13 Reasons Why I Didn't Like 13 Reasons

Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

Bullet Review:

There's a good message here, about responsibilities and actions and how they play out in ways we can't imagine in others. Good stuff - only it's hard to be sympathetic when our characters are drama kings and queens, being insanely petty and whiny.

A great example of a book I've obviously outgrown, regardless, this book still has a good message for teens and doesn't deserve it's banned status.

WARNING: Don't "Read More" unless you are prepared for me going into why I think the characters are drama kings and queens.  Some people may interpret my criticisms as victim blaming.  They aren't, but as with most things, it's open to interpretation.  I just don't want to spend the comments section arguing with people over whether I'm victim blaming or not instead of talking about the book.


Full Review:


A shoebox of cassette tapes arrives at Clay’s home.  As he starts to listen to them, he hears the voice of Hannah Baker, a girl who committed suicide, and learns the 13 reasons why she decided to take her life.


Once upon a time, I was a teenager.  (I know, hard to believe, eh?)  I lived a very isolated, sheltered life with few friends and confidantes.  The only place I had to reveal my inner thoughts was my journal – my mom had her own burdens, my sister was too young, my dad was always at work, my extended family too distant, and I was homeschooled, so I had no peers.


Once, I was clumsy and broke my mother’s ceramic cookie jar lid.  It upset me for days.


Once, I was trying to print something on the printer, and it wouldn’t stop printing.  I was afraid of the printer for years.  (OK, stop laughing people!!  It was the mid-90’s, I barely knew how to use the computer, and things not being able to stop is my absolute worst nightmare!!)


Once, I ordered the wrong CD from online.  I was upset for weeks.


Once in Sunday School, the youth leader asked for questions.  I didn’t have any idea of a real question to ask, so I tried to make one up.  But when you are cramped on time and have no idea what to ask, your question (and handwriting) gets messy.  So when the question was read, everyone laughed at how stupid the question was and how sloppy my handwriting was (they didn’t know who wrote it).  I went home that day and sulked in my room.


By the logic that Hannah Baker uses in “13 Reasons Why”, I would probably have a good set of excuses to commit suicide.


Please don’t get me wrong: suicide is a SERIOUS subject.  It’s also a very REAL problem, particularly in conjunction with bullying, slut-shaming, coming out, religious differences, etc.  It is not to be trivialized.  Unfortunately, in many ways, I think that’s what “13 Reasons” did.  It trivialized Hannah’s suicide.


Just like I was being overdramatic with breaking the ceramic cookie jar lid, Hannah blew some of her situations out of proportion.  People have gone through a lot worse and didn’t choose to commit suicide; why Hannah chose to let some of these incidents affect her so badly is hard to understand.


And that is the biggest reason why I don’t like “13 Reasons”.


The other biggest reason is Hannah’s cowardly reaction to a rape that she observes – after whinging for 200 pages about all the horrible things people have done to her, she then cowers in a corner as a boy rapes a drunk girl.  After the horrendous actions in Stubenville, Ohio, where a virtually identical case happened, it’s kinda hard to have sympathy for a girl who sees something wrong and doesn’t say anything.


Oh, and Clay as our Main Character – not a fan.  Just so you don’t think I’m playing a sexist, I thought he was a pretty overdramatic character too – of course, part of that could be because we hear Hannah’s thoughts and then read Clay’s actions or thoughts the next paragraph, making his every action MELODRAMATIC.  But other than to give us some eyes to see the events through, why was he here?  On the freakin’ tapes, Hannah herself says he really didn’t belong as he hadn’t done anything wrong to her – oh, how convenient!  Our Marty Stu is there to fret over her and clutch his head in agony, but no worries, he didn’t do anything deserving of guilt!  Good thing too – would hate to have to live with actual guilt!


I can see where the author was trying to put an emphasis on how our actions, purposeful or accidental, can have unrealized responses to another.  I also appreciate how slut-shaming and sexism was addressed.  And I do think that this message book has some good messages for teenagers.  But how the message was delivered, the reasons for Hannah’s suicide and how she blamed people for what ultimately is her choice (and didn’t take blame for being complicit in another girl’s rape) make this book “not for me”.


Some people will probably read this review and go, “You are victim blaming!  How dare you!”  That is NOT my purpose; I don’t mean to victim blame Hannah.  If she were a real person, I would accept her reasons, even if I didn’t agree with them.  But when a FICTIONAL CHARACTER records 7 cassette tapes of Blame Game, blaming everyone but herself for her decision, send these to the people who Done You Wrong, how can you expect me to think anything but that the character is being overdramatic?


In review – I’m not that impressed by the book.  I think there are better Message Books out there that handle this topic.  Do I think it should be banned?  Absolutely not – there IS a good message here, one that some teens will appreciate and need.  But as for me – yeah, it’s not my thing.


(OK, so that's not 13 Reasons Why I Didn't Like This Book - but the title is catchy, no?)