Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
Somewhere in the middle. Of what, I don't know.
on July 28, 2017
I heard many things of Thirteen Reasons Why over the last few months, mostly thanks to the controversial Netflix series. The controversy seems to come not so much from the topic, as it does from the handling of said topic.
Suicide. It's a word we often don't like to say, but should. The longer we ignore it the longer it will remain stigmatized--and the more people we will lose as a result.
Before actually sitting down to read Thirteen Reasons Why, I was bombarded by either very positive reviews, or very negative reviews regarding this story. I found a nugget of sense in everyone's opinions, but the drastically different opinions left me sea-sawing uncomfortably. I realized then that the only way to find solace was to read the book myself, and formulate my own opinion, all previous mentions of the story forgotten.
I have finished the book now, but still find myself wavering between approval and disapproval. Suicide is a very serious and delicate topic to cover, let alone respectfully, honestly, and responsibly. I praise the author for trying. It was a brave and necessary thing to do.
My three-star rating has nothing to do with the entertainment factor. It was very well written and enticing. I finished it in two days. But I caught myself frowning quite frequently, not because I was angry at the harsh things the main character went through (which she did), but because half the time I didn't like her, not even a little.
I loved Clay from the start, but with Hannah I could barely sympathize. This says a lot coming from me, considering the severe depression I myself went through at 15. And the very thing that happened to Hannah at the end with the guidance counselor happened to me exactly (I was told to pretend that nothing was wrong, and eventually everything would "go away"; this part of the story was particularly painful to read, because negligence is unfortunately a very common occurrence, especially by those who are actually paid to deal with things like this). My problem with Hannah is not that she was traumatized by what she experienced--she had every right to be traumatized, and every right to ask for help and be helped. My problem is how, in some strange way, she came off selfish. I'm not so sure it's a good thing that I didn't feel devastated by Hannah's suicide. What I felt devastated about was that I DIDN'T feel devastated.
Many people on Hannah's tapes deserved her little payback. Many did not. Lots of these people did things that--though unkind--did not warrant this heavy weight on their shoulders. Clay especially. What was worse was that Hannah stood back and (*spoiler) let another girl get raped. True, she was dizzy and not the rapist herself, but she didn't even bother to make sure the girl was okay after it was over. Then she made her one of the recipients of the tapes, one of the "reasons" Hannah had to kill herself. And the guy who deserved to carry this guilt around more than anybody else got off completely scott-free.
Viewed this way, I don't like Hannah, or how the story was handled. HOWEVER--maybe it is a good thing after all that the author made Hannah so unsympathetic. If people relate too much to her character, especially those going through depression, they may find her choice to take her life very appealing. I also considered how Hannah's apparent selfishness was a result of her downward spiral. Depression changes people; it tends to bring out the worst in them. It clouds judgement and wreaks havoc on the body. So, when I consider things this way, I am pleased with the author's work.
But still I sit here, unable to love it, unable to hate it. Unable to say if it is a good thing or a bad thing. So I will leave it at 3 stars. Maybe some day, after I've have more time to ruminate on it, I will see things more clearly.
If you are contemplating suicide, DON'T ignore it. If you ask somebody for help and they turn you away, ask somebody else. And keep asking. And asking. Don't stop. With 7 billion people in the world, there is somebody somewhere who will hear you. If you have to comb through entire cities or countries to find them, do it. It is okay to not be okay. It is also okay to fight for your survival. Your life is worth it.