THIRTEEN REASONS WHY/Jay Asher

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 Some girls over at the book club decided to hold a suicide-themed buddy reading marathon, and this book is the first one in the list. I decided to join in because 1) I already have a copy on Elle the Kindle, and 2) the tweets leading to the buddy reading schedule were so convincing — the energy is just so contagious.

So why the interest on suicide? Please don’t get me wrong. I may have mood swings and depressive moods at times but I don’t have suicidal tendencies. I don’t know how the plan for this thematic reading came about (I just butted in on the Twitter conversation) but this topic is definitely one which I have been fascinated in and it is after all a prevalent issue in society nowadays.

When I read Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides, this is where I first seriously thought about the whys of suicide. I concluded that one can never fully know or comprehend what goes on inside the mind of a person before he commits suicide, or the reason why he just decides to give up on his life. And then there’s Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending which I read a few months back, and which until now I still cannot make sense of, especially the why of Adrian’s suicide.

Thirteen Reasons Why is my third book along this theme, and this time the lead character, Hannah Baker, gives 13 reasons why she committed suicide. Through a number of cassette tapes, Hannah describes her life as a new girl in school and how, through a series of unfortunate events, decided that life isn’t worth living anymore. The narrative switches between the POV of Clay Jensen, who finds a package containing the tapes at his doorstep one day after school, and the voice of Hannah which Clay listens to on the tapes. Clay wonders why he has the tapes, especially when he heard Hannah say:

“I hope you’re ready, because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.”

The 13 reasons Hannah gave for her suicide actually revolves around a number of people in school, starting with Justin Foley, her first kiss. For her, this event started all the consequent events in her life which include, among others, rumors ruining her reputation, a Peeping Tom, a friend’s betrayal, a hope crushed, a car accident, a rape.

At first, Hannah sounded like an angst-y, whiny, insecure girl who is so full of hate and just wants to put the blame on other people for her misery. I was tempted to hate her all along — her reasons are so plain petty — but halfway through, I changed my mind, because as her narrative progressed, her tone became more serious, and the events leading to her suicide became even more  terrible and grave .

Some would say that Hannah deserves no compassion because there are others who had life worse than her, but they did not end their life. They moved on. For every bad situation Hannah finds herself in, and in which she points as a reason for her suicide, there are other ways available to prevent or remedy the same. Killing herself isn’t the only option. But then again, there are people who are strong and there are those who are weak. We cannot blame the weak for being weak. And it is no reason to prey on the weak. I do not say that I agree with what Hannah did in ending her life, but I do not blame her either. At most, I feel sorry for her, for the circumstances which she found herself in, and for not having found the hope and the strength to get up and move on.

What strikes me most in the story is how Clay, upon hearing Hannah’s story, felt that he should have done this or that to prevent Hannah from committing suicide. But how do we really know what goes on inside a person’s mind? Especially one who contemplates ending her life? Sure, there have been signs, but are those enough to change his attitude towards Hannah? If I were Clay, how would have I reacted differently to events linking me with Hannah? That time when she told Clay to leave, would I have stayed had I known what was really on her mind? So many what-ifs and if-onlys which cannot anymore be remedied.

I understand that this discourse is only going around in circles. This just only affirms the fact that suicide is a totally incomprehensible matter, and for a spectator like me, I will never exactly know what went on inside Hannah’s mind. For Clay, at least, he has learned his lesson and it is now up to him how to respond to the challenge left by Hannah’s death — and that is, to move on, live life, and live better.

Thirteen Reasons Why is a good book especially for young-adults, although adults may find this useful in order to better deal with and understand teenage troubles on bullying and self-esteem issues.

*****

4/5 stars.

My copy: ebook, from Cary. Thanks! 🙂

2 thoughts on “THIRTEEN REASONS WHY/Jay Asher

  1. I don’t think I have read anything that tackles suicide. And this one seems great because, not only does it present you with Hannah’s thoughts, but also Clay’s, the person left behind to deal with the suicide. I never really gave this book much consideration but now I will. Lovely review! 😀

    1. Thanks, Tin! I was just thinking after I wrote this post that maybe I was over-thinking the story haha. You might want to read The Virgin Suicides. Such lovely prose. 🙂

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