I read this book on the recommendation of the wonderful Mojito Maven. She was talking about great it was and how it made her think and just truly touched her. So instantly I knew I had to read it. Even better, it’s considered a young adult fiction book. And before you scoff that these adults are reading YA books, read this. It can apply to so many people, and even if you don’t know anyone who committed suicide, you can learn lessons from this book about how we affect others, even when we don’t mean to.
The book is told from two points of view. Hannah, through her tapes that she recorded before she committed suicide (the book cover tells you that. I didn’t ruin anything.) and Clay, one of the people on the tapes. This was just such a neat concept. You get to hear Hannah’s stories about the 13 people on the tapes, but you also get Clay’s insights as he’s listening. He adds other information Hannah leaves out and re tells some of stories as he remembers them. Asher really does a fantastic job with this book.
I don’t want to give away everything, but the overall theme is that even small actions, affect other people whether we know it or not. It’s a snowball effect. One minor event can cause a bunch of otherwise seeming unrelated events that just spiral out of control.
Each side of a tape is about a different person and how that person somehow lead to her suicide. Most aren’t obvious, like you might imagine, but rather smaller events that just kept piling up on this girl. Almost every character had done something that hurt Hannah, but also something that they wouldn’t want other people to know about. This is her chance to get it all out there for those listening, but whether the information spreads beyond the 14 people us up to them. If they tell the secrets, then it’s their fault, not hers.
At times I was mad at Hannah. She gave up. Not only did she give up, she, potentially, brought down a lot of other people with her. Yes, some, no, most, completely deserved it and more. But at the same time, she knew she wasn’t going to be around to face them after. But again, I don’t want to call her a coward. I think she honestly believed it was her only choice because her world kept crashing in around her and people kept letting her down. But was this the right course of action? And I thought there were points in the story that she had chances to change what was going on, but she chose to continue on her path of self-destruction. But again, how do I know? And that’s the thing. Like Hannah says in the book, we never truly know what is going on in anyone else’s life or head, other than our own. Even our spouses and closest friends have thoughts and experiences that we know nothing about. So who am I to judge anyone’s decisions because I have no idea what caused those actions.
See, in one paragraph I’ve explored all sorts of angles and I still can’t decide how I feel about. But the book is fascinating and heart wrenching and emotional.
And poor Clay. He always had a crush on Hannah and never really got the chance he should have had with her. But his insight into the events Hannah describes just adds to her story. Her story that people would rather believe rumors than get to know a person. Even Clay admits he believed some of them, even if he didn’t want them to be true.
We all remember high school. Some of you were the popular ones with a million friends and you wouldn’t mind reliving those days. Others, you somehow wonder how you survived. You got picked on or bullied. Or even worse. You were ignored. But either way, everyone can connect and relate to this book. Even if you never experienced the things mentioned, you heard about it or you were hoping no one found out a secret about you. Maybe you’re still hoping no one finds out.
I think this book can be powerful and important for many people on many levels. Sure, it gives high school kids a book that discusses some things that most teachers and parents don’t feel comfortable talking about until it’s too late. It gives teachers a better insight into their students and gives them more of a reason to better pay attention to the warning signs. And with the recent bullying and suicides, just simply look out for the students and do something if you see a student being attacked, whether verbally, physically, or emotionally. And just as human beings, this book truly shows how some small remark or jab at someone can be harmful. And how we’re much more connected than we think.
I really hope you will read it. And when you do, please tell me so we can talk about it. I know I said spoilers, but I also don’t want to give away too much. But I’m dying to know how others feel and what emotions this brought out in them. Go read it and see how your view changes. I promise that it will.