You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.
Spoiler: Unpopular Opinion Alert.
Lots of rants. Lots of spoilers.
I first read this book in 2007 when it was just released. I was in 7th grade and inexperienced. Now with it’s 10th Anniversary, I decided a re-read was in order (Plus, it fits my 2017 reading challenge for a story within a story). Let me say, experience and maturity changes your view on this book.
Before you ask, no, I have never thought about or tried to commit suicide.
I know people that have.
I know people that have tried to.
I know people that wanted to and got help.
Suicide is a sensitive topic and this novel is whiny and unrealistic.
Let’s talk about Hannah.
Hannah is the center of the story. She decides to take her own life and leave behind cassette tapes for each person explaining how they are a “reason” for her death. Clay is our eyes for the story. He received the tapes, but he’s not sure but he’s not sure why. Honestly, I think it was mean to put Clay through the agony of listening to the tapes, when he never “wronged” Hannah in any way. It’s pretty heartless. He had a completely harmless crush, but Hannah felt the need to include him in the mix, so he knew why she killed herself, but that she also liked him. WHAT? Who does that? No one.
Various Spoilers Ahead & Lots of Ranting
As for her reasons, they were petty. A couple made “sense” (I say this lightly, because having mean things said to you or about you is definitely not a good enough reason to end your life). While most were just placing blame on other people. I was really upset when she said Mr. Porter was a reason. Yeah, she “went” for help, but it’s really hard to get help wen you’re not opening up and being cryptic with your responses. Hannah’s reasons weren’t powerful enough to make this a decent piece of literature on a sensitive topic.
I enjoyed the format of the book, but the plot fell flat. There was no clear line as to what Hannah’s motivation was. People were “mean” to her and instead of finding new friends and distancing herself from the so-called friends that were hurting her, she continued to be around people she hated.
Here are Hannah’s “reasons”:
- Justin Foley: Hannah’s first kiss who started rumors that it was more than a kiss.
- Alex Standall: Put out a list saying Hannah had the “Best Ass of the Freshman Class”.
- Jessica Davis: Was friends with Hannah and was upset she was voted “Worst Ass of the Freshman Class”. She hit Hannah (which left a scar) during an argument over the list.
- Tyler Down: Picture-taking, peeping Tom outside Hannah’s window.
- Courtney Crimson: fake friend who helped “catch” Tyler and started a rumor that Hannah had sex toys in her room and had put out for Justin Foley.
- Marcus Cooley: Hannah’s Valentine’s Day survey date match. “Tried” putting the moves on her while on their date. She pushed him out of the booth.
- Zach Dempsey: Hannah ignored him so he stole her Notes of Encouragement from her bag in their Peer Communications Class.
- Ryan Shaver: friend from a poetry class, until he stole her very personal poem and published in the school paper (anonymously) where English teachers used it dring poetry lessons for analysis.
- Clay: He’s not a reason, she just wanted him to know what happened. He then blames himself because he “had no idea what was going on”.
- Justin Foley (again): Allowed Bryce Walker to have sex with Jessica Davis and Hannah was hidden in the closet…
- Jenny Kurtz: Drove Hannah home, hit a STOP sign, didn’t report it, and a fatal accident happened later that night because there was no sign.
- Bryce Walker:Touched Hannah in the hot tub, and then she let him have sex with her.
- Mr. Porter: teacher/guidance counselor who Hannah saw because she was “suicidal” and then instead of talking, she was cryptic and uncooperative.
The whole book focuses on blaming people who were two-faced and said/did mean things. Hannah resented these people, and instead of standing up for herself, putting effort into seeking help – not just leaving anonymous notes for the teacher – she blamed them as a reason to die. Just re-reading the reasons above, I’m like, these aren’t even valid points – but then again, there is never a valid reason to kill yourself.
Justin Foley is an asshole and stereotypical jerk-jock from every movie/TV show/book ever.
Alex Standall is a stupid boy and was an immature Freshman and put out a Best and Worst list. It is not his fault that the boys of their class felt the need to fall to the stereotypical rape-culture and grab Hannah’s ass as she walks by.
Jessica Davis was one of her only friends and one little argument ended their friendship forever. If I ended every friendship I had every time we had a disagreement, I would have zero friends.
Tyler Down is an asshole with no conscious.
Courtney Crimson was a fake friend who never looked out for others – and Hannah knew that. She knew not to trust her, but she did it any way.
Marcus Cooley is a jerk who ran with the other jerks mentioned above. Hello – find new friends if you’re having such an issue with the people in this group.
Zach Dempsey acted like a jerk because Hannah turned him down. As someone who went through the public high school system, I highly doubt a guy would be such a jerk to resort to stealing because 1 girl, in a school with hundreds of people, turned him down.
Ryan Shaver, like Zach, is just a jerk. I understand Hannah was upset about the poetry thing, but no one had found out it was hers until the tapes. Her peers didn’t like the poem and found it whiny and blame-y too, but they never suggested that Hannah wrote it. Sorry, you can’t constructive criticism from peers who don’t even know you wrote it.
Clay has no reason to be on this list. It was a bitchy move to include him. Yeah, he wanted to know what happened given the fact he was working up courage to ask you on a date, but he was never inappropriate, he never did anything mean. He was the boy Hannah worked with and the boy who fell in love with her for who she was as a person and never told her.
Justin Foley allowing Bryce Walker to rape Jessica Davis is in no way a reason to kill yourself. Yes Hannah, you were hidden in the closet and were so stricken with fear that you couldn’t bring yourself to put a stop to it, but it is no way your fault. You did not rape her. You do not need to kill yourself over other people’s horrendous mistakes.
Jenny Kurtz is the reason that fatal accident occurred hours after you left the party. She was the one drunk driving and took out a stop sign. It was her fault. Just because she gave you a ride, doesn’t mean you are responsible. Jenny knew what she did. It is not your fault she was irresponsible.
Bryce Walker was an asshole the entire story. Hannah was so made up with her mind that she just let him have sex with her. She didn’t say no. She didn’t try to stop him. She just let him. She was SOBER and knew that she was going to let him do it.
Mr. Porter was just a cheap shot for Hannah. Throwing faculty under the bus because they didn’t help you is wrong when they asked you questions when you came in and you were cryptic and uncooperative. They wanted to help, but she didn’t want any real help, so she was uncooperative, because she had already made up her mind. This was Hannah’s very weak attempt at a Hail Mary.
The whiny approach in this book was not powerful enough to evoke the emotion needed to make this an amazing story about a sensitive topic. In all honesty, I preferred the alternate ending where Hannah lived. She needed the second chance and the help, and Tony (minor character who was in charge of ensuring that the tapes were passed along) was able to give her that. Clay was able to tell the girl he loved that he was in love with her.
As those in the book community know, Netflix has created a 1 season TV show based on the book. I watched it and definitely prefer it over the book. Yes, the same people are the same reasons in the TV show, but Hollywood knows how to create a show that will make us feel the powerful emotions. They show the parents side of the story (including a never mentioned law suit) and instead of Clay listening to the tapes all in one night, he listens to them over the course of a week or so – maybe a couple of weeks. His story and those who are reasons all intertwine in a way that’s dramatic and evokes the powerful emotions. Leave it to Hollywood to save the story.
That’s it for today’s rant of over-hyped literature that falls flat. Until next time bookworms.