Review summary: An okay book about a heavy topic that kept me hooked, but I wouldn’t recommend it to someone else.
The book is about a girl, Hannah, who has committed suicide and has left a series of tapes in which she walks the listener through the various reasons she has decided to end her life. The listeners of the tapes each contribute to her decision and must pass the tapes onto the next person in Hannah’s narrative.
The tone of the book was a lot creepier than I thought it would be. So creepy, in fact, that it seemed to overshadow the sadness that I would have expected from a story about Hannah’s suicide. Similarly, there were several other things that distracted from Hannah’s story.
I found the main character, Clay, insufferable. This fantasy person is apparently a boy that not a single person in the school has a bad thing to say about – appearance, personality, etc. – and he plays the role of the nice guy throughout the entire book. Considering his role in Hannah’s decision to end her life (without giving anything anyway), his reactions to Hannah’s story were so dramatic: punching walls, screaming, sobbing…When I found out how he fit into Hannah’s story, it became all the more unrealistic. Of all the things Hannah was dealing with before she died, the main character should not have even been on her radar.
The reason Clay received the tapes, according to the holder of the second set of tapes, Tony, was because Clay would have wondered why Hannah had killed herself. Of course this might be true, but this would apply to most everyone else as well. However, I don't believe that Clay's wondering would have been worse than Hannah subjecting him to listening to her unravel, edging closer and closer to suicide, one story at a time. How is that any better when the insinuation is that Clay could have and should have done something to "save" Hannah? After listening to all the tapes, Clay is burdened by the guilt of powerlessness and passivity whereas the author would like us to believe it was actually all worth it in the end: Clay is reaching out to the not-even-minor-character girl that he ran into on the bus, potentially saving her from an academic life of isolation.
If the author is trying to make suicide seem like it's not
a selfish act, the argument was wholly undermined by Hannah's need to involve Clay as a last-ditch romanticized last breath of "I'm sorry" and "We could've been something." All the while, we're supposed to believe these soulmates meant the world to each other after what, an hour or two of brief bonding. Okay...
The subject matter is definitely serious but I found it hard to take the book seriously.