Monday, February 13, 2012

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

It's been a while since I've read this book, but I feel the need to review it because it seems that so many people just love it. I'm not sure why. This book made me angry. If you don't know the premise, it is about a girl who, before her suicide, has put together 13 tapes, one each for the people she believes contributed to her death. After her suicide, she has them sent to the first person and instructs that person to send them to the next, and so on.

I'm not an expert on suicide and I haven't lost anyone very close to me to suicide, so maybe I'm not the best person to write about this. But I'm going to anyway. I'll try to be as sensitive as possible. My goal here is not to offend anyone.

To me, this book condones blaming others for suicide. I don't think that's the right message. Instead of dealing with her issues, the girl looks for reasons to be upset with people. Even when she talks to her counselor, he says one wrong thing that she doesn't like, and checks that off as another reason for her to kill herself. I think in a way this book glorifies suicide and focuses on blaming others for our problems.

I think what this book was trying to do was to show that we should treat everyone with respect and we should reach out to people who seem like they may be having trouble because we never know what is going on in that person's life. I do agree with that message. However, in today's world I think we focus too much on stopping the bullying and do not focus enough on teaching people who are bullied how to deal with it. Yes, I think bullying is wrong and should be stopped. I think we should never treat people badly and should always be aware that something might be going on in their life which we can never begin to understand. As a teacher, I will always do my best to be vigilant about looking out for bullying and trying to stop it if I can. But bullying will ALWAYS exist. In school, in the workplace- everywhere. It's the sad truth. In addition to trying to spread awareness of bullying and prevention, we need to teach those victims of bullying how to deal with it in ways that aren't self-destructive.

Ultimately, I don't like the idea this book presents that others should be blamed for someone's suicide. People handle things differently, and I think focusing on the victim and helping them find positive ways to deal with things is the answer. What scares me most about this book is that so many young adults are reading it and may not be seeing the message they are meant to see. I can see that what Asher is trying to say is that people should treat each other with kindness and respect. However, what I'm afraid teenagers will see is that if they are having problems, they should quietly blame others for those problems and act out by doing something irreversible.

2 Stars
As much as I wanted to give this one star, I do recognize its merit. It can be used as a gateway for many important conversations between parents and teens regarding suicide, sex, bullying, depression, and other topics.

Teacher Advisories
Sex 3/5
Sex is mentioned and is a catalyst for what the protagonist does to herself. There is one scene that is slightly explicit.
Language 1/5
The names the girl is called are a bit explicit and I believe she uses some language herself (again, it's been a while)
Substance Abuse 1/5
Teenage drinking occurs.

Touchy Subjects
This is the whole premise for the book. It's from the point of view of a girl who commits suicide and explores why she does it.
A huge catalyst for why she commits suicide. The bullying comes in all forms and is done by many different types of people.
Sexual abuse
There is a scene of blatant sexual abuse, and one in which it is a bit vague whether it is abuse- regardless, sexual abuse is present in this novel.

1 comment:

  1. You know I agree with you. When I read this book a few months after it came out, I thought it had quite a bit of potential to make an important statement or two about suicide and bullying but instead the victim makes a victim out of the main character in this book. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this read.
    New follower and I'm really enjoying your reviews. Found you through "The Things you can read's" blog!

    --Sharmin @


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us!