Author: Jay Asher
Published: October 18th 2007
Genre: Young Adult
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Caution: May contain spoilers
When I first heard of this book, I knew it would be intense. Anytime I had to set the book down, I couldn’t wait to pick it up again. I wanted to understand, as the title suggests, why. Why did Hannah kill herself? Why does anyone want to kill themselves?
The story surrounds clay Jensen as he listens to 7 cassette tapes. What’s on the tapes? Hannah Baker’s story of the 13 reasons why she killed herself just 2 weeks before. Thirteen reasons… thirteen people. Hannah has them sent to all of them, in order, else the things said on the tapes be made public. Considering the things that happened to her, all would comply.
As you read Hannah’s words, your heart aches. The actions (and sometimes ignorance, which in itself is an action) of people are seemingly harmless, at least to them they are. It’s okay to spread rumors (it’s just words), it’s okay to feel somebody up (it’s all in good fun), it’s high school, it’s expected. Is it? Is it really? I won’t deny that it happens, and I won’t say that some can’t handle the pressures and walk away with few scars and move on with their life. Because some can. For Hannah, it was the culmination of every moment, one on top of the other. Snowballing. Nobody knew what was happening to her on the inside. Sadly, most don’t notice when someone is heading down that road…
Some people make it obvious--isolation and depression. Others pretend everything’s fine, go through the motions, they’ve learned to tell people what they want to hear. There are subtle signs too, and often we have to remind ourselves to trust our instincts. If something is out of place in a room, we notice. When somebody is contemplating whether or not to take their life, they drop hints… “The signs were all there, all over, for anyone willing to notice.” … but nobody stopped her.
This book strikes a chord with me, since I know people who are bipolar or have major depression. I’ve never wanted to kill myself, but after reading what goes through the mind of somebody who wants to, I can empathize. One spot in the book summarizes the feeling well: “If you hear a song that a makes you cry and you don’t want to cry anymore, you don’t listen to that song anymore. But you can‘t get away from yourself. You can‘t decide not to see yourself anymore. You can‘t decide to turn off the noise in your head.” You can’t escape you.
You may think, Why read this if it’s just going to upset me? We already know she’s dead and nothing can change that. True. But this book can change YOU. This book can help YOU. You may not realize it yet, but after you finish it, you have hope. For you, for a loved one, a friend, a family member.
As a side note here--to anyone who is contemplating suicide or knows someone who is, please ask for help. You are an important person who is loved. Don’t give up.
In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Exceptional: Stay up until at least 1 AM