Final Ruling: 3/5 stars
The one word I would use to describe this book would be… “underwhelming”. The book had a wonderful premise and was written in a very very interesting way, but it had the potential to be so much more than what it actually turned out to be.
Okay, let me begin by saying that overall, I totally loved the whole ‘vintage vibe’ of the book. The diner and the cassette tapes and the Walkman and the old Mustang and the milkshakes were all totally to die for, they were super cute and quirky and added an enchanting feel to the whole story. It made the whole thing seem really ethereal and very very much a ‘token young adult novel’. But what can I say, I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories. The premise of ‘reasons why’ after a girl kills herself is very very intriguing and allows the reader to step into Hannah’s mind, to truly begin to understand the impact we have on other people’s lives, and the unforeseen repercussions of what we believe to be harmless actions. Hannah’s struggle, and her reasons, were very beautifully conveyed, with light humor and an overall sense of non-reality, making the discussions within the tapes (which held the heaviest kind of reality) emerge in stark contrast to the method of communication. It makes you wonder, who else is thinking these same things? Have I unknowingly impacted somebody’s life in a negative way? What were the consequences of my past actions? Is someone close to me actually going through something unthinkable? Am I missing the signs? And the most haunting question of all: Could I have saved them? If I had looked closer, would I have been able to prevent this tragedy from occurring? Now, these really really hit close to home for me, because I have had multiple friends attempt suicide, with only one being successful, making Thirteen Reasons Why resonate all the more with me.
Okay, now onto the icky part: why I just could not bring myself to give this book more than 3 stars. Drum roll please…… it was the main character, Clay. When Clay first got the tapes and found out what they were about, I was very curious, wanting to know the secrets of his soul, what he did to affect this girl so very deeply. Instead, he was the one thing on the tapes that was not negative, a totally pure ray of sunshine who has done nothing wrong. His angelic soul was a major put-off for me, and quite frankly, a main character who is so clean cut and moral is agonizingly boring. Seriously, reading about Clay and his reactions in between Hannah’s tapes was downright painful, some of them I even skipped over, because they really weren’t necessary; all they did was familiarize me with a character that I really did not want to know more about. Now had he been on those tapes for a reason other than being kind and pure, I would have been intrigued, I would have gobbled up the descriptions of him and begged for more. But alas, that was not the case. Instead, Clay was a 2-dimensional character not interesting or complicated enough for me to make a connection with. I really wish that it were different, words cannot express just how much I wanted to love this book. I just couldn’t.
I would recommend this book to younger folks (or the young-minded) who seek to open their eyes to the world around them, and truly understand how their actions impact the lives of others.