Thirteen Reasons Why – by Jay Asher (2007) part 2


There were some things about this book that I could appreciate. First off, the author’s tackling of a subject that is uncomfortable. No one wants to acknowledge that friends, parents, and teachers sometimes miss the signs that a person is deeply depressed and ready to kill themselves. Some people wear their emotions on their sleeve, and everyone knows how they are feeling. But other people mask their emotions, so no one knows their private agony. If this book gets people talking and makes them aware that someone near and dear to them is contemplating suicide, that’s a good thing.

Second, it illustrates perfectly how deadly gossip and rumors can be. The things we say about people can destroy lives. Sometimes there’s a little truth mixed in with the false rumor, but that can be just as deadly as a total lie.

Third, there are moments in the story when Hannah perfectly expresses what a person contemplating suicide can feel like. Here are several excerpts from the cassette tapes:

“Yes, there are some major gaps in my story. Some parts I just couldn’t figure out how to tell. Or couldn’t bring myself to say out loud. Events I haven’t come to grips with…that I’ll never come to grips with. And if I never have to say them out loud, then I never have to think them all the way through.”

“You don’t know what went on in the rest of my life. At home. Even at school. You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything affects everything.”

Lastly, the book does not contain graphic detail or raunchy language, unlike the Netflix version. No, I did not watch the tv series on Netflix, but did check out the content advisory on the International Movie Database website:
There are marked differences between the book and the movie. For example, in the book there is no detailed description of Hannah’s suicide by taking an overdose of pills. In the tv version, unfortunately, they felt the need to sensationalize her death, and switched it to a graphic scene of her slitting not just one but both of her wrists and bleeding to death.

The next time you pop on Netflix and you see 13 Reasons Why in the suggestions, please, please pass on it. Once your eyes have seen something, there is no way to un-see it. If you are in the unfortunate situation that your young person has already watched it, either at home or a friends house, you need to talk with them about it. (You will have to decide for yourself if it’s necessary to read the book or watch the tv series so that you can have an intelligent conversation about it.) This story is just too disturbing to leave un-discussed once it’s seen or read.


Thirteen Reasons Why – by Jay Asher (2007) part 1

Thirteen Reasons Why

In 2007 author Jay Asher published his first book – a young adult/teen novel about a girl who commits suicide, and leaves a set of cassette tapes to explain why she killed herself. The book soared to the top of the New York bestsellers list, won a number of awards, and was published in 35 countries around the world. In March 2017, Netflix released a series based on the story, which has renewed public interest in the book again.

I picked up a copy of the book at my local library. It was an engrossing read, a chance to see the world through the eyes of 17-year-old Hannah Baker. Her monologue on the tapes shows how each one of thirteen people influenced her decision to kill herself. What starts off as a sweet first kiss and nothing more, is twisted into lies and rumors about Hannah being promiscuous. The rumors remain unchallenged, and her reputation is trashed.

As sorry as I felt for the character of Hannah, I was equally disturbed by the hopelessness that permeated the novel. She was consistently portrayed as a victim that was powerless to do anything about the situation. Her parents are nowhere to be found in the story, aside from Hannah saying they don’t care. The teacher that confiscates the “who’s hot” list doesn’t do anything about it. Clay Jensen, the guy who is listening to the tapes throughout the book, has loved Hannah from a distance, but has been too timid to do anything to help her. And not one of the other girls encourages her or tries to correct the rumor.

There were times when I saw glimmers of hope and thought: this is your chance Hannah, say something, tell someone! Like when Clay is trying to help her at the party and she just tells him to go away. Or the guy who sees her crying in the cafe after another guy tries to fondle her, and says he’s sorry for whatever just happened and tries to be kind. Again, she refuses to speak. And the scene when she talks to the school counselor and tells him some vague things, then walks out of the room. (She did say enough enough that the counselor really should have talked to her parents.) Hannah just doesn’t speak up to defend herself, not until she’s recording her suicide tapes.

The other thing that really bothered me was how premeditated some of Hannah’s actions were. 1 – The cassette tapes are not recorded on a whim, but over a series of days. 2 – Hannah stages a lesbian make-out scene in her bedroom with another girl when she knows the yearbook photographer is peeking in the window. 3 – Hannah window-peeks on the photographer, and seems gleeful about it. 4 – Hannah willingly gets into a hot-tub with a guy that she knew had raped another girl, and says she knew what was going to happen next. So instead of the suicide being something done in the midst of a depressed moment, it seems to be a calculated event done for effect. Consider this excerpt from Hannah’s monologue:

“…one: You listen. Number two: You pass it on. Hopefully, neither one will be easy for you. When you’re done listening to all thirteen sides – because there are thirteen sides to every story – rewind the tapes, put them back in the box, and pass them on to whoever follows your little tale. And you, lucky number thirteen, you can take the tapes straight to hell. Depending on your religion, maybe I’ll see you there. In case you’re tempted to break the rules, understand that I did make a copy of these tapes. Those copies will be released in a very public manner if this package doesn’t make it through all of you. This was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. Do not take me for granted again. You are being watched.”

Continued in part 2:

To Kill A Mockingbird – by Harper Lee (1960)

To Kill A Mockingbird

“To Kill A Mockingbird” centers around the Finch family in the small fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression. The head of the household is Atticus, a widower and a lawyer, a man of deep religious and moral convictions. He has a son – Jem, a daughter – Jean Louise (Scout), and a black housekeeper – Calpurnia. Atticus is older than most fathers of young children in town, and the Finch family lives in a neighborhood of mostly senior citizens, so the children grow up mostly playing by themselves and being around older people. The first 80 pages or so focus on the day-to-day life and conversations of the Finch family, and set the base for the rest of the book.

Then the story really takes off. Atticus becomes the defense attorney for a black man charged with attempted rape of a white woman. As it is the 1930’s, there is still widespread segregation and mistrust between the two races. Many in town consider it disgraceful that Atticus is trying to get Tom Robinson acquitted. The racial prejudice affects everyone in town, either directly or indirectly.

There are many things to love in this classic novel – the close brother-sister relationship of Jem and Scout, the quirky character of the neighbors, the mystery of the man across the street, the depth of Atticus’ nature, and the two sides to Calpurnia. The amusing conversations of the children are mixed into the story to keep it from becoming too heavy and depressing. The account of the trial is very well written, and makes Atticus shine.

But the thing I enjoy most about this book is the way Atticus speaks to his children, as if they are grown-ups not children. He instills in them a love and respect for people of all racial and social groups. It doesn’t seem to bother him in the slightest when others disagree with him and mock him. Atticus teaches his family to walk to the beat of a different drummer, and to not be afraid when trouble comes.


“Scout,” said Atticus, “when summer comes you’ll have to keep your head about far worse things . . . it’s not fair for you and Jem, I know that, but sometimes we have to make the best of things, and the way we conduct ourselves when the chips are down – well, all I can say is, when you and Jem are grown, maybe you’ll look back on this with some compassion and some feeling that I didn’t let you down. This case, Tom Robinson’s case, is something that goes to the essence of a man’s conscience – Scout, I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man.”

“Atticus, you must be wrong . . .”

“How’s that?”

“Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong . . .”

“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”