Top critical review
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From a therapist's perspective...
on March 15, 2014
I work with seriously emotionally disturbed children, teenagers and families. I read this book because some of the teens I was working with were very taken by it. I found it to be a very simplified caricature of a suicidal teen. Having worked with actual people who are actually suicidal, I can tell you, the '13 Reasons' that Hannah killed herself wouldn't have even made the list for most people contemplating suicide. It may sound harsh, but, barring any serious underlying mental illness (to which there was no reference), Hannah would never have killed herself for the reasons stated.
This is such a popular book, and unfortunately it does a real disservice to teens in their understanding of suicide and what to do about it. The idea that a counselor, upon hearing that a student was considering suicide, let her walk away without contacting her parents is unthinkable. Aside from this being unethical (which, granted some therapist's are), no therapist would ever think to act in such away due to the legal ramifications. Even the most incompetent would have immediately gotten Hannah help.
Aside from the above issues, comes the underlying message. What was it? Be nice to people or they might kill themselves? Be on high alert for people who seem sad? Mostly what I got out of it was that you are responsible for others actions. It seems very one sided. In truth, we all do cruel things, we can all think back on times when, for one reason or another we behaved badly. To say that human error deserves such retribution is alarming. Not only that, this idea of post-death vindictiveness is a very attractive idea to teenagers who feel misunderstood and unheard.
On the whole I felt this book romanticized the notion of suicide and was written by someone who clearly doesn't understand teenagers or mental health. In terms of writing, I found the the character of Clay to be multidimensional, if a little over the top in terms of naivety and niceness. The other characters seemed flat. Hannah seemed completely fake because, as referenced earlier, her theatrics and explanations resembled nothing even close to those of actually suicidal teens.