Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

Writing was invented to enable easy sharing of knowledge. Fortunately, unlike sharing food or sharing an apartment, sharing knowledge does not take knowledge away from you. It should not affect you in any other way. There should not be side effects.

However, putting something down in writing forces you to think. And that, does have side effects.

Just like in quantum mechanics – one can’t observe a phenomenon without altering its state. – yes, I’m bad at making quantum mechanics analogies.

I’m mostly writing this post… for the sake of getting the book out of my mind, so I can sleep tonight.

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It’s dark. Dark. Dark. Dark.

It’s the story of a teenage girl, Hannah, who, for a variety of reasons building one upon another into a huge snowball, ended up committing suicide.

The narration follows Clay, who has a secret crush on Hannah, as he listens through a series of cassette tapes left by Hannah before she kills herself, in which she tells her story, as she sees it. Each tape corresponds to someone in her life, and what they did to contribute to her death. The tapes are sent to everyone on the list, including Clay.

The tapes went from fairly innocent and funny, the teenage girl date-y sexy stuff, to things that are much much scarier. Her tone also gets progressively darker as the story goes on. She remained humorous throughout the entire ordeal, which is pretty cool… the transition from light  humour to black humour.

One can tell that the author is not very experienced – the writing is not terribly sophisticated, which, in a way, is good because it makes the book a very easy read, and I don’t really want to spend ages reading this book (because of how heavy it is).

On the other hand, the premise of the story is pretty cool, and while the realization could have been a little more impressive, it’s good enough to generate some momentum to keep the story going.

Some people call the plot suspenseful, and I find that very interesting. It’s made clear in the very beginning how the story is going to play out, with the story just showing the reader the way there, so that’s definitely not the suspenseful part. In fact, there is really no suspense, or Disney moments, in the story. One event follows another, then another, then another. But I find there is another kind of suspense – the unconscious expectation that something good will happen to save the girl. We are all used to plots like that – most movies or popular novels have good endings, for the simple reason that people like to read/watch good endings, and books and movies with good endings sell better.

This one doesn’t. In the beginning, the author promises the reader to deliver a tragedy, from beginning to finish, and he followed through on that promise. That is pretty cool. Rationally, did I really think there will be a good ending? No. I just wasn’t able to convince my unconscious mind to think the same way.

Overall, for 3 hours of time and $10.99, I would recommend it. It’s different from most books I’ve read, and quite refreshing.