Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is a novel with a promising title, capturing back cover information, and attractive front cover. This sentence summarizes all the praises I have for the book. I discussed just the other day with two friends that I rarely write negative reviews (I think I only have one so far). However, Thirteen Reasons Why is so bad that I feel the need to caution you not to read it and never ever think of buying it (as I did).
1. Trivial story line – Hannah is a teenage girl, who decides to kill herself because of the attitude of her classmates and friends.
2. Too complicated structure – The novel is written from the point-of-view of two people – Hannah and Clay, a boy she fell in love with but because of her overdramatic character, she failed to develop a relationship with him. The voices of Hannah and Clay alternate and are interrupted in the most ridiculous places. Thus, the reader easily loses the sequence of the story and has to re-read over and over again to remember what the previous narrator said.
3. Reasons to kill herself – Hannah’s reasons to kill herself are mildly idiotic. Some boy has kissed her but then has shared with the rest of the school that they went to 2nd base. Her best friend is no longer her best friend. Another boy put her ass in the list of the best asses in the school (this sounds like a reason to celebrate, not to die). A girl was jealous of her because of that. The school teacher didn’t understand her issues. One schoolmate stole some of her letters. These problems are experienced by almost every teenager on the globe. Hannah is no different than other problematic teens, yet she decides to dramatically kill herself.
4. Accusations – Hannah accuses her classmates, her friends, her teachers, her school, the world for her decision commit suicide. She never even considers the possibility that she might be wrong. She never even asks for help. She sits quiet, believing that the world owes her something. The world owes you nothing, Hannah. It was here first.
5. Method of delivery – Hannah records 13 message to the 13 people she accuses of her suicide. Each of them has to listen to all the stories, then pass on to the next one in the list. If someone breaks the chain (God forbid!) she will make sure that all of the world hears her recordings. So what? The world doesn’t care. The stories are banal and I doubt any of the characters in them would mind even if Mars heard them. Yet, the author insists that these stories are so shameful and important that we, as readers, must simpatize with the “villains” for following Hannah’s rules. Sounds like a bad horror movie.
6. Happy exception – Clay is the 9th person to listen to the recordings. All the time he is afraid to hear his own story. Turns out, he is the happy exception. He appears in the story because Hannah is in love with him and without this, her explanation would not be complete. How convenient! The main character is not guilty. If I wanted to see a sugar-coated US comedy, I would have downloaded one, thanks.
7. Malevolence – Reading the novel, I couldn’t feel sorry for Hannah even for a bit. Her recordings sounded angry, coarse, and sarcastic. I always imagined her rubbing hands and laughing creepy. Hannah must have gloated to the thought that her victims would feel guilty. It was as if she killed herself only to revenge herself and to make the other suffer. Well, Hannah, the only person you did hurt was yourself.
8. Overdramatism – Clay listens to Hannah’s recordings and cries. His outpourings are filled with accusation, regret, and hatred. The whole novel attempts to be moody, infinitely sad, and devastating. The result is quite the opposite. I kept waiting for a really dramatic event to explain the suicide of Hana. It never came. She wasn’t raped, her family was stable, she was a good student. In fact, she isolated on purpose from her friends, transforming insignificant events into life-changing tragic circumstances. She just needed someone to blame that she was unable to deal with her life and to accept the difficulties of teenage years.
9. Poor author – Jay Asher is not convincing at all. I couldn’t feel any power in his words. I couldn’t place myself in the place of neither Hannah nor Clay. The novel is just too far away from the reader. It doesn’t provoke any feelings (except boredom).
10. Discrepancies – The “guilty” people are said to be 13. It turns out they are 12. One of the boys is twice as guilty. So far so good. She shares that one of the reasons for her suicide is that she witnessed another boy raping a girl. Do not even get me started as this for a reason. If the raped girl had killed herself, I understand. But then Hannah witnessed the raping and didn’t do anything to prevent it. She refuses to share the name of the villain, yet in the next chapter she implies who he is and she sleeps with him. Hm…Of course, he is guilty for her suicide even though she voluntary had sex with him AFTER knowing that he raped a girl.
11. No parents – Throughout the novel we never ever hear about Hannah’s family. Her parents are mentioned only once but we never get their point of view. Did she have a stable life? I suppose she did, otherwise she would have included them in the tapes, again pointing fingers. If they were good parents (as we suppose) didn’t they notice something was wrong with their daughter? Did they try to help her? We get no information about that.
12. Apathy – Hannah doesn’t seek for help. She expects other people to read her mind. She expects other people to behave the way she wants them to. When she and Clay get closer, she repels him. No reason whatsoever. The boy likes her and wants to help her out. Yet, our drama queen is now too disillusioned by all the “unfortunate” events in her life, that she just escapes. And then she blames. She talks to her teacher but she doesn’t listen. She wants him to know what’s going on in her head without her even showing any signs. Hannah is apathetic and bored with life. She doesn’t want to fight so she finds it easier to blame everyone else.
13. Why yes– Hannah broke her rules (12 people not 13) so I am going to break mine. I will give you one reason to read the book. If you feel despaired that your teenage (adult) life is going from bad to worse, read this novel. See how a little bit hysteric and over dramatic girl exaggerates her misfortunes and ends up killing herself. Think about your problems. Do they resemble Hannah’s? Do you blame everyone else for your unhappiness? Do you think suicide is the right answer? Reading about Hannah first you will see how stupid and inadequate her reasons are. Maybe you will feel the same about your problems. Maybe you will see that people have the inclination to underestimate their successes and overestimate their failures. After all, good things happen only to positive people. Proven by personal experience.