REVIEW: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons WhyTitle: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Pages: 352 pages
Published by: Penguin Random House UK Children’s
Publication date: 6th August 2009
Genre: Social Issues/Realistic Fiction
Format: eBook
Amazon UK – Waterstones

Synopsis:

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 returns home from school one day to find a mysterious box with his name on it, outside his front door. Inside he discovers a series of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and crush. Only, she committed suicide two weeks earlier. On the first tape, Hannah explains that there are 13 reasons why she did what she did – and Clay is one of them.

If he listens, Clay will find out how he made the list – what he hears will change his life forever.

My review:

Thank you to NetGalley for a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest view.

I actually watched the TV show before I read this and all I knew was it was about a girl who committed suicide and left tapes behind explaining why she did what she said. Other than that I had no idea what the book was about and went into the show pretty much blind. I wasn’t expecting to like the show but I was interested enough to watch the first few eps. I actually really liked it in the end and every time an episode finished I found myself pressing play for the next one. It was very addicting watching the story unfold tape after tape. The actors did a superb job, they were very believable and they made the show that much more interesting. I love how much more emotional it was compared to the book. You could see everyone falling apart and how much destruction and devastation Hannah had left behind. She was ruining their lives just as they had ruined hers. I loved how Clay took his time listening to the tapes and you could see his mental state slowly unravelling the more he listened to Hannah’s reasons. It was having a massive affect on him and I love how he was having (I think he was, anyway) hallucinations. I also love how much more the parents are involved and how the school’s reputation is in tatters. It felt very realistic and I thought they really did a fantastic job with this show.

Now onto the book. It was very easy to read and like the show, it was surprisingly addicting. I could have happily sat there for hours turning page after page but unfortunately I had to go to work. But when I wasn’t working, I’d pull out my phone and continue where I left off. Now what I didn’t like was how rushed it felt. Everything was happening too fast for me and it left you with very little time to digest the story. In the show, it takes Clay so long to listen to the tapes just because it really takes a toll on him and he is desperate for it to stop. It felt like he just wanted to bury his head in the sand at times and make it all go away. Whereas in the book he just listened to tape after tape and barely reacted to what Hannah said. She’d say something and then Clay would have a line or two then move on. I wanted to see more emotion from Clay and we did nearer the end but not enough. Hannah was pouring her soul out to Clay in these tapes, spilling her hurt and sadness out and I just wanted more of a reaction from him. I would also like to know what happened with her parents. I was kind of annoyed that she left tapes behind for people at school but didn’t leave a letter behind for her parents. They are going to be wondering why she committed suicide and she didn’t even bother giving them a reason why.

The narrative was very interesting because it shows that suicide is never a singular action. It affects everyone who was close to Hannah or knew her in some way. It was interesting to see how Clay was affected by it but like I said above, it needed more emotion. His reaction at times felt very wooden, not very realistic to me. He completely breaks down in the show which I felt was a much better reaction to it all. I liked how it showed how much everyone’s actions influenced Hannah’s decision to commit suicide somehow. It could be such a little thing but it would chip away at her daily and leave her feeling empty. But I didn’t like how she was putting blame on others. In the end it was her decision, not theirs. Therefore, piling guilt onto others was not something I approved of but it did show in the end that we should be more thoughtful of our actions towards others. We don’t know what people are going through outside of work or school and something we say or do might not affect us but it could affect others massively.

I’d have liked to have seen more of the other characters involved in the tapes. We get to see Clay’s reaction to the tapes, but what about the others? Justin, Jessica, Alex, to name a few. Where are their reactions? Why isn’t Clay reacting to what they did to Hannah? What does he think of them after listening to the tapes? Plus there is something upsetting that Hannah witnesses but we never find out what happened after she revealed it on the tapes. How did it affect the people involved? Was anything done about what she witnessed? Could have done with some kind of an explanation for that because it makes you think the person involved got away with it. There were so many unanswered questions. A lot still needed to be resolved by the end of the book and it just wasn’t which left me feeling disappointed.

In the TV show Clay takes great pleasure getting revenge on all the other people involved. Tyler’s was especially good, poor guy but I was cheering Clay on. You can see how angry Clay gets at the way everyone treated Hannah. We also see other characters feel guilty and they begin to unravel as well. Just knowing what they did to Hannah and being on the tapes, they feel responsible for her death and you can see the guilt eating away at them. I really liked Jessica and Alex in the show and I wished it had been that way in the book. There is one sentence in the book saying a couple of the characters looked like hell after listening to the tapes but that was it. So I think the show did a better job when it came to that. I think the parents should have been more involved and it would have been great to see how the school was affected by the suicide. It was an interesting idea for a book but it wasn’t done very well in my opinion. The show did a better job by showing how the school and the parents were affected and how everyone on the tapes was affected.

Overall this was a very quick and interesting read but it needed more work. I really liked it and I’m glad I read it. It was a change to what I normally read and certainly opened my eyes a bit more to suicide but it definitely could have done with some more work. If you are curious to see if it’s any good, I would recommend giving it a read and see what you think. It’s interesting comparing it to the TV show and this is one of those rare cases where I liked the adaptation more than the book.

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