Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This is probably THE MOST topical book to read about right now. After the release of the TV show, and all the problems that came with it (seriously, research the well-deserved uproar about the representation of depression and suicide) this book has been getting a lot more attention. And yes, I was desperate to read it to see how it all matched up, and nervous, too, that the portrayal would be potentially triggering or harmful. You can’t avoid it. While I’m sure the message of the book isn’t to condone revenge suicide, or suggest that bullying others is the best response to being bullied yourself, I was so aware that those are things you could take away from it. Keeping all that in mind, here are my thoughts.
Hannah’s perspective was my favourite. I would have given the book five stars if the story was just her monologue on the tapes. It was the main hook of the story, after all, and her voice kept me emotionally invested, even though you know what happens before the book even begins. She was so real, and honest and I was struck by the fact that once she entered the toxic spiral, there was no way out. There was strength there too, among all the weakness. The way the reasons build towards something much bigger, and range from the smallest incidences of disregard to severely mentally damaging events was amazing. It’s the kind of book that’ll always be relevant.
Clay, on the other hand….I could have done without him. I didn’t see his purpose, AT ALL. Sure, he’s a mediator. He’s the way for the reader to listen to the tapes, but wouldn’t it have been so interesting if the reader was implicated somehow? Then there would have been no escape. I found Clay’s perspective irrelevant for the most part, just telling us where he was on the map, or that he wished Hannah hadn’t spiralled the way she did. Some parts even sounded a little victim-blame-y, which was not cool. (Plus, Clay’s inclusion in the tapes is such a cop out, too. He was just as guilty of taking on the mindset of some of the morally corrupt guys in the book, don’t think I didn’t notice.)
My one wish for the book was for it either to be entirely in Hannah’s voice, or show the lives of every ‘reason’ once they got the tapes. There was nothing special about Clay, compared to some of the other tape receivers that could have offered a more hard-hitting POV. I think this is where the show may thrive over the book…
I’ve only seen one episode of the TV show, but after reading this, I think the power is definitely in the written word. If you’ve only seen the show, read the book too. It’s eye-opening, or life-sucks-affirming but teaches a lesson that we should all be more aware of our actions, and reach out to those who look a little lost.