So, after an incredibly tiring and jam-packed month, I finally finished a 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I’d hoped to have it finished sooner, but, you know. Things happen. And the incredibly slow beginning didn’t help either. (It did get better, though!)
The premise is pretty straight-forward: Clay Jensen receives a set of tapes detailing a series of events and the people involved in said events that lead Hannah Baker to commit suicide. Being a part of the tapes, it’s his task to listen to her story and then pass the tapes on to the next person in the narrative.
At first, I didn’t like it. The events in Hannah’s narrative didn’t seem to connect in any way and the characters involved seemed to all blend together thanks to a lack of physical descriptions. Clay’s parallel narrative was bland and boring and he didn’t really do much beyond listen to Hannah’s tapes and have a bunch of self-loathing.
But then it picked up. Hannah’s tapes began to connect and while the characters still lacked a sense of uniqueness, they began to pop up in other tapes. The incidents escalated and the stakes rose with each tape, and while never physically present—this story takes place a few weeks after Hannah has committed suicide—Hannah became the story’s most well-rounded and interesting character.
Clay’s narrative, however, remained just as dull. The physical obstacles he faces aren’t really obstacles. They get resolved without any struggle, as if they’re simply placed in to give Clay something to do other than listen to the tapes. He steals a Walkman from his somewhat-friend, Tony, and when Tony confronts him about it, Tony just lets him keep it without getting mad. When Clay’s mom calls to check up on him, she’s just like, “Sure, okay, have fun being out.”
And his emotional obstacles don’t change. He stays sad. He stays mad. He stays feeling guilty, and while these emotions are valid and they are realistic, without change, they aren’t interesting. Clay cuts into Hannah’s narrative from time to time to relate how bad he feels about having her gone, but when that’s the only feeling he shows the reader, it gets repetitive.
I think what was holding me back at the beginning of this story was that I focused more on Clay’s narrative. He’s the person who receives the tapes. This should be about him. But the more I read, the more I realized that this story isn’t Clay’s—it’s Hannah’s. Pay attention to her tapes, and you’re sure to enjoy this book.