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BOOK HUNGRY: A Twitter Book Club -- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 8:53 AM in , , , , , , , ,
This month's selection was Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why.  And if you haven't read it, then careful, because my review is chock full of spoilers.  Though once you've read the summary, there's not really much left to spoil.  This is one of those books that's more about the journey than the destination, since you're aware from the beginning how it's all going to end.

I didn't love it. It felt self-indulgent, and it made me feel like a jerk for not caring that much about Hannah. I did like Clay a lot, but I thought what Hannah did to him, and Mr. Porter, and even Tony, was ridiculously cruel, especially while she was indulging herself by encouraging so much negative attention.

And I'm sorry, sometimes a haircut is just a haircut. It is not always a cry for help. Everyone gets split ends.  I was planning on getting a haircut this month actually.  (NOTE TO MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY: I'm doing okay, I promise.) If that was really her one big gesture to the world that they should be nicer to her because she was suffering from depression, then I don't think she was trying very hard. And it didn't even really seem like she was depressed. Instead, it seemed almost like she was empowered by the negativity of it all, so she constantly sought it out. (Not that what the other people did was okay, at all. But for heaven's sake, she could have reported things to the police or someone at school: peeping Tom, the car accident, the rape. This particular crowd would likely start to avoid her. They didn't strike me as super motivated bullies.)

See? I told you it made me feel like a jerk. It was just that Hannah was so incredibly passive throughout the entire thing that I couldn't help but get frustrated with her. Obviously, these tapes are her revenge/justification, but I feel like the way she was treated at school probably had a lot to do with that attitude. If the only thing she responds to is negative attention, and she consistently places herself with people that she knows will provide that, and she never ever seeks out anyone pleasant, then she is, in a way, sowing what she reaps. She herself never reaches out to a single person. She never makes an attempt to help Jessica. She never even really clears up what went on with Alex (and what the hell happened at that coffee shop that Jessica attacked her and left a fingernail in her forehead (??) and no one else seemed to notice? Why didn't someone call the cops or something? That was bizarre.) She never even approached Jessica herself, that was the guidance counselor's doing. She never sought out anyone else who was wandering around looking as friendless as she supposedly felt. It's not like she noticed Skye. Even with Clay, he sought her out at the party, he was the one who tried to talk to her at work.

It's just that, in order for the book to work, it had to deal with a big subject like suicide or rape. And that just left me with the same feeling that I usually got in writing classes, that the writer is talking about the subject that's the "deepest" in order to earn literary merit, rather than saying anything new. Yes, the message that you should speak up and talk to other people, especially ones you like or ones you notice might be having a hard time, is good. And I approve of that. But it all just seems really artificial, and I think that can be really dangerous when you're talking about an issue like this.

I should probably admit I have my own issues surrounding suicides, and those people left behind, because I feel like I'm certainly coming across like a cold-hearted snake or whatever. And those are probably informing my reading of this. But in the end, I guess the point is that I didn't really care for the book. It's not one I'll read again, though I did appreciate the way Clay's character was constructed from a writing standpoint. It was really easy to sympathize with him without him really doing much of anything at all, which is interesting. Little things, like his Mom bringing him the tapes and giving him cash to buy a milkshake, just really underscored how young and vulnerable he is, which I thought was well done.  Though I did think it was slightly strange that apparently two of his girlfriends (the only two girls we're told about that he likes, even) were suffering in such a way.  That seems like a really specific type, especially since we don't know much about either girl beyond her warning signs.

Anyway, I didn't love this, but the rest of the book club did.  Feel free to check out their reviews on their blogs:

http://karlanellenbach-lastword.blogspot.com/
patriciablount.wordpress.com
http://kellybreakey.blogspot.com/
http://vanessapnoble.wordpress.com/

Next month: Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Natural Born Charmer. Which I'm psyched about, since I'm a big SEP fan.  Spoiler Alert: I've already read it, and it's adorable!

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