Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Review and a Lesson For Life - Thirteen Reasons Why

How many times does it happen that you say something to somebody very casually and she takes a big offense? Or others blame you for their unhappiness no matter how small or irrelevant that sounds to you? 

I recently got very upset with my best friend and couldn't talk to her properly for months. She kept explaining that she didn't say it intentionally and that she didn't mean it the way I took her statements but nothing gave me respite. It was only after her apology that I calmed myself down and we are back to normalcy (that's the good thing about good friends, the friendship doesn't fade away with time). 


The book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is one such book that tells you how our lives are intwined with each other and how, unknowingly and unknowingly, we impact others' lives in more profound way than we can imagine. 


I ordered the book from Flipkart after having it recommended by a list compiled by a voracious reader online. I love reading memoirs and this one is a memoir too so I got onto reading it as soon as I got my hands on it. 

The book is about a fifteen year old young girl named Hannah Baker who commits suicide. Before killing herself, she leaves six cassette tapes in which she records her voice and explains the thirteen reasons why she committed suicide. She records the tapes, packs them in a box and gets them delivered to all the people who are responsible for her act. Each person who gets the tape has to pass them on to the next person in the list and the chain has to continue until all the names in the list of 'thirteen reasons' receive the tapes. 

We read the book in the words of Clay Jensen, a young boy who also receives the tapes from Hannah. He is not sure why he has received the tapes and listens to all of them to find out how and why he could be a reason for Hannah's death. 

Hannah explains all the thirteen reasons for her decision to end her life in the tapes and also talks about her agony and mental pain. 

The book takes us through the journey of a young girl in a new school and traverses across the various small yet murky incidents that take place in her life that can mar any young individual and particularly an adolescent woman. 

As we begin the book, the initial incidents do not seem to be so grueling only because we know such things happen everywhere. But as we progress further, we find out how every single incident during that time fueled Hannah's desperation to end her life. 

(Source: youtube.com)
The book does not involve any plot or murder scheme, instead it is he journey of a young girl in a new city, new school that bullies her from the day one. Typically, we expect a teenager book to delve into the topics of competitiveness, job placements, high scores and finding one's foot in the world but Thirteen Reasons Why looks at the smaller but most crucial aspects of life - friendship, trust and dignity. 

In the first few days of school, Hannah kisses a boy who later spreads the rumor that Hannah is easily available. Another boy then compiles a list of who's hot and who's not girls in the class and circulates it. He deliberately puts Hannah's name in the hot list and writes her best friend's name in the not list thus creating a rift between the two. 


Before killing herself, Hannah decides to seek help and anonymously drops a note about suicide for the prospective discussion in the class. The faculty and the students fail to actually help the note-writer and instead take it as a strategy to gain some attention which deeply affects Hannah. 

There are many more such incidents in the book that have prompted her to take such a drastic step. The narrator Clay is also on the list because he tried to help Hannah but he didn't try enough. 



The book is a compelling read. Once you turn over few pages, it becomes hard to put it down. You want to finish it soon to understand what really went inside Hannah's head. 

The language is simple and easy to understand. The narrative is impressive and grips you in way that as you read the book, you imagine Hannah's character and every person and place she mentions in the tape. 


Reading about a young teen's distressed state of mind and how several small incidents coupled together to bring her to the state of suicide. Along with this were few times when Hannah herself felt guilty of not being a good citizen, particularly when she meekly watched a drunk girl being raped and an accident claiming a life. 

The real change happens in Clay Jensen's life who is so moved by Hannah's story that in the end, he goes forward to say hello to a girl named Skye who has been developing suicidal tendencies just like Hannah. 

The way Hannah was able to change Clay's mind and heart after her death, the book also leaves profound effect on its readers. 

Poem by Jay Asher in Thirteen Reasons Why; source: Pinterest.com
After reading the book, I went into an introspection state where I looked back at my life and wondered how many times have I hurt others by saying or doing silly things. I also thought about other people who have deeply hurt me during school and college. There were students who made fun of me for silly reasons. The guy who once laughed at me when I couldn't pronounce a word right and the guy who compared my compared my complexion with a fair girl. There were girls who laughed at me (and other such girls) for no funny reasons. Thankfully I had many friends and a very supportive family, so I never thought about suicide. I was quite happy with life. 

But what if I didn't have good friends? What if I felt utterly alone when I was being laughed at? 

On the other hand, I also looked at the way when knowingly and unknowingly I also hurt others. I remembered how, when we were kids, I made fun of my sister once in front of my entire family and she cried a lot later. Now, as a grown up I feel ashamed of my act and can't even gather the courage to say sorry to her. 

The picture below tells how the author Jay Asher got the idea of the book. 




The book has reminded me to be a good human being and to just think before I speak. I would now take extra care and be more sympathetic towards other people.

Isn't it ironic that we need books to remind us that we shouldn't be rude to people and that we should practice kindness throughout plus we shouldn't ignore people for no reason? Sure, it is but as long as we learn to do better things, I am okay with wherever I learn from. 

I would highly recommend reading Thirteen Reasons Why. It is a must read. You might find it a little childish as it deals with high school students but if you go into a little depth, it does change your mind. It is a must read because it helps you to become a tad better human being. 

To purchase the book, click on the link below. It would take you straight to the Flipkart page.  The book is right now available at a small discount. 


4 comments:

  1. Wonderfully written di and I got inspired too as few years ago, I also had such thoughts when I was in school but thankfully I had my family to support me that time.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Manisha, yeah, times can be real tough sometimes but family is such a strong support system. How have you been?

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  2. Beautifully written di!!
    Often we forgive people but its impossible to forget.. I wish hum life k trash Memories ko delete kar pate aur ache moments ko bar bar play kar dubara jee pate..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Akanksha, yeah. I wish that too but we dont function like switch buttons so we have to work keeping such wise thoughts in mind. How are you doing?

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