this portion of her personality is pretty damn accurate – we make it damn hard to relate, love, and help us.
This girl offers no lessons to the readers. She is atypical in her depression. She is petty. She is not relatable even by those of us who have depression. She makes readers think that they should not bother helping those who are depressed because there is not point – they have already decided that they are going to kill themselves and nothing is going to change that.
These aspects are very disappointing and I truly hope that this is not the lesson that sticks with the readers.
In the End
I know it’s weird to like a book about a subject that it inaccurately portrays, but Asher captivated me. While I thought Hannah was petty and misguided, her story is well told. I wanted to know how it ended, even when she was crafting the reasons for her death.
*Cannot speak to grammar, punctuation, etc.
**Medication works wonders – I’m not at risk.