I’d been meaning to read Thirteen Reasons Why for a while, call me morbid, but there’s something about death as a main theme in a book that makes me want to read it.
For those of you who don’t know, Thirteen Reasons Why follows the story of Clay Jensen, who arrives home from school one day to a package of cassette tapes which contain the voice of his crush, Hannah Baker. The only problem is, Hannah committed suicide two weeks before and the voice lets him know that if he’s listening to the tapes, he’s one of the thirteen reasons why she decided to die. There are seven tapes and each side contains one reason (the seventh tape is one sided) and one person who receives the tapes. After you listen to them all, you must send them to the person who’s story comes after yours.
The book is written so that Hannah’s story is in italics and Clay’s narration and feelings are in normal font. It has a really strong impact, as Clay has the gift of hindsight on his side and his comments and view on things makes everything so much deeper.
At first, the reasons don’t seem like much. Sure, they’re not the nicest things in the world to go through, but they’re not what would make the average person want to kill themselves. As the tapes keep going, however, each story snowballs into the next one until you can see just how Hannah lost all hope.
Suicide is an awfully common occurrence amongst teens – and people – of today. I’m sure everyone reading this at least knows of someone who has attempted, or succeeded, in it. School and magazines can tell us the warning signs and what not to do and how to react if we think someone is suicidal, but what Thirteen Reasons Why helps do is make it real. I know it’s a story, but the way it’s written, the way Hannah narrates it while poor Clay who only ever wanted to love her listens on in horror, makes you realise that everything you do, everything you say to someone has an impact. You might not think that what you’re doing is affecting someone, but chances are it is. It might be negatively, or it might be positively. Maybe your smile just stopped someone from thinking harmful thoughts, just for a moment. Maybe taking time to ask someone how they are, and actually listen, gave them renewed hope. Or, on the flipside, maybe believing those rumours that everyone swears are true is slowly ruining someones life. Maybe the snide look you gave that girl just because everyone else does will push her one step closer to the edge.
The thirteen people featured in Thirteen Reasons Why would never have dreamed that their actions could cause someone to end their life, but they did. It’s a message to all of us. We need to think before we speak and act. Think before we believe rumours. Think before we spread gossip. Think before we judge. We just need to think.
I know more than anyone how bitchy teenagers can be. I’ve been judged, and judged others, and I’m more than guilty of treating a rumour as gospel. I know how awful it is to be judged, I’ve changed groups and lost friends over it, numerous times, but thankfully there have always been people there for me to show me that life is not hopeless. Everyone deserves friends. Everyone deserves people to be there to push them back up, because life isn’t hopeless. There is always a silver lining, a new tomorrow, a fresh start. No matter how awful the world can feel at one particular moment, time keeps moving, the world keeps spinning, and before you know it, it’s a new day.
To quote Looking For Alaska, “We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and falling. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail”
No teenager deserves to die, especially when their death could have been prevented. If we all just think, if we all just remember to Treat Others How We Would Like To Be Treated, if we bother to take a moment from our day to ask someone how they are and actually take time to listen to the answer, maybe we could all save a life. It’s up to us. We have to prove to people who are hurting, people like Hannah who feel everything is too much and the only way through is out, that there is more to life, more to live for. That they are loved and always will be loved and that love will never stop. If we all took a moment out of our day to tell everyone close to us that we love them, and not in a ‘ily’ kind of way, maybe the world would be a happier place.
Right near the end of the book, as Clay finishes the tapes, there is the following quote, “… I can’t believe I just heard the last words I’ll ever hear from Hannah Baker. ‘I’m Sorry’. Once again, those were the words. And now anytime someone says I’m sorry, I’m going to think of her. But some of us won’t be willing to say those words back. Some of us will be too angry at Hannah for killing herself and blaming everyone else. I would have helped her if she’d only let me. I would have helped her because I want her to be alive.”.
In a way it’s so true. Hannah blames everyone else but in the end it is she who swallows the pills, she who decides that it’s not worth it anymore. As Clay says, he wants her to be alive. He would have helped her, she just didn’t give him the chance. And yes, sometimes that’s true. Sometimes people bury their feelings and we don’t know anything is wrong and they hide behind a mask until we get the news. That point makes everything so much more important. You don’t know which one of your friends are hurting, so help all of them. Don’t just be nice to someone because they are sad, be nice to them because you, and they, are human. As human’s we all deserve love and happiness and it’s our role to spread that joy.
So I challenge you, tell all your friends, and family, that you love them, truly love them, and will always be there for them to listen, as a shoulder to cry on, to laugh with, whatever. Just that you will always be there for them no matter what, and that nothing is ever hopeless.
frangipani princess xoxo