Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Inconsistent and Unbelievable Characters

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Realistic Teen Fiction

I always feel bad, or a bit guilty, when I rate a book low if the book is on an important topic.  And, this book has a really important topic--suicide.  I'm a voluminous reader of young adult fiction and can say I've never read a book that tackled the subject of suicide so openly, so candidly, and with such compassion for the characters.  I feel the topic is so important for young people and the book would resonate with high schoolers so well.  Really, it should probably be required for every high school classroom and counselors office, if only so that teens know they aren't alone with their feelings.

There are a couple of reasons I didn't rate the book higher.  #1--I feel that, since this is over such an important topic, there should be more in the book that's available to young people having similar feelings.  There were a short couple of pages in the back, but nothing that would really provide any kind of guidance if a teen were feeling like they might want to kill themselves.  I feel this is a huge oversight on the part of the publishers or editors, and perhaps this is corrected in other versions.  But, if you're going to market and target the book for young people with angst, then follow through with that and give them valuable information.  Don't just sell the book.

Secondly, and this is where my guilt comes in, I really didn't like any of the characters in the book.  Hannah, the main character/narrator, is such a hypocrite.  She rants about other people gossiping and treating her unfairly (and then blames them for her suicide) and then does the exact same thing!  She also has absolutely no sense of responsibility in her part in all this, but lays the blame on other people for things that are, in the larger scheme of things, not that big a deal.  So irritating, but perhaps that's the adult in me.  Clay, the second narrator isn't much better.  He walks around the whole book, mooning because he kissed a girl, but didn't save her.  The survivor's guilt isn't dealt with very adequately--it's just kind of dumped on this poor kid who barely even really knew Hannah, but somehow feels responsible for her. 

I suppose, in the end, it was the characterization that rang false to me.  I never really got past the inconsistencies and they never became more than black and white names on a page.  It was just an average read for me.

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