Thirteen Reasons Why: Review

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All I have heard about lately is people debating Netflix’s latest binge-worthy show Thirteen Reasons Why and since I don’t have Netflix, I thought I would read the book. Make my own judgement about the story.

I’ll start by saying that Jay Asher’s story is a good one. It’s well written and the plot was good. I ripped through this book, and while I was interested to see what else, and who else, was on the tapes; it was also a pretty easy read.

So, let’s take a step back, in case like me, you don’t have Netflix, or haven’t heard about the latest debates on Facebook pages and mom blogs everywhere.

Thirteen Reasons Why is about Hannah Baker. Hannah commits suicide and then leaves a series of tapes outlining the series of events and what (and who) lead her to make the decision to take her own life. The story is narrated by Clay Jensen, Hannah’s classmate who had a crush on her. Hannah’s story is told through the tapes and we discover, tape by tape (chapter by chapter) what happened to her.

Again, let me be clear, I have not seen the Netflix series. I have barely read any reviews, because I didn’t want to spoil anything. However, I understand the main point of all the debates.

Does this book/series glorify suicide?

I honestly don’t know if that’s the point.

I think the point is that there is always more to the story than people think, or even want to believe. Especially when it comes to teenagers. I think the point is that suicide effects those around you. I don’t believe that somebody wakes up one morning and decides that’s the answer. It comes after a series of events, whatever that may be, that take its toll.

I am not speaking from experience, but these are my thoughts. And I think the point of this book is to show how one thing; one comment, one note, one event can have that snowballing effect on someone’s life.

And put that event into high school, and it’s heightened. There is no perspective in high school. Kids are mean. This moment is the only moment.

But we can’t overlook the effect those comments, notes and events have.

Ask anyone who has graduated high school, and they will have a story; the one that they always think of when they look back to those teenage days. And it’s not the things that were said, or the place they were said it, it’s really the feelings that dig into our psyche and stay there.

Sometimes forever.

It’s hard to ignore how that makes you feel. What that does to you as a person.

We all learn to move on, and move past it. It was teenage stupidity, or angst, and none of it matters. But what if that kid can’t get past it. What if they don’t have the support and love and help they are looking for and deserve? This book is about those people. Those who don’t get the help, who people overlook, or undervalue.

What I don’t agree with in this book is the blaming, I think people do that already on their own. But that’s the premise of the book, so without it, I suppose we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all. I think there are people who miss the signs, who ignore their gut, who look past someone who may need a listening ear. And this book is just pointing that out.

I think Clay’s reaction was authentic, and would have been curious to learn more about the other’s reactions. Tony’s character stuck with me too. A rock in an unlikely place.

What left me feeling scared was the thought of my girls going through something and not seeing the signs. Will a hectic workday, and the rush of making dinner be enough to distract me from a look in their eyes that says something is wrong? That scares me to death.

So, if anything, this book has shown me that I need to have these conversations with my girls. When they are old enough to understand the context of this book, I’ll make them read it. And we can sit down and watch the series (yes, I’ll have Netflix by then).

Because if this book hits home on any level, it’s to make the point that as parents, we need to pay attention more. We need to connect more with our children and have open dialogue, so if there is one comment, one note or one event, they won’t be afraid to talk to us about it while it’s happening.

And that is the message of this book; “everything…affects everything.”

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