*This review will contain spoilers. Also, because of my role as an educator, I’m approaching this book from that perspective. I’m seeing it both as an interested reader and someone who works with teenagers every day.*
Synopsis from Goodreads: Clay Jensen doesn’t want anything to do with the tapes Hannah Baker made. Hannah is dead. Her secrets should be buried with her. Then Hannah’s voice tells Clay that his name is on her tapes– and that he is, in some way, responsible for her death. All through the night, Clay keeps listening. He follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his small town. . .and what he discovers changes his life forever.
Feelings: I’ve been putting off writing this review because of all the hype surrounding both this book and the Netflix adaptation of it. I have read the book and seen the show, and quite frankly I see them as totally different stories.
In this BOOK, it’s very clear by the end, in my opinion, that Hannah is not seeking to place blame, but rather bring instances to peoples’ attention in the hopes that what happened to her wouldn’t happen again. Hannah shares her point of view on events where no one had previously cared about her input. She paints a different picture than Clay, and other characters, had seen before and she opens their eyes. The BOOK made me uncomfortable but in a good way. It made me want to see people a little bit better than I do now, to see their hurt and their feelings. And I’d like to think that was the whole point.
Issues: I really didn’t have issues with the BOOK. At first, I felt like it was all about casting blame and sending a message that the only way to be heard is once you’re dead. However, that narrative changed as the story went on.
Sometimes it got confusing, going back and forth between Hannah’s words and Clay’s thoughts. But I see why the author chose to write it that way.
Characters: I couldn’t put this book down. I needed to finish the journey with Clay and try and understand Hannah better. I was so invested after the first few pages. It’s different when you know what happens to a person from the very first page, then work backward to figure out how they got to that point. Clay was a great POV to read from; he’s kind and caring, hopeful and bright. He wasn’t whiny or annoying like some teenager perspectives can be.
The author doesn’t make it seem like Hannah only had one option, but shows us how she tried to reach out and never found what she needed, emotionally. He doesn’t try and justify her choice, just show her side of things. I think a lot of young people needed to see that and to feel what those left behind would feel after such a loss.
Comparisons: You guys, I honestly was upset while watching the Netflix SHOW. I wanted to throw up, it made me so physically uncomfortable. Unlike the BOOK, the uncomfortable feeling wasn’t a good thing. I didn’t feel motivated to help people. The characters constantly belittle Hannah and others going through similar feelings, they pity themselves and change the narrative to be about their own troubles, and we see struggling characters make the same desperate choices. There was no hope. No motivations to change our world. Just graphic depictions of suicide and more bullying. I can’t stress enough to parents to be careful letting your children watch this show. Reading the book is one thing. The show shouldn’t be targeted to a teenage audience. Parents, be in the know. And for the love, have conversations. The SHOW was just picked up for a second season and we have no idea what direction it will take, since the book is done. I know I’ll watch it because I’m so curious, but I also know that I won’t enjoy it. Parents, also be aware that people are now saying things like, “This will be on your tape,” when they get frustrated, referring to this book.
Final thoughts: I really respect what Jay Asher did with this story. He doesn’t glorify suicide or make excuses for something that’s so awfully realistic. If you’re a teenager in a situation similar to Hannah, know that talking to a trusted adult isn’t always a waste of time. Some of us are ready and willing to do anything it takes to help you. If one conversation fails, try another one. You’re worth the time and effort.
Goodreads rating: 4.04/5
Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5
My rating: 4.25/5
Happy reading! – Caitlyn