The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.
I’ve actually been putting off writing this review. I finished this book well over a week ago, and had I written a review straight away, it would have been a rambling mess of emotion written through my own tears.
This book isn’t perfect, and there were things that occasionally irritated me about the characters, but I am giving this book 5 stars because of the intense emotional impact it had on me. If you have never been bullied, then you are unlikely to experience this book in the same way I did. If you have been bullied in the past or are being bullied right now, then I suspect you will find this book very emotional, especially if you have ever reached the stage of not knowing how much more you can take.
Even two weeks on from starting this book, I’m still not sure how I would have felt if I read this book as a teenager during the time I was being bullied. Would it have helped me or not? I really can’t answer that question.
I started feeling suicidal in my mid-teens due to bullying. Luckily for me, my parents worked out something was wrong, and managed to get me to open up. They contacted the school and put a stop to it. This book made me question what might have happened if the bullying hadn’t stopped, and I’d slipped deeper and deeper into depression. Would I have ended my life? What a huge loss that would have been.
When you’re young everything seems so overwhelming. A broken heart is the end of the world and you’ll never love another person. Humiliation means you can’t show your face in public ever again. But now I look at all the things I’ve experienced and achieved since a decade of on and off bullying during my years at school. I wouldn’t describe myself as confident, but I certainly have much higher self-esteem than when I was at school. Over the years I’ve got very good at pretending to be confident, and that really helps you get on in life. My life is far from perfect, but focusing on the positives helps me deal with the negatives. I experienced my first love, my first job, studied a fascinating degree at university, made loads of wonderful friends over the years, met my husband who I’ve been with for twenty years, run my own online retail business, lived all over England, had dogs of my own, seen my extended family expand, and of course, read so many wonderful books. To think I might have given all that up because of bullies that probably don’t even remember who I am!
By the end of this book I was so emotionally drained after my mind had spent three days back in the corridors of my old school. It did raise another question though. What would past bullies think of this book? Would they even accept that they were bullies at school or have they conveniently forgotten that? Would they make this book out to be trivial? Perhaps it would remind them of the thrill they got out of bullying the shy kid at school, or would it make them feel guilty about their actions?
If there is anything to be learnt from this book, it is to treat people kindly. Listen to and be there for friends and family. Even those that appear fine may be struggling with something in their life, and you could be that person to help them open up and deal with it. Smile at strangers in the street. Talk to the person all on their own on the bus. Don’t underestimate the power of compassion. You might just make that person’s day and perhaps even change the direction of their life!
If you are reading this review and are a victim of bullying or feeling suicidal, please believe me when I say there is a way through it and things can get better. Your life is yours alone. Make the most of that life. Stay strong!
*Sigh of relief* I managed to write this review without crying. Just. Phew!
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