Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (Book Review)

13 Reasons Why is a new young adult TV series being released on Netflix this Friday (March 31st). There will be 13 episodes (all available on Friday) and the show is based on the novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, in which a teenage boy receives a package containing audiotapes recorded by a classmate who has recently committed suicide. The show was directed by Spotlight’s Tom McCarthy & produced by Selena Gomez. I read the book recently so figured I should review it before the show airs. Here’s my review…

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

What It’s About: (via Goodreads)
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.”

My Thoughts:

I’m not entirely sure how to feel about this book. I’ll say it was very “readable”. I usually take a good few weeks to read a book (due to lack of free time) but this was a quick & easy read plus I found that I really didn’t want to put it down as I was truly curious to see how it would end (I read it over a weekend). It’s an uncomfortable subject matter, however, and I still don’t know if I feel right about how it was handled. Plus, the below trailer for the TV show makes it look almost like an “exciting mystery”, which I don’t think is necessarily a responsible way to market the story. I guess we’ll see how the show unfolds. This IS a book about suicide. The only “mystery” is why the girl did it, which she explains in her audiotapes. The trailer’s mood just feels a bit off to me.

I’ll say this is very much a teen book but it didn’t feel immature or like the author had dumbed it down for its target audience. My teenage years are far far (far!) behind me but this book feels like it was written in a way that would seem genuine & relevant to a modern teen. I know nothing of the book’s success but I would imagine that current teens can relate to it whereas I feel that certain other young adult books are too obviously written by authors whose teen years are far far (far!) behind them. Okay, yeah – I’ve just looked up the author (Jay Asher) and he’s my sort of age. I also think that he did a good job with the character of Hannah Baker, the girl who commits suicide. It can’t be easy for a middle-aged man to capture the feelings of a teenage girl but I think he did well with her character (probably even better than with the main male character, Clay Jensen).

I’ll of course avoid major spoilers but the main moral of this story is to treat people with kindness and to be aware of the signs to watch for that may indicate that someone is suicidal. I of course agree with this message and would love to think that this book could save some lives but, well, I don’t think the world works that way. If anything, it worries me that this story could play into the rather typical teenage thoughts about suicide: that whole “this will make people notice me & understand what I was going through” thing. No. The bullies, etc? They didn’t care beforehand & they wouldn’t care afterwards. I hope no one thinks that because of this book. However, from the other point of view, who knows? Maybe it would help some teens to notice the warning signs & perhaps offer someone some help. Maybe. The nice ones. (Is it obvious that I thought a lot of the people in my high school were uncaring assholes?!)

I admit that Thirteen Reasons Why was a bit of a page-turner, even if the subject matter left me feeling uncomfortable. Clay listens to several cassette tapes from Hannah, each focusing on a different classmate & the role each person played in her final decision. This meant we were told several stories as Clay listened to each tape, which was an interesting way to set up this novel. Hannah Baker was a well fleshed-out character though, interestingly, kind of hard to like. Maybe that was partly the point… Due to various incidents, she turned inward so I suppose she was kind of ignored. Clay Jensen comes across as a little less genuine but I think this is due to his seeming so simple in comparison to Hannah’s complexity. Overall I’d probably recommend this book to anyone who likes young adult fiction and who is emotionally stable. But I wouldn’t necessarily want anyone who is anything like Hannah Baker’s character to read it…

My Rating: 3/5

Here’s the trailer for the Netflix series, starring Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen & Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker:

Spring Breakers (2012) Review

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Spring Breakers (2012)

Directed by Harmony Korine

Starring:
James Franco
Vanessa Hudgens
Selena Gomez
Ashley Benson
Rachel Korine
Gucci Mane

Running time: 94 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Spring break forever, bitches!

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My Opinion:

I have to be honest – I’m struggling to write anything at the moment and have been putting off doing reviews as I don’t know what to say. Spring Breakers is a tough one. What the hell can I say about it?!

First of all: Harmony Korine… I’d confused him with the director of Kids but it looks like he only wrote that one. I saw that years ago and barely remember it but do remember finding it pretty repulsive. Then I saw either Gummo or Julien Donkey-Boy (honestly don’t know which one) late one night and I ended up falling asleep in the middle of it and it merged into some nightmare I had and now just thinking about those movies gives me the creeps (whichever one it was – I don’t remember a damn thing!).

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What was the point of all that? I have no clue! I thought, as I believed he directed the offensive Kids and then another movie of his gave me nightmares, that I’d HATE Spring Breakers. Plus there’s the fact that I was never the “spring breaker” type and those portrayed in this film are the kind of self-absorbed twats I can’t stand. However, I kind of liked this movie. And I don’t know why!!!! I have no clue. Honestly. WTF?

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There’s no point saying much about the film – Anyone who actually wants to see this probably has by now. But it’s true when everyone has said that James Franco is the best thing about it. I’ve never been a fan, really, so this is probably the first performance of his that I did really find entertaining. It’s too bad he’s not in it for a bit longer – The movie did drag a little before he was finally introduced. I don’t think any of the girls did anything all that special, though, and those roles probably could have been played by anyone (sorry!).

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The reason I kind of liked the film overall is because I actually think there are three really good scenes (hell, that’s more than a lot of films have, I guess). The “look at my shit!” scene is great & is already a quotable classic, I don’t know why but I actually loved something about the Britney Spears/piano scene, and the “neon” scene at the end with the long walk down the pier or whatever (I try to stay spoiler-free in reviews) looked pretty damn cool at the very least! And the armed robbery scene at the beginning was quite artistic, come to think of it… So I guess that’s four.

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Summary:

I won’t analyze the movie. What’s the point? Is he showing us that these people are wrong? Or is he making this lifestyle seem really cool? He’s doing both, of course – he’s managed to keep his artsy fartsy fans happy while giving horny young idiots a movie they’ll think is cool because it’s full of tits & violence. So good job, Harmony Korine! I hated these people (although Franco’s Alien is a great creation) but we’re not meant to like them and I wasn’t offended as I found them so exaggerated anyway. The movie was entertaining & looked pretty cool & had some good memorable scenes & one great character. Good enough for me! That’s more than can be said for a lot of movies these days. So I kind of liked it in a weird way. I think. Or… I at least didn’t hate it!

My Rating: 7/10

WARNING: BELOW IMAGE NSFW
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And with that, I’d like to thank Mikey over at Screenkicker for the lovely award he gave me the other day: “The Gratuitous Nudity Award”. This is because I posted ONE gif of Chris Hemsworth’s lovely naked bum in Rush. So I’ve given you the above Spring Breakers picture to even the score. Don’t expect any more boobies on this blog anytime soon, though! πŸ˜‰

Thanks again, Mikey! πŸ™‚

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