I have a lot of emotions about this novel. One is that I think is it an important topic, that it was valuable to experience life through the eyes of a teen pushed to a point of seriously considering suicide as an option. The other is the total despair and sadness, the loss of life of someone who had their whole life in front of them. That so much value was placed on silly teenage pranks and behaviour. That she couldn’t see that life does get better, that there is help. But the main theme of the novel is not about suicide, but what we can do for each other to stop it. To put an end to apathy. That everything we do impacts on someone else, and even the smallest gesture can turn someone’s life around.
‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ has been on my radar for a very long time, but I never picked it up. Suicide is such a sensitive, heavy topic, I didn’t want to put myself through the emotional ringer. I don’t like to think about the consequences for such actions. It’s dark and depressing. I did not want to put myself in that headspace. But this novel does not drag you into shadowed corners and lament at how hopeless life is. This is more of a factual account of circumstances that leads Hannah to her decision. Our protagonist Clay his hope. A shining beacon that lets the reader know that all is not lost. This tone is also reflected in the television series throughout the first season that follows the plot of the novel.
Though it is never stated outright, there are hints in the text of how Hannah is suffering depression, which it has been happening for a while. A condition that goes undiagnosed and it compounded by a series of unfortunate events… all narrated by herself on the set of cassettes she addressed to the main people who affected her life and turned her to a path of loneliness.
The first half of the novel is a little slow, introducing characters slowly as each is discussed until about halfway when we start to get more shocking revelations. After that, I was glued to the page. A sort of morbid fascination. What drove Hannah to do what she did? What is going to be Clay’s reaction? So much more happened than I was expecting. The television show follows suit with flashbacks, but is has the luxury of multiple perspectives, where in the novel it is solely Clay, and Hannah through the tapes. Katherine Langford plays Hannah in the show and exudes that lost child putting up a happy front to disguise all the turmoil underneath. The novel focuses on Clay piecing together a timeline through each tape, where the screen interpretation focuses on events and hypes up the bullying more. We see many of the reveals in the novel much earlier in the screen version to keep an episodic pace.
Clay is a great protagonist. He reacts to the circumstances appropriately – a guide to how you should react to what is happening, as testament to so many characters in the story who lack that compassionate behaviour. He is the litmus test for all of the other characters in the story. The narration treated the events respectfully and lets the reader make pragmatic decisions with compassion. I too loved the depiction of actor Dylan Minnette’s of Clay; he captures the quiet nature and determination that is so strong in this character.
Thank goodness for the screen adaptation, otherwise I may never have read this book. It’s what spurned me to bite the bullet and read the novel before indulging in the series. Because, again, suicide = scary and depressing. I like to read fun, happy, escapist books much of the time.
Definitely thought provoking and I can see it as a great conversation starter for teens (or anyone) who feels they are in the same situation as Hannah. The novel even highlights that there were people who cared, who wanted to help, but she just didn’t give them the chance. So I never got that complete isolation and spiralling pit of despair that this topic generally deals with. We get a balanced view of all parties involved.
The novel ends on a great note too. Hope. Looking forward to see where the tv shows takes these themes beyond the scope of the book… dealing with real issues and hopefully not turning it into another overwritten teen drama.
Highly recommended. It’s not as depressing as it may seem. I didn’t fall into a sopping mess, rather just felt sadness and pity. At this point I have to say both the book and screen adaptation are a solid tie.
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