THIRTEEN REASONS WHY
With the recent crucial movement to stop bullying and hearing about suicides close to home, Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why seems to give some sort of insight to the problems kids face in school today. With high hopes for the novel, I dug into Hannah Baker’s audiotape stories of the reasons she eventually gave up on life, blaming others for a ‘snowball effect’ of bullying. Aimed toward a younger audience, the novel is a quick read with an odd viewpoint volleying between Hannah and Clay, a boy who had a crush on Hannah.
While a good concept, I was frustrated by Hannah’s actions and the choices she made throughout the novel. I tried to become emotionally attached, but I ultimately found her reasons shallow. I wanted to sympathize with her, especially as a victim of bullying from elementary up until high school, but I found myself realizing my situation was worse than hers. Rumors about how easy she is or witnessing something she could have stopped are horrible incidents, and it’s true everyone copes in different ways, but I wish Asher would have taken more risks in his portrayal of a realistic high school girl’s life. It’s a cruel time.
We’ve all been there–being teased for wearing out-of-style clothes or not playing the “in” sport or being teacher’s pet–and Asher could have stretched deeper for Hannah’s reasons for eventually committing suicide. Personally, I had rocks thrown at me on the swing set in fifth grade; I had two girls tell everyone in my class not to be friends with me for admittedly no reason; I stopped going outside for recess because no one would talk to me and, in turn, was called teacher’s pet for years because I stayed in the classroom. These are only a few examples of the bullying I endured; the worst I won’t even share.
Hannah made 13 audiotapes for the people who affected her to listen to. While the tapes could be an attempt at closure or an explanation for her suicide, it seems more likely Hannah was trying to get back at them, making them feel guilty for not realizing what they were doing to her.
Unlike Hannah, I realized people will hurt you throughout your entire life and sometimes you need to forgive and forget. However, I understand the feeling of wanting to give up because all the little reasons together feel like too much to handle. Each of Hannah’s reasons separately may be mild, but minor actions combined can create a huge impact on someone’s life, and that is Asher’s message.
While Asher fell short of his goal of emotional attachment with the reader, the novel does make one think about how their actions, no matter how trivial, can affect others. Feelings of depression and guilt, of not being accepted or liked, can make someone take drastic measures, and unfortunately, many teenagers feel they can’t turn to anyone for help.
Asher addresses a critical and often averted topic, and as the novel is designed for teenagers, hopefully the message is openly received and leads to discussion and change.