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mental health book

Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why


Rating: 3 stars

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.

I remember being introduced to this book by an old friend of mine when I was in high school. At the time, I remember reading it, becoming so engrossed with Hannah’s character. She was a mysterious girl because when reading, you didn’t really know too much about her. She told you about the things that happened to her during her freshman year of high school and that she wasn’t the type of girl the rumors portrayed her to be. But I also felt a connection to her, having been in high school at the time and understanding the struggles she was going through.

I felt that I could relate to her. Even though I never had rumors like that about me flying around school, I was bullied during my early years of education. So I completely understood where she was coming from and could see how the events that transpired turned her whole world upside down. Even though I’m no longer in high school, reading Thirteen Reasons Why a second time around didn’t change that perception for me.

Hannah Baker is a very sympathetic character. She attends a new high school, trying the best she can to fit in only to find her peers never taking the time to get to know her as a person. They are so busy believing the rumors about her to realize how alone she was and to see that their actions unintentionally lead to her death.

Another reason this story pulls at my heart is because it’s a very sensitive topic. Suicide isn’t something a lot of people feel comfortable talking about, due to people not understanding how the smallest things can have a big impact on a person’s life. Like mental illness, people don’t know how to talk about suicide and don’t understand it as well as people who’ve felt that pain before. Despite how hard suicide as a topic is to discuss about, these discussions need to be had and I appreciate Jay Asher, the author of Thirteen Reasons Why, for writing about it. It makes me hopeful that one day, suicide won’t be such a big stigma.  This book also brought up a lot of other key issues, such as rape and drunk driving, which aren’t heavily talked about either and are just as important to discuss.

I also enjoyed this book because of the way the story is told. The novel is from the perspective of Clay Jensen, who receives cassette tapes one day after school with Hannah’s voice on them explaining why she killed herself, saying the responsibility lies with those who receive the tapes. The people involved also receive a map of their town, marked with stars of locations where the events Hannah mentions take place. I enjoyed reading this book through Clay’s thoughts and actions and Hannah’s voice. It made it seem more in depth and personal. I also liked that Asher used cassette tapes for Hannah’s death note. As a 90s child, I grew up using cassette tapes and a Walkman whenever I wanted to listen to something on the go. It made the story a little nostalgic with those elements, considering how far technology has advanced in today’s day and age.

However, I do have a couple criticisms for Thirteen Reasons Why. While I enjoyed the way this story was told, I felt like Asher had Hannah more telling the story than Clay. Yes, he’s the one who had the tapes and his thoughts about what transpired where pretty clear, but I felt like there was more telling in the story than showing. I also didn’t really see a whole lot of character development in any of the characters in this story. I think part of that is because of hearing from Hannah her thoughts about the people who affected her life made it hard for us to really get a good understanding of the other characters. We knew Hannah didn’t really like them, but I wish we could’ve learned more about them and why they were such terrible people.

I also just didn’t really get how Clay is supposedly a nice guy. He’s included in the tapes and the story is told from his perspective, but you don’t really get to know him as a person outside of him listening to those tapes. Throughout the book, he only interacts with a couple people and even those few interactions didn’t give us a real glimpse of his character. Yes, he did some nice things, helped people out, but that isn’t enough for me to truly believe someone is a nice person. I also didn’t see how this whole thing really changed his life either. I get he had a better understanding of what Hannah was going through after the tapes, but he didn’t seem all that different to me than before. But I did sympathize with him because it was evident in the story how much he cared about Hannah and wanted to help her in any way he could.

I felt like I knew more about where Hannah and the rest of her classmates lived than the characters in this story. Part of that was because of Clay going to some of the locations Hannah mentioned in the tapes and Asher describing those places in perfect detail. While I don’t mind knowing more about the world characters live in, it’s a little frustrating with this story because I wanted to know the characters better other than knowing all the terrible things they did to Hannah.

While I sympathize with Hannah, I sometimes find her character to be very weak. I understand how depression works on a person’s mind, making them feel completely helpless, but I just didn’t always understand some of her actions. For example, the incident with the sign I felt like she could’ve very easily done something about. I know she had called the police, but I felt like she should’ve told them who knocked the stop sign down. I felt this way with some of the other incidents that happened in the book too because they were things she could’ve very easily done something about. Especially all of the things that happened towards the end where she’s still struggling to make up her mind about whether to take her own life. Despite these issues with her character, I understand that she was probably already too far gone at these moments in the story to really do anything about these situations. I feel like that is probably why she didn’t stop certain things from happening and why I feel myself questioning some of her actions.

While I have all of these criticisms for Thirteen Reasons Why, I still enjoyed reading it again. It left me sad knowing the story was over and remembering Hannah being dead, but I still found it as good of a read as the last time I read it. I hope others read it with an open mind and find themselves understanding suicide being a much more complicated issue than it seems. Because even though the reasons Hannah gave seem very small and insignificant, together they created a snowball effect that resulted in her not able to get any help until it was too late.

Book Review: Schizo

Schizo Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

Miles is the ultimate unreliable narrator—a teen recovering from a schizophrenic breakdown who believes he is getting better . . . when in reality he is growing worse.

Driven to the point of obsession to find his missing younger brother, Teddy, and wrapped up in a romance that may or may not be the real thing, Miles is forever chasing shadows. As Miles feels his world closing around him, he struggles to keep it open, but what you think you know about his world is actually a blur of gray, and the sharp focus of reality proves startling.

Written by the New York Times bestselling author of  TweakSchizo is the fascinating, and ultimately quite hopeful, story of one teen’s downward spiral into mental illness as he chases the clues to a missing brother. 

I really enjoyed reading Schizo. It talked about issues with mental health people aren’t comfortable talking about. But did it in a way that made the reader interested in continuing to read Miles’s story.

As someone who knows very little about schizophrenia, I found this book a joy to read because it gave me a better understanding of what schizophrenia is and allowed me to look into the mind of a teenager struggling through it. There are very few mental illness novels out there that I’ve heard about so finding a novel like this that not only talks about controversial issues but also relates to the reader is something I enjoy reading.

I also enjoyed reading Schizo because I learned more about Miles’s family and the plot to find his missing brother intrigued me. From what the reader sees of his family, Miles grew up in a very loving home with a family that is always willing to support him. But I like that even though he has that structural support, he’s still shown to struggle with his schizophrenia and not try to seek help from those who love him until the very end. Mental illness isn’t easily treatable and people who have it struggle with opening up to people who can help them. And I love that even though Miles has family support and friends who care about him, the author shows readers that even someone whose life seems almost perfect doesn’t have it easy and struggles just like everyone else. The plot of finding Miles’s missing brother Teddy adds to the story too. Schizo is a novel about schizophrenia and I enjoyed reading how the search for his missing brother connects to his illness. It adds a layer to the story and allows the reader to get a better understanding of schizophrenia.

However, there are some aspects of Schizo I didn’t enjoy. Miles’s relationship with Eliza throughout the book bothered me. Even though the reader understands why Miles deeply cares about her, I felt as if Eliza latched onto him because he was the only guy when she returned who liked her. I believe her feelings for him weren’t genuine and that she just wanted to be with him until someone better came along.

Another aspect of this book I didn’t enjoy was how much it focused just on his mental illness but didn’t give the reader any aspect of his personality. It seems this novel is trying to define Miles as his illness by connecting everything in the story to schizophrenia. But Miles in Schizo has nothing else added to his personality that distinguishes him from it. He is a flat character throughout the story struggling to deal with schizophrenia and every aspect of the novel focuses on that. And I don’t like it. It bothers me because people with a mental illness are more than just their mental illness. But with the way the author has written Schizo, it’s as if his mental illness is the only aspect of his character that is important for the reader to know and the one trait that defines his entire life. It sends the reader the wrong message about mental illness and disconnects them from enjoying the story.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Schizo because it was a quick read that made me more aware of schizophrenia and brought up the importance of discussing mental illness. I look forward to reading more novels like this.

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