For those of you who don't know, this book is about a boy named Clay Jenson who gets a box of cassette tapes in the mail one day, and when he starts listening to them, he realizes they are from Hannah Baker, a girl in his school who killed herself a couple of weeks before. The tapes are the 13 reasons why she ended up taking her own life, hence the title.
The hardest thing to swallow in this book, but also one of it's greatest aspects was the role the grownups played...or didn't play. Aside from Clay's mom, I couldn't figure out where these kids' parents were. And I say this from both a parent's perspective and a kid's. Poor Hannah Baker's suicide seemed to be her parent's fault just as much as it was her own. Where in the heck were they when all of the blaring signs of suicide were manifesting themselves? Where were all the other kids' parents and why did they raise such despicable children? Truly, there were some seriously horrid characters in this book. Call me sheltered, but in all my school years, even into college, I never once encountered anybody as mean, spiteful and selfish as the nicest person in this book--well, except for Clay Jenson; I knew a lot of people like him. But I shutter to think of my child coming up against a Bruce or a that Crimson girl, and yet unfortunately, I know kids in the real world are like that and do this kind of stuff to each other on a daily basis.
But my rant aside, there were some other great points made in this book, particularly about how it's important to reach out when you're suicidal, or if you notice suicidal signs in someone else. As an adult, it was a good reminder to remember that a teenager's problems are just as big to them as my problems are to me--sometimes much bigger, because the world kids are growing up in is a lot scarier than it was for me. Just like we have a hard time seeing the bigger picture, so do they, and we need to take their concerns seriously.
I also appreciated the message for teens, that our actions really and truly do affect those around us, whether we're the ones bullying, or the one who ultimately ends up taking our life because of the bullying. It's just a big circle, and what goes around most certainly will eventually come around. That, I know to be true.
Finally, it was blatantly clear that Hannah Baker had no self-esteem or self-respect, and the lack of one fed off the other. Too often, she played the victim and left her fate in the hands of other people. Rather than taking an active role in dispelling degrading rumors about herself, or in demanding that other people respect her, she did nothing. Bullies are cowards, and often times, standing up for yourself is the surest way to get them to stop. You never know who else will follow your example and be better off because you were courageous.
All in all, I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars for it's thought provoking message. It was a bitter read, and while there was some unnecessary stuff, it wasn't all bitter for the sake of being bitter. Like Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'urbervilles, in the end, it caused me to think, and that is the purpose of a book like this. However, this book is definitely not for the faint of heart. Read at your own peril. For instance, if you find yourself too gloomy afterward, three or four episodes of Psyche are a great antidote. :)
And now, I'm going to go cuddle up my little boy and snuggle him with hugs and kisses so that he never forgets that he's loved and cherished, and my most precious treasure.