Everyone has been going on about this book/Netflix show. And like the little bandwagon-jumper I am, I had to join in. Because I saw the differing opinions. I saw people either love the show or hate it with a passion. And I read this book about 4 years ago, so I couldn’t really state my own opinion in the discussions. I didn’t know which side I agreed with. All I knew was that I used to love the book, but thinking back on it, I no longer liked the idea. And so I decided to both watch the show and reread the book, with the goal of making a discussion video about it – which you can see here.
For now though? Well, the title of this review probably gives you a massive hint as to how things went…
Let’s dive right in!
(Found on Goodreads)
You can’t stop the future. You can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret. . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen doesn’t want anything to do with the tapes Hannah Baker made. Hannah is dead. Her secrets should be buried with her.
Then Hannah’s voice tells Clay that his name is on her tapes– and that he is, in some way, responsible for her death.
All through the night, Clay keeps listening. He follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his small town. . .
. . .and what he discovers changes his life forever.
Note: This book has trigger warnings for suicide, self harm, sexual abuse/rape. My review will mention these things, but not in detail.
I used to love this book, back when I read it at 15 years old. But if you’re wanting to hear a good review about this book, skip ahead. This one isn’t what you’re looking for.
I don’t even know where to begin.
Actually, I’ll begin with a disclaimer of sorts: I understand that people relate to this and are holding onto it. I understand that some people find comfort in this book/tv show, because it represents them or someone they know in a way that most types of media don’t. I love the message the show was trying to give – that you never know what someone is going through so be wary of your actions because they might have bigger consequences than you anticipate – but for me, the problems outweighed the message. And so if you love this book or tv show, you’re not going to like my review. Feel free to leave now. If you don’t, all I’m going to say is you’ve been warned, and understand that not everyone can like a book. I’m sorry.
So I’ll just jump right in at the deep end shall I?
I HATE THE TAPES.
Absolutely despise them. And that’s why I’m kind of infuriated at my 15 year old self, who loved the mystery of the tapes. I know for a fact that the mystery behind them and the answers they hold were the only reason I loved this book. Now, I can see how much of a goddamn shame it is that THEY are the story.
Because they are the story. It isn’t the story of a girl who committed suicide anymore. The tapes turn it into a cross between a revenge story and a murder mystery as all these teens find out “who done it”. Instead of exploring Hannah’s case and discussing the possible mental illness aspect (I’ll be coming back to that later, my friends), the entire story revolves around these tapes and what’s on them. The focus is taken off Hannah and put back onto the other teenagers. Instead of learning to understand, it’s a series of blaming and shaming. It takes suicide and glorifies it into a revenge story, with Hannah becoming the attention of the school only after she’s done something so drastic. Not exactly the right message to be giving out, is it?
In some ways, the TV show is actually better than the book. At least there, you see the affect these tapes have on the other teenagers. In the book it’s just Clay, having totally irrelevant thoughts as he’s listening. *sigh*
“But it’s raising mental health awareness! This book represents people with mental illnesses!”
Does it though?
It represents people who have been through the same experiences as Hannah, yes. It shows how hard things like sexual abuse can hit people, yes. But does it ever state that Hannah has a mental illness? Depression? PTSD? No. We all just assume. And sure, it might seem obvious that for her to hurt herself in such a way, she must have some form of depression, but absolutely nothing of the sort is mentioned or talked about. And the only time she actually goes specifically to get help, the counsellor does a crap job of it. Again, not the greatest message to give out to those with mental health issues, is it?
Honestly, I could go on. It infuriates me that this book IS so gripping in the way of the tapes. You DO want to find out what’s on them. But for that very reason, it takes away from what should be the actual story. Why not just have these teens figuring out for themselves what they might have done wrong? Why not have the book tell the story of these teens gradually finding out what each other did towards Hannah either through guilt making them tell or friends knowing and telling? You’d still get the “be wary of your actions” message. You’d just take out the murder mystery. Oh, but that wouldn’t be as entertaining, would it? Gee, imagine using someone’s suicide as entertainment *fumes*
When the only good thing I have to say about a book is “well, at least they tried”…it ain’t a good ‘un.
Rated 1/5 stars
Share your thoughts!
Have you read this book, or seen the TV show? What did you think?
If you haven’t read/watched it, do you plan to?
Let me know in the comments!
Until next time…
Come and visit me!
5 thoughts on “Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher | Growing up meant I went from loving a book to hating it…”
We only watched the first episode before realising that the whole mystery element was going to be more important than the actual issues…and I heard so much about the show doing literally everything self-harm help websites say not to do in portraying it. – Maddie x
I watched the first 4 or 5 episodes of the show and felt it was a bit overrated, and didn’t really enjoy it. I did wonder about reading the book but might not bother. Great review though!
My big concern? Someone copying the suicide/tapes aspect to get their message heard…and after suicide, there’s no options for intervention or help. It is too late after suicide. I lost my love of my life to suicide, and he left a cryptic note. You never know what they took with them. 😢
I avoided this novel when I was younger. When the synopsis revealed that Hannah Baker blamed Clay (and others) for her suicide, I wanted nothing to do with the book. So, I’m kind of surprised that I hopped on the bandwagon when Netflix released the 13 Reasons Why series. I feel pretty conflicted about what I witnessed too. The show definitely made me uncomfortable, which I understand was the author’s intention, so I chose to leave the room during the scenes depicting rape and the suicide. But…I think I also found myself fascinated by the show even though I’m sure it was for all the wrong reasons and despite being aware of how problematic the show actually is.
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Well that’s exactly what I thought! I LOVED it for what it was, I wanted to know the reasons and have answers solved. I loved watching it. But that also ended up being why I hated it too – because I loved it for all the wrong reasons, when such an important story was supposed to be told! I don’t know. It’s a weird one!