I had never heard of this book before it started to consistently pop up in my YouTube feed. For some reason I thought that it was a new release, and then was confused when I realized that it has been on sale at BookOutlet for awhile. Everyone seemed to rave about it, which, as always, makes me apprehensive. And then this title appeared on my Netflix feed. I was getting annoyed.
And then I saw that Emma from emmmabooks did a review of the tv show, and I was like, okay, if Emma has read it, then I should read it too as I trust her opinions when it comes to sensitive topics.
But a warning first: this book deals with abuse, rape and suicide. If you are triggered by either of those, do not read it and skip the tv show. I am serious.
I did not want to read the physical book because I find it hard to concentrate on contemporary YA, and I also thought that this book will work well in an audio format seeing as the major part of the narration is done via audio tapes. I got the audiobook on OverDrive and, to my biggest surprise, flew through it.
I wouldn’t call this my favourite story. It is a horrible and a very realistic story of abuse at school, rape, and other circumstances that resulted in a suicide. The book is told from the first point of view of Clay Jensen, the boy in high school, whose first love, Hannah Baker, took her life. One morning, two weeks later, he receives a package with audio tapes, recorded by late Hannah, in which she talks about thirteen people that had affected her life. Clay is compelled to listen to them, not only because of the threat of the second copy being made public if he doesn’t listen and then pass on the tapes, but also because he wants to know what part he himself played in Hannah’s death.
This book is perfect as an audiobook. Hannah’s narration gets more raw and candid as the story progresses. I enjoyed both narrators and I think they did a great job with both characters. The story has a bit of mysterious, almost suspenseful, air at the beginning, which made me think that there might be more to the story than it seems. Unfortunately, even though the story does have some unpredictable moments, it was not the case. I managed to guess some of the twists right off the bat, as they were rather obvious. The way the story was narrated, however, was very compelling, and I couldn’t stop listening to it.
Funny thing about this book - I kept forgetting that Hannah was dead. I kept thinking that this is going to be the moment when she would be okay. And after I watched Emma’s video review of the book and TV show, I found out that she had the same feeling while watching it. But no - Hannah Baker is dead, but she is so alive in this audiobook, that it is easy to forget this fact. I liked both Hannah and Clay. I felt really horrified by everything that Hannah went through, and I think that the author did a great job describing abuse and depression, and how all of those small things just add up. I was appalled by the fact that nobody could see what she was going through, including adults (which is a very real and common thing, unfortunately). It is a very believable, realistic and terrifying story.
I felt that the ending of the book was a bit weak, seeing as the book had a great build up, but I was let down a bit as the ending didn’t feel as cathartic as I expected. Also, I felt that the reasons behind some of the people’s actions were never properly explained. People can be cruel for no reason at all, but I felt that it made some of the characters a bit cliched.
I didn’t have any intention to watch the tv show, but after Emma’s review, I am starting to think that I might actually like it better than the book. I did enjoy the book but I felt it lacking for the reasons mentioned above. To my surprise, it seems like the tv show addressed those weaknesses and made the story more dimensional and elaborated. As a matter of fact, if you watch Emma’s review (and she gives away everything including the ending of the show, so beware of major spoilers!!), it feels as if the tv show might even be extended, which gives the story a different perspective (if it does get the second season, I might be even more compelled to watch it, because I want to see how everyone is dealing with the aftermath, as we are not shown that in the book). Honestly, her review makes me want to watch the show as I want to know more about those characters, although I don’t like the idea of watching Hannah suffer all over again.
“13 Reasons Why” is not a light read, nor it is the best book I have read this year. It is, however, an important read - a reminder to everyone to be kind to each other and that there might be people around us who are suffering in silence.
Plot: 3 stars
Narration: 4 stars
Overall rating: 3.5 stars