Originally published on previous blog (the post has been edited for mistakes/clarity)
When Clay comes home from school, he finds a shoebox full of thirteen audiotapes on his front step. Thinking nothing of it, he gets them out and starts to listen, soon finding out that they are audiotapes made by his first love, Hannah Baker, who committed suicide two weeks earlier. As Clay listens to the tapes throughout the night, he discovers the thirteen reasons why Hannah killed herself.
This book has a lot of potential to be excellent and to some extent, it lived up to my expectations. I liked the way we heard from both Hannah and Clay, giving voice to the victim as well as the narrator. However, I only got into the story once it became clear how Clay came into the order of events that led to Hannah’s death, I felt he was irrelevant and didn’t care too much about him as a narrator until this point.
My problem with this book at the time was that it was a hard read and maybe if I read it again a little bit older, I would have a different reaction, but I remember finding it a hard read to pick up every day. It was a powerful and hard hitting book that I believe shines light on topics that need to be talked about, but I felt that it didn’t quite stay with me as much as I wanted it to. I felt it didn’t quite hit home in all the right ways. While there were some powerful moments in it, there are also a lot of problems with this book both from a literary perspective that either don’t make sense or just – for me – aren’t done right.
I think my main problem was the fact this book is supposed to be about Hannah and the actions and events that led her to this moment of suicide, however, in the book, I felt like the narrative was based too much around Clay (who I don’t find an interesting character) and his dealings with Hannah’s suicide.
I’m sure we can all understand what its like to uphold a certain reputation as a teenager. The stark light it sheds on the conditions of some schools and experiences teenagers can have growing up was so realistic and great to read for someone going through similar.
I recently watched the new Netflix series (my thoughts on it are probably for a whole OTHER blog post) and all my thoughts I had for my original reading of the book came flooding back. Ultimately, for the book and the series, I think it is so great these topics are being dealt with in these settings for this audience, but I’m not sure if they quite do the topics justice in my opinion.
My ultimate conclusion for this book is that it was good, but it wasn’t a book I loved or stayed with me in the long run. I’m so glad these topics are written about (especially in 2007!), but I think they could have been dealt with better.
I give it a 3 out of 5