Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars
You can’t stop the future, you can’t rewind the past, the only way to learn the secret…is to press play.”– Jay Asher, “13 Reasons Why”
So, ever since I watched the Netflix series when it first came out, of course my love of reading made me curious to look into the novel that it was based off!
I read through it rather quickly and enjoyed it for the most part; the themes remain the same about bullying, suicide, friendship, and self acceptance. I can also say that I personally thought the book surprisingly wasn’t as strong in conveying the message it wants to give readers, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the TV show. I guess I just resonated with the show better than the book and thought that it was more impactful in a cinematic way, but there’s still plenty to enjoy about this story in the written format too.
What It’s About:
The story revolves around Clay Jensen, the typical nerdy, wallflower type of guy who is dealing with the fact that the girl he’s always secretly had a crush on, Hannah Baker, committed suicide two weeks prior to the start of the book. While she’s no longer around, she left behind thirteen cassette tapes that explain the decision she made when she felt like she had nowhere else go and no one else she could turn to. Depression is a serious thing that many people suffer with, and it has a way of making those who really suffer from it to feel like they’re alone in this unforgiving world, that no one loves them or understands them, and so they alienate themselves and fall down a deep, dark hole that not everyone can climb out of, and for people like Hannah Baker, the fight is just too much to take.
It gets even worse; it turns out that Clay is one of the reasons that she recorded. Through the span a single night, Clay races across town through the guidance of Hannah’s recordings and learns more about the pain and trauma that she was facing all alone the entire time, and will be forever changed at what he learns…
What I Liked:
- The Theme/Message! bullying, depression, acceptance, coming of age, high school and all of it’s drama are major components that make the story so striking. I can say I’ve felt similar feelings that Hannah felt in the story at certain points in my life and I feel like a lot of people can say that too. Some people state this book glorifies suicide or makes it look kind of glamorous in a tragic way, but I truly didn’t get that when I read the book. I got the whole message of treating others the way you want to be treated; you have no idea what someone could be going through in their lives at that exact moment, and even a small interaction can actually make such a huge impact. It’s a great way to make many people more aware about that ideology in a work of fiction with characters and situations that they can can relate to, and will hopefully connect to, hence making the story’s message truly stick.
What I didn’t Like:
- We Only Have Tonight…I’m trying not to compare the book and the TV series, because they are two different styles of media that have different methods of making an impact on its audience, but for the book, I wasn’t a big fan of the fact that the story only took place in one night. Clay was getting a lot of shocking information all at once through the tapes, some of that info could ruin certain people’s lives, but some could lead to justice for their wrongful doing, but either way it’s a lot to take in! The show has it all spaced out more over a longer period of time, and I think that’s a lot more realistic and impactful. It feels less crammed and gives each action all the characters had when they interacted with Hannah more meaningful.
- All By Myself…In the book, Clay is the almost the only character that makes a present day appearance. Most of the minor characters, except for a very select few, are only shown through flashbacks while Clay listens to whatever tape he’s while lurking outside the person’s house in the middle of the night. I wished we would’ve seen the book versions of the other characters like Justin Foley, Jessica Davis, and even Bryce Walker more than just through that.
Of course, the show and the book have a lot differences, that’s always the case with two different mediums like them, but I’m never one to be upset about that. Some things just don’t make the jump from page to screen all that well, and for me that’s fine; TV shows and movies are ‘based’ off the original book, but can’t be the exact same thing. I say, as long as the main plot remains the same, it’s not an issue.
I say the book is definitely one to check out and read if the synopsis and subject matter draws you in; it’s an interesting story that I feel like a lot of people can relate to, young and/or old. Let’s face it, High School was not a great place for A LOT of people, but this book could help some people realize how their actions have consequences, but maybe help those who are secretly suffering to realize they actually aren’t alone, and that they do have a support system out there even if it doesn’t feel that way. They just have to simply look for it and be willing to ignore the rumors, and to look past all the BS social hierarchy of high school, and to be willing to let people in (I know…easier said than done).
I agree suicide shouldn’t be an option for anyone! Every life matters, but it’s devastating that it still occurs because people feel so empty, so alone that they don’t feel like their life is even relevant anymore, but for anyone reading this who is suffering and going down this dark path: please know that you matter to people, even if it doesn’t seem like it. People care about you and love you! Depression is a deadly thing, but what we need to remember is that it’s actually so easy to treat, that there are many options to choose so long as one is able to seek help and also choose to do so.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is the following:
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell