Another overrated teenage book I finished fairly recently. I figured that since I made a review of The Fault in Our Stars - which was easily one of my most hated books ever just because of how it was praised as some kind of classic - I might as well do one for another book that I hate but most others still seem to like.
The story is an interesting one that has a lot of potential. The book tells the story of a teenage girl named Hannah who took her own life and sent a package containing audio tapes and a map to the thirteen people who she felt caused her to fall so deep into despair that death was the only way out. One of the thirteen, named Clay, who narrates the tale, listens to all of the recordings in one night and wanders his town visiting the places where Hannah mentions with each new tape.
I never would have expected a plot like this to be as boring and insipid as it turned out. The first two-thirds of the book, despite being relatively well-written, is boring as tar. Almost nothing actually happens other than Hannah telling (in a way that does not at all seem to fit what the mind of a young girl about to kill herself would speak) her "victims" every little drama and problem she had to endure and it's really about as entertaining as listening to an audiobook of War and Peace in a foreign language. Thankfully the last third is marginally more interesting because the last few events actually don't seem like typical sixteen-year-old-girl high-school woes, but I don't think I've had to actually struggle through a young adult book until I piked up Thirteen Reasons Why.
Although there are many characters mentioned in this book, I only remember two- Hannah and Clay. All the rest of them I completely forgot right down to the names because they are so bland and never did anything I found interesting.
Hannah herself is one of the most whiny, melodramatic, petty human beings I have ever encountered in literature. The so-called "reasons" for her to give up on everything include having her name in a box called "Best Ass", having a boy spy on her while she changes in front of an open window (don't call the police on him or anything...) and getting into a hot tub with a boy who tries to finger her. Instead of going to authorities for the more serious incidents and ignoring the minor ones, like most teenage girls would actually do, she chooses to kill herself and record chapter-long monologues on every little thing the bad guys did wrong to her so they can spend the rest of their lives wallowing in guilt. She's completely one-dimensional, unrealistic and, as I said earlier, so painfully petty that I find it impossible that anyone could ever find her likeable.
Clay, thankfully, is very different from her. While I think he feels way too much for Hannah once she's dead, and doesn't have any very strong reactions to anything throughout the entire book, he at least feels more real than her and has a bit more depth to him. Still, he's not very interesting either and I wish he would have gotten more time in the book to actually do and say more things than he does because a huge portion of it is just Hannah's tapes- which, I'm about to explain, are the worst part of this entire book.
Much like The Fault in Our Stars, the writing in this book alternates between being decent and being unbearable. The decent parts are the narration other than Hannah's tapes- it feels a bit too bare-bones at times and moves a bit quicker than I would like, but it's definitely readable and reasonably entertaining.
The tapes, on the other hand, are so dull that it's almost hard to follow what's going on in Hannah's narration. She adds in so many unnecessary details like colors and her voice sounds so unlike that of someone dealing with emotional turmoil that I honestly don't recall a single complete line at any point in the book. It's not quite as painful or obnoxious as the TFiOS monologues, but since there's way more of these here, I think this book's writing is even worse than that with all things considered.
Thirteen Reasons Why sounds like a promising book on the surface and is an easy, quick read, but unless you're really into teenage melodrama and can forgive a serious subject being handled in an extremely romanticized and petty way, you will enjoy this book. If that doesn't appeal to you, don't bother picking it up. You're not missing much.
Final Grade: 3/10
Reviewed by Grizzly Bear