Thursday, 20 April 2017

Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

'I'm listening to someone give up. Someone I knew, someone I liked. I'm listening. But still, I'm too late.'
This cover put me off this book for
a while because I thought it looked
a little childish and I expected the
same from the story itself.


As you might know, I was supposed to be studying reading other stuff, but the hype is high and I had bought this earlier... So I thought I'd read a bit of it. And I ended up reading all of it over three days of mostly doing other things. It was very gripping, one could say.

The premise of this book is this: High school student Clay Jensen receives a package of tapes, and finds out they were a suicide note of such by his crush, Hannah Baker, who committed suicide two weeks prior. These tapes tell the story of the thirteen reasons and thirteen people who drove her to kill herself, and Clay received them because he's one of them. (The notes in the book tell me this is a pun on the Baker's Dozen, which I found quite funny)

The style works quite well; Hannah's voice on the tapes is in italics, Clay's thoughts in normal text. It's all woven quite tightly together, and it works. Clay follows in Hannah's footprints along the places she talks about, offering some of his knowledge to fill in the gaps. I think this might also work quite well as an audio book, provided whoever read Hannah's parts was very good at what she does.

In a way, this book is a horrible read. All of the horrible things that have happened to Hannah, I've heard them all before. These things happen to people, because we are careless and can never think enough about the consequences of our actions and words on others. In its heart, Hannah made these tapes not because she blames these people, but because she wants them to know how even smaller actions can destroy you. She even acknowledges that this decision was ultimately hers and hers alone, even if the actions of others made her think of it.

I didn't think I would like this since I don't really agree with suicide as an option, but I thought the situation was handled quite delicately here. It didn't preach or claim to tell anyone else's story. Regardless, I would never recommend this to anyone who's had problems with depression or suicidal thoughts or anything. This isn't a helpful book in that way. What I didn't like about this book was that some story points didn't really come across that clearly, and I would have wanted to know more.

The ending, I thought, was quite clever and nice. I really liked that. I also liked how all the different stories were quite different. I also liked Clay, even though he was a bit flat. Like Nick in The Great Gatsby, he was an onlooker of sorts, and everything happened around him, not necessarily to him. That's all cool though. This story isn't about Clay, but about Hannah.

Through the tapes, the book handles with many difficult subjects for teenagers, like drinking, relationships, depression, bullying... It was sobering in how real it felt - I didn't leave that time all that long ago, after all.

All in all, I'd give this a 3.5/5, rounded up. It was an easy read in a way, and succeeded in what it set out to do.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 19: A "one day story" book! (This does have like a three page epilogue from a different day but I thought it's still good enough... If I read a better one this year, I might change that!)

I think I'll check out at least the first episode of the Netflix original show based on this and let you know my thoughts later under this post. I'm very curious.

Thoughts on the TV show (Edit from 22th April)

I admit - this thing looks pretty
cool. Better than the book cover,
So I watched that pilot like I said I would. And while I can say that I totally would have enjoyed it had I not read the book previously (this thing heavily relies on the mystery of who did what to Hannah), it's a bit drawn out. Of course it would be, considering that in the book Clay listens to all the tapes in one night - to me this even made sense, considering he felt like he should do it as quickly as possible. In the Netflix series however, it's a 'monster of the week' type of thing, with each side of the tape - one story - given a whopping 50 minutes. If the book has 336 pages (it does, by the way. I checked!), it would be around 25 pages per tape. So you can imagine how drawn out this thing feels to me, in comparison.

There's all this added drama. From what the first episode gives me, Hannah's parents are filing a lawsuit against school (why?), everyone who has had the tapes before tries to contact Clay, and Clay has to ask people about obvious things which in the book were treated like just that - obvious. Also, Clay is some crusader vigilante who has decided to bring Hannah justice.

Also, from my brief online reading, this thing ends on some cliffhangers so they're planning a second season? Now why in the world would they do that? I thought the book ended really gracefully and a second season, well, if this was drawn out already... On the bright side, however, what's on the tapes seems to be very faithful to the book. There have been a lot of direct quotes spoken by Hannah, and I appreciate that.

Having watched this one episode and pretending like I watched the whole show, I'm starting to believe that most of the problems people have with this thing are actually added just for extra drama. That's a shame, and I find myself thinking that if you're on the fence about this, please just read the book instead. Except if you're depressed! It's not a happy story when someone's died.

Never mind all that. More importantly, why did I think Hannah was a blonde? I have real problems recreating characters in my mind from their descriptions, it seems. I just make up whatever I want instead. Welp.

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