Thirteen Reasons Why (by Jay Asher)

I was resolved to writing everyday, but in the end I broke my promise… and it didn’t even last a week. I was working on another entries, but it was so long (I still haven’t finished it yet) that it took me a couple of days just to get halfway through the story. I just decided to postpone that problematic post and start writing again. 

I was supposed to read something about Bertrand Russell for my philosophy class, but when I checked my laptop, I realized I wasn’t able to download the text. Mind you, I did this while having breakfast at a fast food joint; I didn’t have access to the internet. Since I already ordered something, and for the lack of something better to do, I revisited my downloaded e-books and found this gem. Thirteen Reasons Why was recommended by my friend, reading it after seeing her friend’s tweet about it. Well actually, it was in her list of books to read and her brother already owned a copy so everything was set. After talking about it for a while, I decided on obtaining a copy. The pirate that I am, I’m quite satisfied with just searching for a .pdf file. Distractions came and went, and I kept the file hidden within the labyrinth that is my downloads folder. Probably because of boredom and lack of internet connection earlier, I remembered having the said file. And so I started reading.

Thirteen Reasons Why revolves around seven cassette tapes circulated by Hannah Baker, the protagonist, posthumously. These seven tapes contain thirteen (two per side except for the last tape) interconnected stories as to why she decided to end her life. There are two rules:  the person who has the tapes must listen to what Hannah has to say, and should pass the tapes to the next person mentioned. The novel starts from the eight person sending the set of tapes to the ninth, which is Clay Jensen. The whole thing happens literally overnight, with Hannah’s story simultaneously told with Clay’s present, and it makes for an interesting read.

First of all, I would like to commend the author for coming up with a unique way of telling the story. Okay, the uniqueness is a point of contention. But really, I appreciated its unusual format. And I think it was most appropriate for the overall theme. The thing is, Asher wrote it in such a way that every other paragraph belonged to Hannah and her story, the rest narrating everything else Clay is going through that night. There were also flashbacks, with certain events Clay experienced or witnessed that can be traced to Hannah’s story. I just think it must have been torturous for Clay to hear all those things, especially because he didn’t really do anything wrong. Which Hannah cleared up eventually, but still.

The moral lesson of the whole shebang is that all of us should be mindful of all our actions, because no matter how minor we think they may be, they can leave a great impact on other people’s lives. Hannah talks about the snowball effect those thirteen people involved in the stories caused her; if you take them individually, most would seem petty – even I’m not convinced that it’s not worth killing yourself over for. But with her logic, and the reader’s assumption that she has depression, I think it all makes sense.

I’m just going to add a bit of Catholic lexicon here, since I HAVE been studying in Catholic institutions all my life. The Catholic faith believes that there are two kinds of sin: sin of commission, and of omission. The former is more familiar to us, because those are the sins we do, deliberately or not. It’s impossible to commit this kind of sin without active participation from the sinner; meaning to say, that person did something bad, and there can be no excuses for it. The latter though is a bit trickier to pinpoint. Sin of omission is the act of not doing anything, even though the person knows that taking action is the right thing to do, and submissiveness would lead into catastrophe. For me, not only does it mean you’re a sinner; it also means you’re a coward. In connection with the book, there was a bit in the end where Clay was convincing himself that he didn’t do anything wrong, and his friend (it’ll be too bothersome to mention his role in the greater scheme of things, so just read the book) egging him on. While I initially agreed with him, I realize that Clay’s character might have had the biggest hand in Hannah’s fate. Sure, he didn’t do anything wrong – but that’s the problem. He didn’t do anything. It’s hard for me to sympathize with him because he could have changed the outcome of Hannah’s fate, but he succumbed to his cowardice and admired the girl from afar. The same girl who needed all the love she could get at the time. Sure, Clay couldn’t have known, and everyone else was clueless about the real situation, but even so.

P.S. Wow. Didn’t expect my entry to turn into a rant. I wonder what my Psych friend would say about this, considering she’s probably the only friend I know who constantly reads my blog. Hmmm.. maybe I was referring to myself then? While talking about all the what ifs? I don’t know.

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