Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Reader Response: Thirteen Reasons Why (Pt. 2)

Continued reader response to Thirteen Reasons Why for my Teen Materials class.

** Spoilers ** 

Cassette 3: Side A

Courtney is the girl who posed with Hannah for the hidden photographer. Courtney's tape is next and she's, um, too nice? Well, seemingly nice. And Hannah just knew something was wrong between them when Courtney didn't say "good-bye" after a brief chat at school the next day.
"Did you say good-bye on any other day? No, not often. But after the previous night, this time it felt intentional."
Someone acts normally. How suspicious!
"Your smile, your teeth...flawless. [...] Every time our eyes caught each other in a crowded hall and I watched your gaze jump to someone else, I lost a little more respect for you. And sometimes I wondered how many people in that one hallway felt the same."
Does Hannah expect Courtney to share bouts of shared admiration every time they happen to see each other at school? These are creepy, obsessive expectations. Courtney does invite Hannah to a party and Hannah is suspicious of that.
"I asked why you wanted to hang out after ignoring me for so long. But of course, you denied ignoring me at all. You said I must have misread things."
Going to have to agree with Courtney over the paranoid narrator here. And it keeps going. Courtney has the audacity to say "good-bye" at another time, and this is deeply meaningful! The only thing Courtney supposedly does is say something about Hannah having "things" in her dresser drawers, which an unnamed boy supposedly overhears and uses as an excuse to come over and hit on Hannah. Nevermind the possibility that the unnamed boy could have been the photographer or someone who heard rumors from the photographer. Or even that it was a coincidence based on earlier rumors.

Cassette 3: Side B

Hannah freaks out about people thinking she and Courtney are friends because of the photo Hannah insisted she and Courtney take together at the party. The picture where Hannah pretended she was having the time of her life. But now people don't understand the real Hannah. Whose fault is that?
"I wanted people to trust me, despite anything they'd heard. And more than that, I wanted them to know me. Not the stuff they thought they knew about me. No, the real me. I wanted them to get past the rumors. To see beyond the relationships I once had, or maybe still had but that they didn't agree with."
This is probably the core expression in this book of what Hannah wanted out of life that she didn't feel she was ever going to get. I can understand wanting to be understood. I just don't think Hannah's expectations are reasonable, considering how she pretends to be what she's not, fails to communicate with people who might have genuinely trying to be friends, and doesn't do anything substantial to show her authentic self. People should just know the same way she just knows things. Even this tape project leaves me with very little idea who she is beneath the social anxiety. I feel bad for her on account of the sexual harassment from boys who have labeled her a "slut" and think they are entitled to touch her and photograph her without permission (as happens again in this chapter), but being a victim is not who a person is.

I can't tell if Jay Asher intended for Hannah to be such a hollow character or if he failed to create the character he wanted.

Cassette 4: Side A

This side was about a boy who stole the anonymous encouragement notes out of Hannah's container in the Peer Communication classroom. Why? It's unclear. Hannah shouted "Why?" at him across a crowded hallway and didn't ask again. Certainly this boy is going to feel awful about someone committing suicide after he was literally stealing her encouragements, but my suspension of disbelief is stretched thin by this. It makes more sense to me that Jay Asher thought it would be nicely symbolic to have someone "literally stealing her encouragements" and built this part of the story around achieving that goal without show how the the characters' motivations could take the plot there in a natural way.

Also in this chapter: Hannah blames the teaching staff for failing to notice her "sudden change in appearance" as a sign of suicide even though they knew someone had written an anonymous note that they were considering suicide. What was the change? A new haircut three weeks prior. At least Hannah is consistent in her expectation that everyone be able to see subtle signs and understand precise truths.

Cassette 4: Side B

A student editor of an anonymized, found notes publication prints Hannah's poem about not being noticed by a boy, her mother not understanding her, and no one seeing her soul. It ends up being discussed in English class and no one understands it. I find this hard to believe because it's one of the most clear-in-meaning poems I've seen. But, in this book's world, no one gets it and that's fitting because it's a poem about people not getting it.

It reminded me of what a friend said about how a very personal song getting put out on the Internet and not being understood could be an exposed, demeaning situation. The same friend wants very much to be understood, so I wonder if she would make better sense of Hannah's character than I've been able to manage.

Cassette 5: Side A

Narrator Clay's tape, finally. What did he do wrong? Nothing. He was as kind and genuine and interested in getting to know the real Hannah as she ever wanted. But she didn't feel worthy of him so she pushed him away.

Hannah had internalized the devaluing others placed on her. I have (had?) another friend with depression who told me frequently that I was too good for her and pushed me away. She hated it when I worried and couldn't stand it when I was kind. I can identify with Clay in this chapter, especially since I still worry about this friend's health. How can a person get through to someone who pushes away even when she doesn't have to?

Cassette 5: Side B

After Clay leaves the party, Hannah overhears two boys talking uncertainly about raping a blacked-out girl on the bed, then continues to stay quiet just out of sight while one of them does it:
"That my mind was in a meltdown is no excuse. I have no excuse. I could have stopped itend of story. But to stop it, I felt like I'd have to stop the entire world from spinning. Like things had been out of control for so long that whatever I did hardly mattered anymore.
And I couldn't stand all the emotions anymore. I wanted the world to stop . . . to end."
How would Hannah judge anyone else who literally sat by and said nothing?

Cassette 6: Side A

Some narrative book-ending here as I find that Hannah was with the drunk girl who knocked over the stop sign that led to the traffic accident that Clay encountered and did his best to help with (and has been flashing back to this entire book, unmentioned by me in these notes).

Hannah blames herself for not immediately calling the police to report the downed sign, despite not having a cell phone or the time to get to another phone (she wisely got out of the car with the drunk driver). Nor was there time for the police to do something about the sign before the accident. The only thing she could have realistically done to stop the accident would have been to hold the Stop sign up herself and wait for someone else to come along and then alert the authorities. So why be consumed with guilt over failing to stop a low probability traffic accident, but not about failing to say anything reveal her presence in the room as would have been sufficient to prevent a rape?

Cassette 6: Side B

Hannah accepts an invitation to share a hot tub with a particularly vile snake, so that he'll touch her and she'll feel like she deserves her slutty reputation, and so it will be easier to kill herself.

I don't like this book.

Cassette 7: Side B to the End

Hannah claims she is giving herself one last chance at life by seeing a school counselor, but it's clear she already had her mind made up as she refuses to elaborate and then runs out, certain no one cares. That's pretty much the end of this book, though there's a bit about Clay feeling sad at school with Hannah gone.

I feel like the best this book can achieve is to help someone who is thinking about suicide to be critical of Hannah's way of dealing with everything. To realize it might just feel like no one cares even though they do, or they would.

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