When I first heard of this book, the idea of reading about suicide didn't appeal to me. Who wants to read something as depressing as that?! But I have read so many things about it lately that I wanted to know what all the hype was about.
There are two main characters in this book, Hannah Baker & Clay (I can't remember if he has a last name). Hannah committed suicide & left a set of tapes behind detailing the thirteen reasons why she took her life. Clay is the one listening to the tapes & by so doing, allows the reader to listen in as well. The book is laid out with each chapter being assigned the side of an audio tape (13 sides total, or as Clay points out, a Hannah-Baker's dozen). I liked this because it added structure to the book that might otherwise have jumped around between stories without much transition. When I started reading the book, I struggled with the back-and-forth narration of Hannah on the tapes & Clay's inner monologue. I found it distracting & lost track of what was going on in the story. This also made it hard for me to connect to the seriousness of the situation. But as the story continued, & I adjusted to the style, I was able to relate to the characters more & more & understand the deep emotions they were feeling.
The problems Hannah deals with start out seemingly trivial - who hasn't dealt with rumors being spread about them, or been treated unkindly? But as Hannah's story continues with each progressing reason, we are able to see the snowball effect of others' actions towards her & how it leads to her growing instability & ultimate downfall.
With so many teen suicides being reported in the news lately, I really appreciated the insight this book offered into the reasons someone may go down that path. This book reminded me in some ways of Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall in the sense of relating how individual behavior can affect others in ways we don't realize, either for good or bad.
I was glad the author, by allowing us to see things from Clay's perspective, did not condone Hannah's actions, even if he did sympathize with her. This story was heartbreaking, & I kept hoping there would be a miracle at the end, kind of a "Just Kidding!" moment where everything turned out okay, but of course, that wasn't possible. This story . . . Hannah's story, is a cautionary tale in ways, helping the reader know that the things they do or say carry consequences. It reminds us that we can take the time to think of others & treat them well, even if it's going out of our comfort zone to do so. It's a reminder that we don't really understand someone as well as we might think, especially if what we know about them is based on rumors. It's a tragic story that didn't have to end the way that it did, not just because how others treated Hannah, but also because she did not open up fully until she left the tapes - she could have been helped if she would have let someone in.
I enjoyed this book, even if it was a difficult subject matter to read about & would recommend it.