Thirteen Reasons Why

by Jay Asher

Read this in about 5 minutes

No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.

Cover: Thirteen Reasons Why

Cover page

Someone in the distant past gazing out to nowhere; that is what the cover depicts. It is here with you, but very distant. The artist has captured the book precisely in its cover. It continues to the back cover with the tape recordings. It’s one of the most beautiful covers that I have seen in the genre.

Characters

Hannah Baker is a regular high school teenager. Or was. She wanted to have a regular school life experience. A few friends to stick around with, and a perfect kiss with her first boyfriend. Nothing out of ordinary.

Clay Jensen is a perfect lonely boy. Yes, he is. He is not dead. But he has lost something huge in life. He is just carrying it around like a hole in the heart along with a helpless feeling of not doing anything.

Content

How many times have you heard a suicide victim being brushed off as mentally unstable, depressed, lonely, on the verge of depression? Like it was his own fault. Or her own fault.

But Hannah Baker is not going to be absorbed in the history without a reminder to those who pushed her a little too hard. Hannah Baker has committed suicide, but has left a gift for those who had something to do with it—a set of thirteen tapes for those thirteen part takers. All they have to do is listen to them and pass them on to the next person on the tape. Nothing to sweat right? Wrong.

Clay Jensen receives a no-return package on his doorstep one day. He is pleased at the a probability of a secret present from a secret admirer but the illusion shatters when he opens the package. It’s his turn to listen to the tapes.

The book is divided into thirteen chapters with each tape and side number each. Each containing a story of the person who pushed Hannah Baker to suicide. There are play pause and stop buttons to guide your listening. Or reading.

Surprisingly Hannah doesn’t sound depressed as some may have expected. She isn’t even bitter towards those who might have helped her end her life. She is just reciting the happening to make each one aware of his responsibility in the action: the butterfly effect that caused a hurricane. It’s a book about the small actions that can make a difference of love and death to someone.

Language

The book is meant to be listened to; not read. There are buttons to play pause and stop, which guide the tempo. There are bits where Clay Jensen listens, and bits where the regular life is going on. The italics and regular font demarcate which is annoying at times. Lengthy italics sentences are a pain to read, and you want to get over them as soon as possible.

This might be deliberate but it does not help. The sentences are simple and the tone is non-accusing. The author has taken care of character design with his narration.

Good points

The cover page is beautiful. The characters are as deep as the high-schoolers can get. They are portrayed precisely. The content throws light on the not-much talked-about high school nuisances like bullying and shaming. The language flows. It makes your presence in the story mandatory how much ever you dislike being there.

Bad points

The book addresses problems like bullying, and you are meant to like the book for the cause itself, but frankly I did not quite like it. The casual narration makes the point Hannah wants to put across, but it is not life-changing. It somehow fails to hit hard. After reading the book I wouldn’t know if any teenager would stop bullying or committing suicide. It is a great story but not the one that sends out a message.

Overall

I liked the book for its content, but somehow it failed to connect to me. It is sensational. The girl who commits suicide makes tapes for those who pushed her but nothing beyond that.

Whom do I recommend this to

This one is for those who like the genre. Those who like different styles of narration are going to like this book too.

Quotable quotes

There are some sick and twisted people out there, Alex - and maybe I’m one of them - but the point is, when you hold people up for ridicule, you have to take responsibility when other people act on it.

Bullies. Drugs. Self image. Relationships. Everything was a fair game in Peer Communications. Which, of course, made a lot of other teachers upset. It was a waste of time, they said. They wanted to teach us cold hard facts. They understood cold hard facts.

I guess that’s the point of it all. No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes we have no clues yet we push it just the same.

I couldn’t believe it. In the past, Mrs Bradley had notes dropped in her bag suggesting group discussions on abortion, family violence, cheating- on boyfriends, girlfriends, on tests. No one insisted on knowing who wrote those topics. But for some reason, they refused to have a discussion on suicide without specifics.

But does that diminish any of your stories? Are your stories any less meaningful because I’m not telling you everything?
No.
Actually, it magnifies them.

I think I’ve made myself clear, but no one’s stepping forward to stop me.
A lot of you cared, just not enough. And that… that is what I needed to find out.

Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH merakipost.com