Book review by Saima Bukhtiar
“No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”
In 13 Reasons why, Jay Asher talks about a couple of very difficult topics; depression and suicide. The book highlights some of the social factors that lead to teenagers committing suicide. Hannah Baker is the main character. She’s new in school and has an opportunity to a fresh start. Alex, whom she considered a friend, makes a list of “who’s hot, who’s not.” Someone decides to put Hanna’s name on the list of “hot people.” It’s supposed to be a joke according to Alex’s perspective, however, due to this list circulating in the school, Hannah’s reputation gets scarred. What was meant as a joke, leads to students behaving unreasonably with Hannah. Instead of treating her like a human, they think of her as an object who is “easy.” Each person contributes in their own way, ultimately making Hannah give up and take her own life.
Before committing suicide, Hannah records 13 reasons why she took her life. Each side of the cassette talks about the role one of the people in her life played in breaking her spirit. She feels so shattered that even though she is surrounded by people who care for her, she feels worthless. Hannah has feelings for Clay, and Clay likes her back, however she pushes him away in the fear of tainting his reputation by being associated with her. She feels she is not worthy of Clay. In one of her classes, the teacher distributes a flyer describing the signs one shows before succumbing to suicide. Hannah unconsciously follows the same steps, but no one around her picks up on these signs.
“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.
The lesson this books resonates deeply in its readers is to be kinder than necessary, one never knows what sort of challenges someone is going through. Every little act of kindness counts. In addition to depression and suicide, this book addresses themes like bullying and indifference. Things that a person might think are small and insignificant, can be detrimental to the other. 13 Reasons why, is a book for young adults, however, it’s a must read for parents. It makes it easier, as a parent, to understand the social challenges their teenagers might be facing. It makes one aware of what signs to look for and be sensitive to, in order to give emotional support to a struggling child. As adults, we are aware that life phases are temporary and by taking the right steps we can pull ourselves out of any situation. On the other hand, teenagers believe that they will remain stuck in that situation permanently. Hannah believed her reputation was lost forever. Her one chance to start over was gone. There is a Netflix TV series adaptation of the book. The show builds a better understanding of the characters, even though the events have been somewhat changed from the book.
Suicide should never be an option. No matter how convinced you are that you do not matter, look a little harder and you will always find someone who cares, someone who wants to see you smile, someone who wants you in their life.
“To the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.”