Tag Archives: suicide

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, paperback novel, 288 pages, first published 2007, this edition published by Razorbill in 2011.

When Clay receives an anonymous package containing a series of cassette tapes, he is startled to discover they contain the voice of his friend and love interest, Hannah Baker. Her voice comes to him from the grave, describing and explaining the reasons behind her decision to end her own life.

Thirteen Reasons Why had been on my to read list for quite a while. But I have a confession to make; I actually watched the Netflix series before reading the book! I know, I know, I do usually read the book first, but I was sick, and sad, and the series looked interesting…. Anyway, I watched it, and I loved it.

I also liked the book, but this is one of those rare occasions where I preferred the screen version. The acting, casting and soundtrack were all good, but it was the emotiveness of the story that stuck with me. I felt Hannah becoming isolated, I felt her sadness, her resignation, and her acceptance. I also felt her parents’ devastation and the repercussions her death had on her family, on Clay and on Tony, and the ripples that moved through the wider school community. It is those left behind that are also victims of suicide, but it is rare that they have a chance to understand the reasons behind the final act.

Knowing the outcome from the start, knowing that Hannah takes her life before we even get a feel for her, made this novel an haunting memoir of a life at risk. It explored the many facets that can intertwine and connect leading to depression and suicide in teens. Even a small act can change the course of a life forever, and you can never predict what consequences will be wrought.

The Netflix series had thirteen parts; an episode for each side of each tape. That was an hour dedicated to each story Hannah tells. This allowed the characters to be fleshed out and explained in a way not usually encountered in a film or TV adaptation. There was so much more to the characters, we got to see them not only through Hannah’s eyes, but as the teens they were, and those they became. We saw how listening to the tapes affected them, and changed the course of their own lives. There was such depth to each person that the book could not explore fully since we only heard about them through Hannah’s voice on the tapes.

Inevitably there were some changes made, such as the type of store Hannah’s parents owned, the secret that Courtney wanted to keep, Clay’s relationship to the car crash victim, much bigger roles for both Hannah’s and Clay’s parents. However, I felt that the biggest change from book to screen was the timeline that Clay followed whilst listening to the tapes; in the books it’s all over in one night and told mostly in the past, in the series the story is played out over days, with interactions with all the other students involved in both the present and the past. Threads were added, exploring the way that Clay dealt not only with Hannah’s death, but also the actions that he undertakes in reaction to the other students’ stories. I found all these differences only enhanced the story and made it even more poignant.

Whether you read it or watch the series (I recommend you do both!), Thirteen Reasons Why is a story that will stay with you forever.

Thirteen Reasons Why is suitable for middle to upper high school students and above. It contains themes of depression, suicide, bullying, rape and sexual assault. It may be overly upsetting to some readers.

 

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All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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allthebrightplacesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, novel, 388 pages, published by Penguin Books in 2015.

Theodore Finch is singled out at school as a “freak”, and he has a tendency to get into trouble. His family life is not ideal, and he is battling some pretty strong inner demons. Violet Markey is part of the popular crowd, but she lost her sister in a car accident the previous winter and can’t seem to move forward. When the two meet at the top of the school bell tower an unlikely friendship is forged.

All the Bright Places touched my heart and made me cry; it spoke to me, it moved me, it reminded me that every day could be my last, so I should really live.

This poignant tale is a bit of a modern day Romeo and Juliet. It is intensely emotional and incredibly difficult to put down. Told through the alternate views of Finch and Violet, the story is beautifully written, complex and and wonderful.

The characters are rich, and honest, unique and deep. And heartbreakingly tragic. Violet and Finch, Finch and Violet, I can’t stop thinking about them. I desperately wanted to swoop in to fix all of their problems. And the pages flew by as I became invested in them, both as individuals and as a couple. I loved the wandering Indiana project as a way to discover the state, and to give this unusual pair time to really get to know one another. Quirky Finch, I am a little in love with you, and beautiful Violet, I’m a little in love with you too. Where were you when I needed you in high school?

I related to Finch like no other fictional character I can recall. I know his pain, his joy, his fear, I know him, I’ve been him. Thank you Jennifer Niven for creating Finch, I will never forget him. And thank you for Violet, I hope their lives will help others.

All the Bright Places contains themes of mental illness, domestic violence, death and suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these issues, please seek help, you could be saving a life. Know that you are not alone. There are lists of places to get help at the end of this book for a number of countries, including Australia; Beyond Blue and Lifeline can help.

All the Bright Places is suitable for high school students and beyond. I highly recommend it to all high schoolers and their parents.