September 2, 2008

The Snowball Effect

Things I have learnt this week: Do not read a book unless you have at least a general idea what it is about. Otherwise, you might be risking a mental breakdown.

The book in question is Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher.

Three weeks after his former classmate and crush, Hannah Baker, committed suicide, Clay Jensen discovers a box of tapes sent to him containing Hannah's heart-breaking tale, which is to be eventually passed along to everyone who, in her opinion, had a major role in driving her to kill herself. It should be obvious why I identify with this on the most basic levels.

The story represents only a small fraction of teen suicides. Hannah planned the act extensively, and took a drug overdose. Her depression seems to have developed out of betrayal by friends and untrue rumors spread about her at school.

Hannah displayed nearly all of the classic warning signs, and even asks for help from a teacher, but they are ignored, not taken seriously, or sometimes even used to ridicule her. Clay realizes this as time goes on. Reading the novel, I felt a sense of deep dread; I knew how it was going to end. I really shouldn't have read it, but once I got going, it was nearly impossible to stop, much like the snowball effect mentioned in the book.

Hannah's final words on the recording are:
A lot of you cared, just not enough. And that... that is what I
needed to find out.

And I did find

And I'm sorry.

The final tape is the most awful to me, and I imagine it is to everyone. She tells a teacher what's on her mind, but he misinterprets it as something less dire. But I knew that she was so far gone that almost nothing would do anything at that point.

I don't even want to think about what I would do if I received or found something similar. It's been too long for me, deluded in my own fantasies.

I suspect Th1rteen R3asons Why is going to be on my brain for quite a while. The message that is supposed to be taken from this novel, or the one that I took anyway, is that actions that you may think are insignificant can have a massive effect on someone's life. However, it is just as easy to stop the snowball from gaining speed, or to destroy it all together. Anyone can make the snowball start rolling, but anyone can also stop it. I'm not going to say that the novel traumatized me or anything, but I was shaken and triggered.

It is my hope that Th1rteen R3asons is interpreted well. I hope that other readers sympathize with Hannah and Clay rather than Hannah's tormentors. I hope that students read this in school, and realize that a Hannah could be sitting in the desk in front of them.


  1. >>is that actions that you may think are insignificant can have a massive effect on someone's life.

    Reminds me of An Inspector Calls. You might find it dated but I think you'd enjoy it.

    I agree - we should all take care where we cast our shadow.

  2. Never heard of it. But I do enjoy older books.

  3. That book definitely sounds interesting although really sad obviously. Maybe because I'm a Hannah and its on a topic that I can identify with.
    And good luck with school, hope it isn't too awful, I'm so glad I've left school behind me now!

  4. Hannah- Sometimes identifying too closely with a character is a little scary.

  5. That's certainly true! Probably would just upset me, especially at the minute. Hope school goes better than you think by the way.