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Thirteen Reasons Why – James Asher

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Wow. What a b*tch.

But…But…Miranda…how can you not love, cherish and worship a suicide book? Hannah was so brave, she dealt with life the best way she could…Blah, blah, blah.
Are you sitting down? 

Good, cause things are about to get ranty.

HUGE MOTHER-EFFING DISCLAIMER:

If you absolutely loved this book or if you think it really helped you through a tough time – I have absolutely no problem with that.

You are completely (and utterly) entitled to your opinion on this novel – just like I’m entitled to hate it with every fiber of my being.

My hatred can be split into four parts: The Message to the Target Audience, Glamorous Suicide, The Absolutely Terrible Excuse for A Main Character and Were you Raped? Sorry, it’s Me Time Now.

The Message to the Target Audience – aka just kill yourself. 

 

As an 25-year-old adult, I am able to read this book and take a step back to truly appreciate the full wrath of Hannah. 

She’s able to absolutely crumble the lives of the bullies,extract sweet revenge on her ex-friends and even get the boy she likes to admit that he really, really likes her.

And how does she do that? By killing herself.

Let me repeat that – she’s able to accomplish all her wildest dreams By. Killing. Herself. 

And the target audience? Preteens/teens. Kids who are already thinking of suicide and are curious to see what happens after.

And how does the author (a grown adult) advise them? Just kill yourself and everything will be better after you die. 

I cannot begin to express how furious that made me.

Okay, okay. I will admit that there is another message – one of accepting, embracing and truly caring for your peers before something tragic happens…but, I’d like to remind you, how do we reach this conclusion?

Well, Hannah only had to off herself for this to happen. Kill yourself and the world becomes a better place.

 

Glamorous Suicide – aka suicide is a wondrous method to bring about change. 

 

This is in a somewhat similar vein to the previous – but did anyone else notice how beautiful and poetical her suicide was?

How all the bullies were cowed. How all her friends regretted not appreciating her when she was alive. How everyone felt bad about not being nicer.

Even her suicide was a graceful fade-to-black.

The book doesn’t show any negative repercussions for her actions – just that everything is better after she’s gone.

And while (maybe) some kids may react the same as the ones portrayed in this book, I’d wager that most teens out there won’t fall perfectly into the, “Oh-poor-Hannah-such-a-tragic-little-victim” category.

Most teens won’t have the self-reflection and emotional awareness shown in this novel. She’ll become a footnote, a blip on their radar, and they’ll move on.

 

Absolutely Terrible Excuse for a Main Character – aka what a b*tch 

 

I am of the firm belief that if something tragic, or some self-inflicted tragedy, befalls the main character, does not erase their sins. 

Just because they did some grand, meaningful gesture, does not mean everything they did is given the rose-tinted glasses.

And what Hannah did was absolutely inexcusable. 

Most suicides (according to google) are due to mental illness (90%) (i.e. clinical depression, bipolar, etc) or due to an impulse decision (triggered by a great tragedy/overwhelming circumstances).

From my (admittingly untrained) eye, Hannah experiences neither of these. And I believe that if the author wanted us to see either one of those cases, he would have made that abundantly clear.

Which makes Hannah’s premeditated revenge odd, to say the least.

She picks out thirteen people who she’s perceived wronged her and sets about to find the most hurtful and vengeful wayto ruin their lives.

She wants to make her suicide count by destroying these other teen’s lives so thoroughly that they become traumatized and absolutely terrified for the rest of their days.

So, who are these life-ruiners you ask? 

Who are these absolute monsters who made Hannah’s life a living hell? Pushing her every day closer to oblivion?

 

–Her first kiss — now, the guy did brag that he got a bit further than a first kiss with her, but to pin her suicide on him? On a kid who likely felt inadequate and just wanted to seem older/experienced among his friend group?

–A friend who drifted apart from her — sure this girl wasn’t Hannah’s bestie for life, but isn’t she allowed to choose who her friends were? She and Hannah drifted apart, just like millions of girls throughout high school…but no Hannah has to make sure this girl KNOWS that stopping friendships with ANYONE is a direct cause for suicide.

— A guy who said she has a nice ass — I’m all for not objectifying women, but really? She’s trying to pin her suicide on a teenage guy who said she has a nice ass.

–A nice girl who ended up not being super nice — this girl was polite to Hannah, hung out a couple of times, but ultimately did not want to become best friends. Well, now she knows that if she is not ABSOLUTELY PERFECTLY NICE AND FRIENDLY with everyone she meets, then they may kill themselves in revenge.

–A guidance counselor who didn’t stop her suicide — In Hannah’s version, he was the last straw between her and oblivion. And he failed. He failed her, her parents and the school.

To expect one man to completely turn around a suicidal girl (especially one who premeditates her suicide to such an extent that she uses it as a weapon against other kids) is (in my opinion) horribly unrealistic.

 

And that’s the thing that everyone seems to forget – these people who “caused” her suicide are kids.

Teenagers with their own troubles, trials and tribulations. 

They’re wading through the murky waters of high school with as much direction as Hannah.

And in her anger, fury and spite, she puts them all on the same playing field. 

The peeping Tom and rapist somehow contributed equally to the guy who stole the compliments from her compliment box.

Apparently, no one commenting about your haircut is just as likely to send you into a suicidal spiral as privacy violations.

Were you Raped? Sorry, it’s Me Time Now – aka My God Hannah, What’s Wrong With You? 

 

I will admit there were some of the kids that had it coming (i.e. the rapist and the peeping Tom) – they should have been called out on their actions.

But, instead of going to the authorities and actually doing something about this, Hannah just outs them in one of her tapes. 

And, it gets better, she never sends a tape to the rapist. 

Instead, she sends it to her ex-friend, the girl who was drunk and barely conscious throughout the rape, and Hannah blames her suicide on her.

That’s right, the RAPE victim learns that she’s RAPED on Hannah’s suicide tape, that Hannah (and the boy the rape victim liked) did nothing about it.

AND what’s Hannah’s interpretation? You, ex-friend, caused my suicide cause you didn’t want to be friends for life. 

And to that I say:

A) GOOD RIDDANCE. Dropping Hannah like a hot tamale was obviously the right choice.

B) Can you even begin to imagine learning that happened to you while your so-called friend was hanging out in the closet of the same room?

And what was Hannah doing?

What was SO CRAZY IMPORTANT that she just couldn’t stop her friend from being raped?

Having a tipsy mental breakdown because A) the boy she liked her tried to kiss her and B) when she said no, he stopped.

Excuse me, but how was THAT more important that preventing an ex-friend from getting RAPED?

Literally all Hannah had to do was step out of the closet and he’d be scared off.

But noooooo, Hannah decides to make the suicide tapes (LONG after all the evidence has been washed away) to let everyone know that she’s the victim. 

That SHE deserves the pity and sympathy.

I’m sorry, I’m sure there are many (MANY) ways to interpret this book, but I just can’t see feeling sympathy for the girl who killed herself over “nice ass” and “friends not staying friends” vs the one who was raped while her best friend/guy-she-liked watched and then was blamed for a suicide.

This is the sort of revenge Hannah decides to extract on these teens.

It’s unforgivable.

I can’t believe I wasted my time with this. 

ANOTHER BIG MOTHER-EFFING DISCLAIMER

Yes, this is my opinion. This is my interpretation of this novel. Is it the right one? Maybe and maybe not.

If this book is perfect in your eyes, if it really saved you, I am not discounting that experience.

This book has a LOT of potential to bring about difficult discussions but I feel that the way it is written is problematic (to say the least). But again, this is one take on the novel.

2 thoughts on “Thirteen Reasons Why – James Asher

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