I know this book has been talked about a lot lately, and that the Netflix show is getting a lot of attention — both positive and negative. The middle school sent a note home to all parents warning us about the intensity of the show, and that if our kids wanted to watch it that we should watch with them and then have a dialogue about what we saw. Fine. I know bunnybean’s friends have been watching, so I figured I’d see what all the fuss was about (even though she has zero interest, as she’s happily making her way through Buffy, with Angel on deck).
And here’s the thing.
I get what the author is trying to do here, but I think that this book is more or less a failure.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the story:
Hannah, a pretty girl at a new high school, is dead. She killed herself a few weeks ago. And one day, Clay, the super nice guy that had a massive crush on Hannah, finds a shoebox full of audio tapes on his front porch. The tapes are from an unknown mailer, but the voice on the tapes is Hannah. She wants 13 people to hear the reasons why their actions (or inactions) caused her to commit suicide.
And already I was kind of mad.
I didn’t like the way that the author blamed these 13 other characters (well, really 12) for Hannah’s decision to end her life. And that these reasons were somehow valid for the choice of suicide.
As the parent of a middle schooler, I don’t accept this. I don’t accept that there are any valid reasons for suicide.
Yes, I get that there are unspeakable traumas that happen to some kids. Abuse, bullying, rape — all unacceptable horrors that nobody should have to endure. But they are not an excuse for suicide, in my opinion.
And yes, I was angry at many of the characters for their actions. The peeping Tom, the poetry thief, the drunk driver, and (especially) the rapist. They were all awful, and their actions and words should not be glossed over.
But what was the End game here for Hannah? Revenge? To simply make these other kids as miserable as she was for the rest of their lives? Because I think she accomplished that. But what about legal recourse? What’s going to happen to the rapist or the girl who was raped? What about the English teacher that knew that something had happened but didn’t press for details?
I wish we had gotten to know more about Hannah’s parents and family life, including why she left her old school. If there had been a shocking incident at her old school, wouldn’t they have had her talking to a professional at some point? I’m not saying that she would have been in full-time therapy, but if things were bad enough to move, wouldn’t that be a reason to keep an eye on your kid?
Look, I’m not a mental health professional, or a guidance counselor, or a therapist. I’m just a mom that read a book and didn’t like what it had to say. I do not in any way deny that these problems exist and that sadly, kids often see suicide as a “way out”. I just wish that this book had taken another route and instead of practically glamorizing Hannah’s decision, it had provided another point of view.
I might still try and watch the show, especially if bunny bean decides she might want to. And because Steven Weber and Keiko Agena are in it. But I’m not rushing to binge it anytime soon.