Tuesday, February 12, 2008

13 Reasons Why...

...I hated this book. Spoiler alert, as well, for those of you still reading it... I'm not sure I can muster the energy to come up with 13 reasons, so I'll go with the biggest ones:

  • Narrator who overreacts at every turn. (I ditched the book in the library's book drop the other day, so I will be creating some of the dialog from memory.) "Hm, I just got a box of tapes from a dead girl. I listened to 5 minutes of them. OH MY GOD WHY DID I EVER GET THESE TAPES???? WHAT CAN IT MEAN??? WHY AM I CURSED??? HANNAH, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME???"
  • Bad writing. Don't even have any examples of this. Didn't want to keep it in my house.
  • Horribly manipulative main character - I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this: she's teased, she's groped...and she kills herself? I don't have a daughter (yet) or a son, for that matter, but what am I supposed to do with this? What kind of message is this sending - the subtext implies that the only path for Hannah is a permanent exit. Sure, a few teachers don't listen to her, which would be awful, but then she kills herself? Because the some of her classmates are sexist and bullies (although one does sound like a bona fide sex offender)? I'm not sure it hangs together logically (perhaps I've blocked Hannah's main motivation for suicide - I was just pissed at her more than anything for hiding in the closet during the rape scene) and if it does, it's a really disturbing message.
Ranting is fun. Although it does make me wonder if it's clouded my mind for any redeeming messages from the book. If you read it, what do you think?


Amanda said...

julie, i'm still waiting for the library to deliver the book for me, but thanks for starting a discussion on this! we tend to dis/like the same things, so i'm looking forward to checking it out. i've read so much stuff lately that's just sort of "eh, okay" that i'd almost like to read something i really hate. we'll see!

Dawn said...

I couldn't manage to summon any empathy for Hannah. She was insufferable, and determined to play the victim at every turn. Gah. It also bothered me that we got the perspective of the one guy who never did anything wrong. Not that suicide isn't a selfish act in and of itself, but it seemed that Hannah's only reason for sending the tapes to Clay was to make him live with some kind of false guilt for not taking telepathic steps to help her. This book seemed to universally lack nuance. Maybe I need a bit more distance from it before I talk about it more. I'd be interested in hearing other thoughts, though.

ericalina said...

hated. this. book. so. much.

good lord, the narrator is the most annoying character ever written. and apparently every boy hannah went to school with is a sexual deviant. if i killed myself every time a boy groped me (or didn't grope me!) or called me flatchested (or said i had the best ass in the class), i'd have been dead by the time i was in the 8th grade.

and so she tells clay, please don't stay with me. and so he doesn't. and so therefore he sucks like the rest of mankind and has to be punished. she basically killed herself to punish her (relatively typical) classmates.

Amanda said...

so the library finally got this book in, and despite everyone hating it, i read it anyway. i completley agree with everything that has been said here. i immediately had this visceral reaction to hannah--right away i was annoyed with her need for attention (making the tapes in the first place) and her putting the blame on her listeners. i suppose i'm supposed to feel sympathetic to her--she was teased, groped, whispered about, whatever. of course none of that stuff is good, but come on. like erica said, it's pretty typical high school crap that she goes through. i just didn't like hannah at all. some of the writing/what hannah said just made me cringe: things along the lines of "did you notice the scars you left behind--you can't see them to the naked eye." it made me roll my eyes, partially because i wrote pathetic stuff like that in my journals when i was a teenager. i guess because her suicide felt like such an "i'll show you and you'll be sorry" type of thing, it just wasn't interesting. as dawn said, it lacked nuance.

also, i didn't enjoy all of the asides from clay being interspersed with the tapes. they were often totally pointless (things like, "i tear a blade of grass out of the gutter and stand to leave") and distracted me from the "tapes." like julie, i couldn't stand clay's overreacting. oh my god, are people looking at me? do they wonder why i have a walkman? do they know i'm not listening to music? blergh.

and finally, the only character in the entire book of any interest to me was tony, who was only a very minor part of the story.

i wonder why this book was universally reviewed well, yet none of us enjoyed it. i figured it would be right up my alley--i always like a good book about a downward spiral. but instead what i got here was the vengeful story of a self-absorbed teenager who managed to be annoying and unsympathetic even from the dead.

Danielle said...

You people are absolutely ridiculous. You're so focused on the "selfishness" of suicide, but you fail to see the level of seriousness it is accompanied with. I, myself, know a few people who have had suicidal thoughts and it has nothing to do with blame, or being selfish. The snowball effect in this book is what you seem to be missing.
It's like Newton's 3rd law of motion which states: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. While I don't think suicide is an entirely logical option, I don't believe we should reprimand anyone for thinking it's the only way out.

Some people have so much going on in their lives that they feel they've lost all control. As humans, when we feel we've lost control over everything, we decided to take back anything we can. For Hannah, this was her life. She had control over how long she lived or died, and that's all that mattered.

Making the tapes was necessary because Clay would've wondered what made her do such a drastic thing. Oftentimes, we don't realize what effect we have on people, and we also don't like to have our faults thrown to the world.
Do you think those people would've changed at all had she not flat out said "Hey, you screwed up my life"? The answer is no. Nobody changes unless they know what they've done wrong, and even then it’s hard to make an impact unless you do something drastic. I realize suicide tapes aren't the best way to get the message across, but IT'S A BOOK. It's supposed to grab your attention and convey a specific message. Sometimes we don’t realize how easily we let people slip away until something so riveting is put in our hands.

I've read this book twice, and I'm sure I'll be reading it again. I find it amazingly creative, and it draws attention things that people would rather ignore.